Solanki barred from giving speech, school premises.
By Raif Karerat
WASHINGTON, DC: When Devan Solanki, a Harvard-bound senior, was named valedictorian, he naturally assumed he’d have the honor of addressing his peers at graduation with a speech as tradition assumes.
Instead, the young Indian American’s appointment as valedictorian set of a series of events that led to him being stripped of his right to deliver the graduation speech, suspended, and finally, required to undergo a psychiatric evaluation before returning to school, based in Lodi, New Jersey, according to NJ Advance Media.
The controversy started on June 4 when Lodi High School’s principal, Frank D’Amico, informed Solanki that he would not be allowed to give his speech due to prior disciplinary issues.
Last Monday, Solanki told his guidance counselor, “I just want to resolve this peacefully,” which she interpreted as a threat, leading to his suspension.
The 18-year-old, who will be studying chemical engineering at Harvard, was then required to undergo psychiatric evaluation before school officials would allow him to return to school grounds.
While the psychiatrist ultimately determined that Solanki is no danger to himself or others and can go to school, D’Amico still isn’t allowing him on school grounds, according to his mother, Nayna Solanki, who does not believe the school has treated her son fairly.
“They don’t want to let him speak,” she said. “I don’t know why.”
Solanki admitted to having minor disciplinary infractions, but was adamant that they were trivial — using a cell phone once, and on two separate occasions, talking back to his teachers. He believes the latter is what’s landed him in such hot water. The outgoing senior told NJ Advance Media that he believes the Lodi High School’s administration has some sort of vendetta against him as a result of his occasionally sharp tongue, and that their actions are “just an excuse for them to get him in trouble.” Many students are inclined to agree.
“Their reasoning is that since I’ve faced disciplinary action in the past, I’m no longer fit to hold such an honor,” Solanki wrote in an impassioned but straightforward letter to the student body which was subsequently posted to Reddit by one of his peers. “In all honesty, regardless of the credence of the actions that landed me in the vice principal’s office, I think ‘getting in trouble’ makes me all the more representative of my class, not less. I am human after all.”
About 90 students held a rally in front of Lodi High School Tuesday morning, demanding that school administrators reverse their decision, lift Solanki’s suspension and give him the platform he deserves on June 23, when Lodi High’s 2015 graduation commences.
“The student body agreed unanimously … that Devan deserved to give the speech,” junior Goraz Kumar, president of the National Honor Society, informed NJ Advance Media. “When we found out that he wouldn’t get a chance to give the speech, that he had to get mentally evaluated to come back to school, we all thought that was enough and we need to voice our opinion.”
In the letter to his classmates, Solanki expressed just how disappointed and aggrieved he was by the faculty’s course of action:
“The thing that hurt the most was the timing of it, he expressed. “They decided to tell me June 4th. Not only was it the day of prom but it was two days after the Valedictorian Breakfast. [Teachers] had just spent an entire morning telling me just how proud they were of me and of my accomplishments. I don’t understand how they could sit by and applaud while I get my certificate knowing that they would soon take it all away from me.”