New Jersey valedictorian cut off during graduation speech on mental health, LGBTQ identity

Bryce Dershem, who graduated top of the class at Eastern Regional High School in Voorhees said his school principal 'crumpled' his speech.

6/25/2021 8:47:00 AM

Shortly after the principal tried to force Bryce Dershem to read pre-approved remarks, another figure handed him a replacement microphone. Instead of picking up from the school approved speech, Dershem picked up from where he left off — from memory.

Bryce Dershem, who graduated top of the class at Eastern Regional High School in Voorhees said his school principal 'crumpled' his speech.

June 24, 2021, 9:17 PM UTC/June 24, 2021, 11:25 PM UTCByThe queer valedictorian of a New Jersey high school said his graduation speech was cut short by a school administrator who did not want the top student to talk about his LGBTQ identity or mental health struggles.

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Bryce Dershem shared his story withand said he felt"censored" by an administrator's efforts to halt his speech.In a video of the remarks that Dersham's father, the principal, dressed in black academic regalia, can be seen stepping behind Dershem at the podium before his microphone is suddenly silenced.

The principal then steps beside the podium and grabs Dershem's paper.The principal"crumpled" the paper then"pointed to the speech he had written for me effectively and told me that I was to say that and nothing else," Dershem told NBC Philadelphia.

Shortly after the administrator tried to force Dershem to read pre-approved remarks, another figure came up to him and hands him a replacement microphone.Instead of picking up from the school approved speech, Dershem picks up from where he left off — from memory — to cheers from the crowd.

"Believe in yourself, class of 2021," Dershem said as he finished the speech."Each and every one of you is enough. Each and every one of you can and will change this world."In an interview with NBC News on Thursday, Dershem said he hoped his speech would help"to make people feel less alone."

"For the longest time, I never believed I was enough," Dershem said."If I had heard someone say these words when I was younger, it might have helped me."School administrators told NBC News that students are guided by the principal through the speech writing process and all speeches are approved beforehand.

"Every year, all student speakers are assisted in shaping the speech, and all student speeches—which are agreed upon and approved in advance—are kept in the binder on the podium for the principal to conduct the graduation ceremony," Robert Clautier, superintendent of the Eastern Camden County Regional School District, said in a statement.

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Dershem explained that during the staff writing process, he was told the speech was not his"therapy session" and all mentions of queerness and mental health struggles were removed. Read more: NBC News »

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Well-done, Bryce Dershem!! (EC always had a lot of work to do on figuring out what compassion & inclusion really mean. Thanks for helping them along the way, by speaking the truth they needed to hear!). He is a small insignificant part of a frivolous micro minority. He has a mental illness for which he must be treated AND for which society MUST be punished for fostering this as some sort of norm.

And you media celebrate indiscipline. Most kids and their parents were there to celebrate theirs own educational achievements, and not to get pushed with lifestyle propaganda Ha! Principal attempts to censor speech; ensures entire world hears it. I’ll pay the bills of the first 5 people to dm me 🎖💯💵

You go kid! I tried several times to kill myself as a child and it was hell. I didn't graduate because of it. We deserve a voice. Thank you. We need the principals name who tried to censor him. So I didn’t read the story what was so bad about his speech? “Really Like” 👏❤️✊🤍💪💙✌️🖤🇺🇸🤎🆓💛🌈🇺🇸🔉🗣🔊🌍✅

Your speech is your speech. Not someone else's. Screw the principal. Good for Bruce Dershem for speaking his mind mane.

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Well done Bryce Jersey proud!!!! What a brave kid. Good for him! those speculations not so correct Losing weight, girls' dream But he lost weight He's really concerned for economic numbers you know I don't think it's useless, right?

Valedictorian Cut Off During Speech About Coming Out, Mental Health StrugglesBryce Dershem said his school principal 'crumpled' his graduation speech and directed him to read an approved one. Great speech Bryce!!! Standing in your TRUTH. Be Blessed. Congrats!!! PEACE

High school valedictorian says school 'censored' his speech about LGBTQ identityBryce Dershem said the issues began in the speech editing process. Good...because.. so a HS cheerleader can say “F--- Black Lies Media! F--- fragile White teachers! F--- Critical Race Supremacy! F--- everything!” but a HS valedictorian cannot give a speech about the importance of mental health of LGTBQIA+ youth how does this make American schools great again?

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