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Grad's Commencement Speech Censored Over Prayer, Family May File Lawsuit

BEAVER, Pa. (KDKA) - Controversy is brewing over the remarks a recent graduate of Beaver High School planned to deliver to her classmates at their commencement ceremony.

Graduation was held at the high school's football stadium on Friday, June 2.

Moriah Bridges, 19, was asked by the president of the senior class to give the final remarks at the ceremony.

She did, but she was told by the superintendent of the school district that it would have to be a revised version of her speech. Her family has now hired an attorney who calls that unconstitutional censorship.

"The Supreme Court has been clear on this, when it is a private student speech, which this was. This was a closing exercise, a closing speech. It is the creation of the student. For the school to say you have to change that and go with our viewpoint, that is illegal and cannot be done," said Jeremy Dys, the family's attorney.

The superintendent of the Beaver Area School District says she was advised by the district's solicitor that law clearly states prayer is not permitted at graduation, even if it is student led.

She goes on to say: "Students who speak at graduation, including the valedictorian and class president, know that the district will review their remarks in advance, and the district assumes responsibility for the content. In Moriah's case, the district could not approve a speech written as a prayer, but did approve a second version that she submitted. Although I can understand why this restriction might upset members of the community, I cannot choose which laws to follow."

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"I was shocked because I didn't think it was illegal, and now I'm learning that it's not for me to give a prayer at graduation," said Bridges. "I was hurt that I couldn't share what I truly felt for my fellow classmates."

Bridges' attorney says he just wants to sit down with the district to let them know exactly how the law is spelled out. He says he has not heard from them, and if a lawsuit is deemed he will look at that, too.

Bridges will head to Grove City College in the fall to major in political science.

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