ANN ARBOR, MI – An Ann Arbor Skyline High School graduate’s displaying of the Palestinian flag with the words “Free Palestine” was edited out of the school’s commencement video and removed from a photo gallery on social media.

Ann Arbor Public Schools Superintendent Jeanice Swift said the district decided to remove the student holding up the flag from the rebroadcast video with the intent of “preserving the intended focus of the graduation.” The student’s display was edited out around 44:58 in the video on YouTube.

“In the rebroadcast and on our social media, we chose to omit the display to focus on the one priority for the occasion,” Swift said in a statement released Friday, June 11. “We feel that allowing the student to exercise her rights to free speech during the ceremony and preserving the intended focus of the graduation in the replay was the best course of action.

“AAPS commencement ceremonies are very special events, community celebrations focused solely on the achievements of our graduates.”

Word of the student’s display being removed from the video spread via social media Friday, calling attention to the district’s editing it out.

AAPS board member Jeff Gaynor said the board has received around 200 emails criticizing the district for editing the video and removing a photo from its Facebook page, mostly via a form letter circulated online.

In her statement, Swift noted the district “understands the sensitivities around the topic and the diverse viewpoints of the students and members of the communities we serve,” adding that in “honoring one person’s viewpoint, we may be unintentionally offending another person.”

“This requires us to make some difficult decisions to try to honor all people involved,” Swift said.

Swift said the student’s free speech rights while walking across the stage were “not interrupted, impeded or censured in any way” and that there were no repercussions or sanctions for her free speech display.

The Ann Arbor News was unable to reach the student for comment Friday.

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