Valedictorian at San Diego school rails against teachers, staff in epic graduation speech
By ALEJANDRA REYES-VELARDE | Los Angeles Times | Published: June 15, 2019
On graduation day, Nataly Buhr delivered a valedictorian speech straight out of a high school movie.
The teenager stood on June 6 in front of 500 classmates at San Ysidro High School in San Diego, their loved ones, teachers, staff and administrators. With such an audience, the possibilities of what could come out of Buhr's mouth seemed endless.
Of course, a betting person would likely have put money on your typical farewell to high school and all the trials and triumphs that come with that great, teeming theater of teenage life. And that's how Buhr started.
She thanked her family and favorite teachers for helping her make it through the jungle that is high school.
Then the teenager turned her speech into a roast.
"To my counselor, thanks for teaching me to fend for myself," Buhr said, hardly changing her tone of voice. "You were always unavailable to my parents and I, despite appointments. Only in these past few weeks, with the awards ceremonies and graduation coming up, did you begin making your appearance."
"Might I note," she continued, "you expressed to me your joy in knowing that one of your students was valedictorian when you had absolutely no role in my achievements."
Her peers looked ruffled and confused, looking around at each other with jaws dropped. Was this really happening? Was the straight-A student really kicking butt and taking names?
Buhr wasn't done. She went after office staff, who she said taught her to be resourceful with their "negligence." She claimed they failed to inform her of scholarships until a day before they were due, and that school staff made it difficult for her to obtain a work permit despite her taking all the right steps.
Then Buhr ended by dropping her biggest verbal bomb.
"To the teacher who was regularly intoxicated during class this year, thank you for using yourself as an example to teach students about the dangers of alcoholism," she said. "Being escorted by police out of school left a lasting impression."
Buhr's classmates gasped, applauded and cheered for the unforgettable end to their high school experience.
School administrators were not so thrilled.
"Her doing that was a surprise," said Manuel Rubio, a spokesman for the Sweetwater Union High School District, adding that the speech she gave was not the one that she submitted for approval.
It took several moments before administrators and the audience realized what she was doing, giving staff little chance to stop her from delivering her message, he said.
"We thought it was inappropriate," Rubio said. "She didn't raise any of her concerns prior to her speech. It takes away from the experiences of everybody else that day who worked really hard."
Rubio added that Buhr made her speech all about herself, instead of focusing on the accomplishments of the San Ysidro High School staff, who help the majority Latino graduates go to top schools in the state.
Buhr herself will be attending the University of California, San Diego, he said.
Rubio could not comment about the teacher that Buhr claimed was frequently intoxicated, but said that her statements about the teacher being escorted out of class by police were inaccurate.
Still, Buhr seemed satisfied with her speech, and ended on a more traditional note as her classmates roared in approval: "Thank you class of 2019 and congratulations."
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