Washington state

Teen barred from graduation after accusing school of ignoring bullying, sexual assault

A school in Washington is blocking a student from walking at his graduation ceremony after he went off-script during a high school assembly to accuse administrators of ignoring bullying, sexual assault and other issues at the school.

Charles Chandler, a senior at Heritage High School in Vancouver, made the critical remarks on Wednesday in front of students and families, KATU reports. The school’s graduation is scheduled for Saturday, according to the TV station.

“I’ve been going to this school for four years, and I’ve seen these problems, and I’ve seen nothing done about them, and I felt like it was a great place to bring it to light,” Chandler said after the speech, according to KATU.

Principal Derek Garrison said in a school Facebook post Thursday that the speech “had many inaccuracies, inflammatory statements and unsubstantiated accusations” and “departed from his pre-approved comments.” But Chandler’s speech condemning the school drew loud applause and cheers from some in the audience, video shows.

“You will get made fun of,” Chandler said in the speech, portions of which were posted on YouTube and Instagram. “You will walk through these halls and get called stupid, ugly, an idiot, a piece of crap and so many, many more insults.”

Chandler warned underclassmen that they will “have to endure all the things the school will throw at you for two to three more years — a school where the administration closes their eyes to everything that happens in the school. Their school. The sexual assault, the bullying, the depression, the outcasts. And they do nothing to fix it, they just cast it aside like it’s nothing.”

He ended the speech on a positive note.

“Nevertheless, congratulations class of 2019,” Chandler said to applause. “I wish you all the best of luck in your endeavors after high school.”

YouTube video of the speech had been viewed more than 150,000 times as of Thursday afternoon, a day after it was posted.

The principal said school administrators confronted Chandler about the incident following the yearly “Moving Up” ceremony.

“Administrators called the student in afterward to explain how spreading rumors and inaccurate information was extremely problematic,” Garrison said. “We met with him at great length, discussing several options for a restorative resolution, or as a final option, if the student didn’t want to work towards a resolution, disciplinary options would be undertaken ... that could include not walking at the upcoming graduation ceremony. After considering the options, he opted to not participate in graduation.”

The principal also accused the student of posting on social media “an offensive and blatantly false statement about the conversation that took place with his parent” after the first meeting.

“Even when people speak about very real and serious problems in the world in which we live, if they add untruths about other people, including students and staff, it can be considered harassment and bullying,” Garrison said.

Some at the school are planning to walk out on Friday, KATU reports.

“I don’t think they should be capable of stopping me from walking at graduation for expressing my First Amendment rights,” Chandler told the TV station.

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