Students vilify ‘unqualified’ teachers in graduation speeches: ‘This school is run on excuses and lies’


In blistering graduation speeches, two teenagers called out their high school for employing “unqualified teachers” and committing “unlawful acts” before one’s microphone was cut.

According to the Detroit Metro Times, Universal Academy Salutatorian Tuhfa Kasem, 17, criticized the Detroit school and its overseeing body, Hamadeh Educational Services, in her June graduation speech.

Teacher Phillip Leslie, who told Fox 2 Detroit he was fired from Universal after complaining about the school’s scant resources, posted on YouTube a written version of Kasem’s speech and a video of her classmates screaming, “Talk louder!” when her microphone was cut.

Leslie also posted a video of senior Zainab Atalagni’s speech, who reportedly said, “Like a machine, this school is run on excuses and lies.” Atalagni finished her entire speech without interruption.

Kasem said that she and Atalagni were to give valedictorian speeches, but were demoted to salutatorian, a title for the second highest-ranking academic student.

“…Now, moving on, I originally wrote this speech a week ago as valedictorian but I’m here speaking as salutatorian after this spot was wrongfully and knowingly robbed from me, along with my friend Zainab, by the administration with the short notice of just two days,” said Kasem. “Having three students with the same exact grades but giving the position to one instead of all three. This is a reoccurring issue that happens annually.”

On her first day at school, Kasem noted “favoritism and clear biases” when it came to University Academy’s sister school, Star Academy, according to Detroit Metro Times. “Thinking we’d just stay quiet and accept it as first-generation Yemen/Iraqi students,” she said. “I can honestly say it’s partially our faults since we’ve tolerated it for a majority of the time. The few times we would speak out we’d quickly be shut down and excuses would be shoved down our throats and we’d be given no option but to accept them…”

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