A Pennsylvania high school valedictorian had his microphone silenced when his commencement speech went off script and criticized the district's administrators.
Wyoming Area High School grad Peter Butera’s speech started innocently enough Friday as he praised his family, teachers and the school’s new principal. Only a few minutes later however, he veered off the advanced copy he had sent school officials.
“Despite some of the outstanding people in our school, the lack of a real student government, combined with the authoritative attitude that a few teachers, administrators and board members have, prevent students from truly developing as leaders,” Butera, 18, said. “Hopefully this will change.”
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Before Butera could say another word, the mic was cut off and he was taken off stage. Butera, who has been accepted to Villanova University, said the incident only further proved his point.
“The administration being authoritarian at times,” he said.
Butera's main complaint was that student government has no real voice in how the school and district are run. He believes that will hold back graduates when they enter the real world.
Wyoming Area School District Superintendent Janet Serino said commencement speeches are vetted and students can't deviate from remarks they submit. She told NBC10 Butera had the right to free speech but not to break the rules by going off script.
“The administrators are put in the position because they must keep a semblance of order,” Serino said.
Serino also said however that student input is important and she scheduled a meeting with Butera about how things might improve in the district.
Butera had the chance to finish his speech during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live Tuesday night.
“Hopefully for the sake of future students, more people of power within our school who do not do so already, will begin to prioritize education itself as well as the empowering of students,” he said. “Because at the end of the day, it is not what we have done as Wyoming Area students or athletes that will define our own lives but what we will go on to do as Wyoming area alumni. And I hope that every one of my classmates here today as well as myself will go on to do great things in this world and achieve true happiness and success.”
The crowd cheered immediately after. Butera’s parents, meanwhile, say they are proud of their son’s speech.