Brittany McComb, the Henderson, Nevada, valedictorian whose graduation address was censored by school officials, told the Los Angeles Times that she agreed to school officials’ editing of her speech only because she felt intimidated by them.
She and her parents attempted to forestall the editing out of McComb’s religious references, but could not contact lawyers to seek a solution, she said. Her parents were out of town, so she gave in when a school official insisted that she not deviate from the edited speech.
Instead, McComb gave her original address, resulting in school officials pulling the plug on her microphone in the middle of the valedictory. She has since filed a discrimination suit in federal districty court, alleging her rights of free speech and equal protection under the law were infringed, and asking for $1 in damages.
The conservative legal organization, the Rutherford Institute, is representing McComb in her suit.
In her interview with LA Times reporter Richard Abowitz, McComb comes off as an idealistic young woman who wanted to resist what she saw as censorship of her valedictory, but who lacked the resolve to stand up to school officials on her own.
Yes. The actual situation was that the my assistant principal confronted me in the hallway and demanded to know what I was going to do. My parents were out of town. We still had not contacted the lawyer. Everything was chaotic, and I was like “What am I going to do?” I had no idea. So I had to say something and I was at my wits end. I was very intimidated. So I kind-of said, “yes” and I regret it. I wish I had stood up right then for myself.
She told Abowitz that she and her parents’ attempts to contact the school district’s attorney were repeatedly rebuffed. In the end, she chose to give her address as she had planned, since she felt God’s and Jesus’ roles in her life were very important to her.
School officials, who were advised by an ACLU lawyer that the speech was too religious in tone, edited out most of McComb’s references to God and Jesus’ suffering.
Abowitz solicited questions from readers of his blog, and asked some of their questions along with his own during the 15-minute phone interview with McComb and her Rutherford Institute attorney. His blog has the transcript.