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Did Serrano High salutatorian's speech go too far?

June 5, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A high school student in the town of Phelan shocked a graduation audience during a commencement speech by alluding to school district corruption and accusing school officials of making unpopular decisions.

Serrano High School Salutatorian Gabrielle Foley, 17, criticized Snowline Joint Unified School District officials Thursday night in the unincorporated town in San Bernardino County for charging busing and taking away the traditions of painting a senior wall and shooting off fireworks.

"My speech really wasn't about corruption or anything at all, the three quick comments were solely made to open people's eyes, but judging on the overreactions of the principle and the cop and the superintendent, it made things seem really suspicious," Foley said.

Angry of the speech, school officials refused to hand over her diploma, but the teen argued she had a right to express how she felt in her five minute speech.

"Certainly people are allowed to express criticism. The question is whether the graduation ceremony is the appropriate venue for that. She as the salutatorian was given the honor of giving a speech and we just felt that the speech she gave was inappropriate," district spokeswoman Kathy Sharkey said in a statement.

Foley's parents stepped in by calling state education officials and lawyers. The teen was later told she could pick up her diploma from the district office.

"I was infuriated," said Foley's father, Lee Foley. "I expected them to be upset, but to retaliate against her, it was extremely childish.

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