San Diego high school valedictorian calls out adults who didn't help her succeed

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A valedictorian speech delivered last Thursday at San Ysidro High School’s graduation ceremony in San Diego has gone viral after the student accused her counselor and main office staff of negligence and called out a teacher who she said was regularly intoxicated in class.

San Ysidro High senior Nataly Buhr’s speech began the way most valedictorian addresses begin: She thanked her parents for their love and support, her friends for the memories she will cherish, and a few select teachers for helping her achieve success.

Then Buhr broke from tradition when she thanked a school counselor who she said was regularly unavailable to students. She didn’t name the counselor.

“To my counselor, thanks for teaching me to fend for myself,” Buhr said. “You were always unavailable to my parents and I, despite appointments. Only in these past few weeks, with the awards ceremonies and graduation coming up, did you begin making your appearance.”

Buhr went on to thank the school’s main office staff for teaching her to be “resourceful.”

“Your negligence to inform me of several scholarships until the day before they were due potentially caused me to miss out on thousands of dollars,” she said.

The quiet murmurs among the crowd and students escalated into loud gasps and outcries when Buhr thanked a teacher who she said was “regularly intoxicated during class.”

“Thank you for using yourself as an example to teach students about the dangers of alcoholism,” Buhr said. “Being escorted by police out of school was a lasting impression. I hope that future students and staff learn from these examples.”

She didn’t use the teacher’s name.

Buhr and her mother, Monica Serratos, did not respond to messages and phone calls seeking comment. Her father, Brian Buhr, also declined to comment.

In a Facebook post, which includes part of Buhr’s speech, Serratos said she couldn’t be prouder of her daughter.

According to Manuel Rubio, a spokesperson for Sweetwater Union High School District, Buhr’s speech did not follow the pre-approved version she submitted to the school prior to graduation.

Rubio said he could not comment on specific personnel allegations but offered his overall opinion of the address.

“We think that the student’s speech was inappropriate and out of line,” Rubio said in an email Tuesday. “While we definitely welcome the concerns of students and their families regarding any situation at one of our schools, doing so in such a manner without any prior knowledge of this situation by the school, is not the right way of handling this. Ultimately this takes away from what should have been a day of celebration for the school and their community.”

Buhr’s comment about a lack of information on scholarship opportunities came as a surprise as well, Rubio said, since students are exposed to college-going information as early as seventh grade, and each year students are given additional information about opportunities available to them through district programs.

Buhr is not the first valedictorian to shake up a graduation ceremony with a controversial speech.

When a Texas high school valedictorian began to list the names of black teens who were shot by police, the principal cut her microphone feed. A tweet of the incident captured on video went viral early this month. The school has since issued an apology.

Around the same time, two Detroit seniors criticized their school for employing “unqualified teachers” and committing “unlawful acts.” One of the students was allowed to finish her speech. The other had her microphone cut.

In 2017, a Pennsylvania valedictorian used his speech to point out the lack of power students have and said “the authoritative attitude that a few teachers, administrators and board members have, prevents students from truly developing as leaders.” His mic was cut before he could finish his speech.

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