Valedictorian Evan Young Comes Out in Grad Speech, But Not at Commencement

Evan Young was the class valedictorian for Twin Peaks Charter Academy in Longmont.

But the school didn't allow him to speak at his May 16 commencement.

Why not? Because he planned to come out as gay during the address — subject matter rejected by the school for reasons spelled out in a terse statement included below.

But Young got a chance to deliver his speech anyhow. Yesterday evening, Out Boulder staged an event at which he shared his thoughts in a way that may reverberate longer and more loudly than if he'd been able to share his news as he'd planned.

According to the Boulder Daily Camera, Young says he submitted his speech in advance to Principal BJ Buchmann and even agreed to some edits — although he balked at the suggestion that he remove any reference to him being gay.

In addition, he maintains that Buchmann outed him to his parents in advance of the graduation ceremony via outreach to his dad, Don Young, who'd previously served on Twin Peaks' board of directors.

Fortunately for Evan, his parents reacted to the revelation with what appears to be unconditional support.

Twin Peaks proved less accommodating.

In its statement, the school maintains that "students have a broad right to express their points of view in a non-disruptive manner when they are not participating in a school-sponsored activity. However, when a student is participating in a school-sponsored activity, the Supreme Court recognized in its Hazelwood decision that the school has not only the right, but the duty, to ensure that the student abides by reasonable standards. Specifically, the court said that the educators may exercise “editorial control over the style and content of student speech in school-sponsored expressive activities so long as their actions are reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns.'"

Of course, it's eminently debatable whether preventing Young from saying he's gay had anything to do with "legitimate pedagogical concerns." But the statement also maintains that Young "failed to follow the guidelines established by the school" in regard to his speech. His initial draft is said to have been "condescending toward the school and the student’s peers and included, among other things, ridiculing comments about faculty and students," not to mention "references to personal matters of a sexual nature.

"None of these topics are ever appropriate for a speech at a graduation ceremony," the statement contends.

The school argues that Young's parents were "notified that the speech required revisions and the deadline for those revisions," accuses the student of failing to provide a revised draft and states that he "failed to follow guidelines of the evening by removing the sleeves of his graduation gown."

Young and his father were told shortly before the ceremony that he wouldn't be speaking, they say. But they've been heard by plenty of others since then. After Out Boulder announced its event, even the New York Times picked up the story.

At yesterday's event, Young was embraced by a warm crowd and given a special award by Representative Jared Polis. Folks on Twitter added their support by way of the hashtag #WeStandWithEvan. Here are four examples:

Look below to see a 7News piece about Young's speech, a Daily Camera video featuring his parents and the charter school's statement.

Evan Young: Twin Peaks Charter Academy Statement

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.