Weekly Reads: Graduation Speech Censorship, Children Seeking Asylum, Summer Vacation Reading, and DeVos still sucks

Welcome to the start of summer! With many schools out around the country, and others ending this week, we have a few links about summer and some reading about ongoing issues with censorship and families at our borders. Our resident Weekly Read Writer, Lou Dench is sidelined with an injury, so I’m helping out this week.

About that Graduation Speech

On June 2nd, Petaluma High School administrators cut the mic on Lulabel Seitz midway through her her graduation speech when she began to talk about sexual assault (because apparently not talking about something magically makes it not happen). This attempt by the school to mute her message backfired spectacularly since nearly 400,000 people watched the video of the uncensored speech Ms. Seitz posted on Youtube.

The school principal responded to backlash regarding the schools actions by observing that students had submitted their speeches ahead of time, and that they had been forewarned that veering off-script would result in their speeches abrupt ending. Further, he explainedIn Lulabel’s case, her approved speech didn’t include any reference to an assault. . . We certainly would have considered such an addition, provided no individuals were named or defamed.”

In an interview with NPR, Ms. Seitz points out problems with that story:

the speeches were selected via audition, so they just wouldn’t have even chosen my speech to begin with. And then the second point is [that] a copy of my speech wasn’t on the podium at graduation with all the other speeches, so I was actually doing a lot of my speech just on the fly. So had they actually been cutting it because I went off script, they would have cut it a lot before.”

As columnist Leonard Pitts Jr points outThis is not 1963. When you shut off a microphone, you don’t silence a speaker. In the era of YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, we all have microphones. . . the lesson of this moment is that things have changed. . . And women no longer need permission.”

The Children at the Border

The nightmare asylum seekers face at our border continues with about 325 children being separated from their parents weekly (650 in two weeks in May). Though the attorney general insisted this week that the goal was not to be mean, the LA Times explains the situation away in a great article on the topic, saying:

Previously, border agents tried to keep families together by sending all members to the same family detention facility. Now, under the new policy announced by Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions in early May, in most cases parents are prosecuted, while children are sent to a separate refugee facility.”

The defense contractors are picking up contracts running these facilities, caring for scared, vulnerable children is the topic of a chilling Daily Beast article that you should read.

mural of the U.S. President with an American Flag
a not-at-all-creepy (cringe) mural in the detention center. Image from one of Soboroff’s tweets.

Also worth a read is MSNBC Reporter Jacob Soboroff’s extended twitter thread about visiting a children’s detention facility: “Imagine being 10 years old, separated from your mother or father, not understanding why, and being taken to a hulking, windowless building filled with 1,500 other kids you’ve never met. . . You’re allowed to make two phone calls a week — one of which hopefully is to a detained parent now thousands of miles” 

The backlash against this practice extends to statements by members of the medical community with official statements from the AAP and APA, as well individual doctors on CNN and in the L.A. Times. 

If you, like me, aren’t quite sure how the asylum process works and are seeing claims that these parents are all breaking the law (and that somehow that means they deserve this), Public Radio International has a nice rundown here, and Vox explains both the process itself, and how this administration is making legal asylum seeking nearly impossible then penalizing families who pursue it anyway.

a presidential tweet from early June

As for those tweets claiming that this these family separations are due to previous policies. The Atlantic covers the responsibility for the crisis in this article, saying of the president’s tweets:

These tweets are misleading. There is no law that requires separation per se; the Flores agreement simply says children can’t be incarcerated, and the Trump administration has made a decision to send all parents apprehended to jail, necessitating separation.

Some Summer Reading

Summer vacation is officially here for most students in the U.S. If you’re interested in the history of these weeks of sunshine and freedom (and childcare stress, and summer slide) you can read our extensive three-part series on it here: intro, part 1, and part 2. The Association of Library Services to Children’s summer 2018 reading list is divided by age and a great launching point for helping your child get their summer literature fix.

And for the adults in the room, a book on the Flint water crisis (What the Eyes Don’t See by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha) comes out this month. You can find an article by Dr. Hanna-Attisha at the New York Times, and an excerpt of the book over at CBS News.


Deek lives with her husband, twin sons and two cats in the northwest. She teaches and writes about parenting in the NICU, her experiences as a parent of micro-preemies and skeptical parenting.

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