Schools respond to Central High Valedictorian debacle


CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – The Hamilton County School system explains what happened during a high school graduation speech when a student was cut off just as she read “No Justice, No Peace.”

Some have wondered if it was a case of censorship of a speech focusing on racial justice.

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But school leaders say it was an inadvertent mistake and they praised the speaker and her speech.

Central High Principal Phil Iannaronne says “DayOnna Carson, Valedictorian of the Class of 2020 at Central High School, delivered an excellent graduation speech at the Central High ceremony on Saturday. We apologize to DayOnna and her family that the last words of her speech were not able to be heard by those in attendance or by family and friends viewing on the live stream, this was by no means intentional.”

DayOnna had given officials a copy of the speech beforehand.

It was supposed to end with her saying “No Justice” and the crowd responding “No Peace.”

But her mic was cut off at the last line.

Officials explain that they had to cut the microphone off after each speech so they could clean it before the next speaker, as a coronavirus safety precaution.

But they accidentally cut it off too soon on DayOnna.

However, the rest of her message was not affected.

Officials apologize for the mistake.

“Her message of legacy, racial justice, and civil rights was timely. Without question, DayOnna is the epitome of excellence that we desire as a school, and we look forward to seeing all that she will accomplish as she goes on to attend Harvard University this fall.”

Dr. Marsha Drake (Chief of Equity and Student Supports) added “DayOnna’s remarks addressed some of the most important issues of the day.”

“Ensuring that racism and discrimination of any kind are eliminated remains key to every community and within our school district.”

“As DayOnna stated in her speech, ‘Change starts with ourselves; change starts with our community.’ We look forward to the impact DayOnna, and the class of 2020 will have on our world and we are proud of each of them.”