Tiffany Schley, the valedictorian of the High School for Legal Studies who was denied her diploma for criticizing conditions at her school, waited patiently with Councilman Charles Barron (3rd from left, in photo) Reverend Herbert Daughtry (far left) and many others, in the Department of Education lobby for a response to their demands.
As we go to press, those demands for an official apology and special presentation of her diploma will apparently be met. Ms. Schley will receive her valedictorian plaque and diploma from DOE officials who may include Carmen Farina, acting deputy chancellor for instruction, or Dr. Lester Young, Senior Executive, Office of Youth Development and School Community Services, July 1, at House of the Lord Church in Brooklyn.
Earlier in the day, Ms. Schley stood for a very long moment before speaking on the steps of City Hall. With the New York City press corps in front of her and a throng of supporters covering her back, she stood still and quiet, and then it was explained, she was listening to the ancestors. “Frederick Douglass once said, ‘If there is no struggle, there is no progress.’ And I have struggled,” Tiffany began. “My mother never lost hope and she taught me how to speak. I had things to say. I have opinions and ideas. But I was afraid to share those opinions.”
At the graduation ceremony, the assistant principal took her speech and returned an edited version for her to read. Tiffany refused. “I was tired of teachers ignoring me. Tired of administrators ignoring me. I knew I had to say what I had to say. About what was going on in our schools. About the teachers with the strong accents that we can’t understand. I told about the principal and how he came to the school. He walks around the school with a bullhorn and a whistle. He doesn’t want to talk to us. I told about the law curriculum. I go to the school for Legal Studies, but for a year, we didn’t have a law curriculum. The reason why? Because they had to wipe out the law curriculum to make a double period for math for the tenth graders. Why? Because we failed math. Why? Because we had teachers with strong accents that we told them we could not understand and they did not want to help us. For three years I struggled at this school. And although people may be offended by my speech, I stand by what I said because it’s the truth.”