The Lady Speaks

Valedictorian Punished for Attempting to Give Speech

Update: (4/25/06) The superintendent 'ordered' Gallatin High School principal Rufus Lassiter to award Chris Linzy his diploma, and the charges against him were dropped. Details at Tennessee Guerrilla Women

* * * * 

Being the valedictorian of your high school graduation used to mean two things: you were the smartest kid in your class, and – for one brief, shining moment – you would have the spotlight. For just a few moments, the entire graduating class would know who you were (most having read it in the program minutes earlier) as you gave the final speech of the evening.

My high school actually allows the top two GPA-earners to speak: the valedictorian and the salutatorian. (I was neither. My grades were good enough to earn me the nickname 'egghead' as well as unrelenting teasing and torment from my 'peers', but thanks to "Freshman Insanity"*, they were not quite high enough to rank in the top 5 in the Class of '86.)

Many speeches have been given by many valedictorians all over the world, but how many school districts are insane enough to 1) not allow the valedictorian to speak, and 2) file criminal charges against him for attempting to do so?

Turns out that Gallatin High School has its own tradition – the valedictorian is still the smartest kid in the class, but he or she in't allowed to give the valedictory speech.

Egalia has the story at Tennessee Guerrilla Women. (I bet you already guessed this school is in the South.)

If you've ever wondered why so many people homeschool their kids in this state, look no further than principal Rufus Lassiter at Gallatin High School in Sumner County, Tennessee.

Rufus Lassiter has filed a criminal complaint against Chris Linzy, valedictorian with a 5.35 GPA on a 4.0 scale.

The valedictorian's crime?

The kid attempted to give a geeky speech at his graduation ceremony. I kid you not! Chris Linzy managed to get out all of two sentences before the mike was turned off. Then like any good geeky kid would, he quietly went to his seat.

Sadie Baker has this in the comments at TGW: [emphasis mine]

Somebody needs to send that principal back to school because he doesn't know English.

The word "valedictorian" means the person who gives the farewell speech:

"In the United States and Canada, the title of valedictorian (an anglicized derivation from the Latin vale dicere 'to say farewell') is given to the top graduate of the graduating class (compare dux) of an educational institution. The title comes from the valedictorian's traditional role as the last speaker at the graduation ceremony."

There's more on the story from the Gallatin News Examiner.

[…] Linzy said part of his disappointment is that the achievements of ultra-smart students such as himself are minimized at the school. Since most Sumner County high schools ask the school’s top students to deliver speeches, he said Gallatin High’s tradition disturbed him.

Although he had tried to get the rule changed earlier in the school year, he said he’d given up on it until he heard Lassiter make a statement to the audience Friday night.

In the statement audience members and students were threatened with legal action if they were loud or disruptive with applause or calling out names, said Chris Linzy’s father, David Linzy. They were told they would be ushered out of the gymnasium and that a petition for disruptive behavior would be filed.


Lasssiter also expressed frustration about the attention Linzy is receiving from the media and said about 270 students who did comply with the school’s tradition “are the ones who should be rewarded.”

David Linzy said he asked Lasssiter how to make the situation right and was told that Chris would need to present a written apology.

The young man’s father said he tried to deliver the letter Monday but was turned away and asked to come back Tuesday.


David Linzy felt betrayed by Lassiter when the police came to the family home with a misdemeanor criminal citation about 2 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, because he had been led to believe that his son’s letter of apology was all that would be required of him to resolve the issue.

“I shook (Lassiter’s hand),” he said “ I never saw this coming. This is vindictive. There is no justification for this. This takes it to a whole new place we hoped we would never reach.”

David Linzy said things escalated even more when a teacher from the high school called to tell them the administration was in the process of confiscating all of Chris’ school papers and homework. […]


(*Freshman Insanity – a term my mother coined to explain why a more or less normal, high-achieving student suddenly became the smart-mouth of the class while simultaneously failing four subjects during the first semester. As with everything, it hits kids earlier these days, so my daughter went through "Grade 7 insanity".)


May 24, 2006 - Posted by | Children, Constitution, Education, First Amendment, Protest

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