Harvard-Bound Valedictorian: I Was Banned From Graduation

Devan Solanki says guidance counselor thought he threatened her
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 22, 2015 10:11 AM CDT
Harvard-Bound Valedictorian: I Was Banned From Graduation
Graduates toss their caps after the Goshen High School graduation in Goshen, Ala., Thursday, May 28, 2015.   (AP Photo/The Troy Messenger, Thomas Graning)

Devan Solanki planned to give the valedictorian address to his graduating class at New Jersey's Lodi High School before entering the halls of Harvard this fall. But the top student with a 4.3 GPA isn't allowed to speak, reports NJ.com. In fact, he can't attend graduation at all. Solanki, who had previously landed in detention for talking back to teachers and using a cellphone, says school officials told him earlier this month that his disciplinary issues barred him from giving the valedictorian address. He says he told his guidance counselor he hoped to resolve the conflict "peacefully," but things went downhill from there. "I guess she took it as an ultimatum or an 'or else' statement," he tells NBC New York. "Her official words were, I threatened her." Solanki was told to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, was cleared, and returned to school with a doctor's note last week, at which point he was handed a five-day suspension.

That suspension runs through Solanki's graduation tomorrow, meaning he'll be unable to attend. "I am a very outspoken person and they might have been afraid that I would use it as a chance to incite something or get back at them," he tells CBS News of his planned speech. "But they never took the time to look at the speech." A sample line: "We are the generation of change." (You can read the whole speech here.) The school—which says it can't discuss student issues—hasn't budged on its decision, though Solanki's fellow students held a protest, signed a petition, and spoke out online using the hashtag #LetDevanSpeak. Now, Solanki tells NJ.com that even if he were allowed to attend graduation, he'd probably stay home. "It would be a distraction," he says. "My mom just wants it over." (More valedictorian stories.)

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