An outspoken 18-year-old Lodi, N.J. high school valedictorian who is bound for Harvard with a 4.3032 grade-point average, has been banned from giving the valedictorian speech at his high school’s commencement tomorrow night for being too outspoken in defending a classmate who was being mistreated by a substitute teacher.
Lodi High School officials notified Solanki earlier this month that he wouldn’t be giving the valedictorian address due to prior disciplinary issues, including talking back to a substitute teacher who he said was rude to a fellow student. Solanki said the principal told him it was tradition, not policy, to have the No. 1-ranking student address his peers.
When mass emails, letters, and student protests failed to persuade the school officials to change their “policy”, Solanki out his guidance counselor to help him mediate the dispute.
“I walked into the guidance office and said, ‘I’d like to resolve this peacefully,’” said Solanki. “I guess she took it as an ultimatum or an ‘or else’ statement. Her official words were, I threatened her.”
According to NBC 4 New York, “Solanki passed a school-ordered psychiatric evaluation and returned to school to find the superintendent waiting.
“’He decided that regardless of being cleared by my mental evaluation, my alleged threat deserved a five-day suspension,” which runs right through graduation, he said.
School officials didn’t return NBC 4 New York’s calls for comment Friday, and Principal Frank D’Amico has declined comment in the past, saying he couldn’t discuss student issues.
Solanki told NBC, “I guess they were afraid I’d use the speech to try to get back to them, further my personal agenda, but they never took the time to look at the speech. They would see that I’m very aware that the speech at graduation is not the time to do that.”
Devan’s father passed away eight months ago and Devan’s mother, Nayana, said the family even delayed their trip to India to spread her husband’s ashes, so they could attend Devan’s graduation.
“Solanki’s sharp tongue managed to make him some enemies during his few short years at Lodi High School. And as I see it, it’s plain that administration and faculty are using the last month of Solanki’s time as a student to teach him a lesson. Whatever the ‘lesson’ is supposed to be, here, it’s an awful one to teach a child. It isn’t right, it isn’t fair; above all, it’s petty and vindictive.”
Speaking truth to power is a dangerous occupation.
Young Mr. Solanki, once he has his Harvard degree in hand, probably won’t be haunted by his youthful past. Still, the world doesn’t love the truth, much as it clamors for it. The world does not love provocateurs. The villagers of Nazareth tried to throw Jesus off a cliff. Make sure you save up a substantial amount of money before embarking wholesale upon this career path, young man.
Yet standing up for the weak, the unlucky, the unprotected has its rewards, if not in money, at least in integrity and a clear conscience. Once you get over the daunting prospect of being poor and unemployed, provoking cruel or abusive people can be quite a pleasure when you return home from your day’s work.
Commodities such as kindness, patience, friendliness, understanding, empathy, and forgiveness are in woefully short supply, particularly in our business environment. Cruelty, stupidity, stubbornness, short-sightedness, anger, retribution, ruthlessness, and mindless obedience have replaced them.
Clearly, these latter qualities are being inured at Lodi High School. A fine example they’re setting for a future authoritarian state where absolutism will be the rule. Respect for teachers will be replaced by suspicion and anxiety.
Had Mr. Solanki protected his classmate from the bullying of another classmate, he’d probably have been given some sort of certificate of merit tomorrow night. But because he spoke up to authority (twice), he’s been publicly cast down by the authorities from his rightful place.
This young man thought he was using the right words in applying the phrase, “resolve this peacefully.” But he was using the Leftist’s (and undoubtedly, these teachers and administrators are precisely that) words against them and they took immediate offense and went on the defensive, suspending the student for insubordination.
They were going to teach him a lesson is exactly right. He who owns the microphone owns the stage. Lodi High considers the commencement microphone and stage their property and they control the messages that are delivered upon it.
Evidently, the message of love and kindness, courage and valedictorian valor, will be delivered only by a messenger of their choosing, not a messenger of merit like Mr. Solanki.