New Details Emerge In PA School Play Controversy

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New documents were released last week that call into question the reason behind the canceling of a play at a Pennsylvania high school.

Last month, Keystone Progress submitted a Right-to-Know Law request to gain access to correspondence regarding the canceling of “Spamalot” at South Williamsport Junior Senior High School, which the state granted, giving the nonprofit 63 pages of documents.

The school was set to perform the Broadway musical in the spring but administrators canceled the production this summer. School officials told reporters that the production was halted because of controversial content, but Drama Department director Dawn Burch indicated the cancellation was primarily because of LGBT content.

In the email chain with Burch released last week, principal Jesse Smith expressed concerns about the “homosexual themes” in the play, including a same-sex wedding.

“I am not comfortable with ‘Spamalot’ and its homosexual themes for two main reasons,” he wrote. “Drama productions are supposed to be community events. They are supposed to be performances that families can attend. To me, this type of material makes it very hard for that to take place. I don’t want families to be afraid of bringing small kids because of the content. I don’t want members of the community staying home because they feel the material is too risqué or controversial.”

The same day, Burch responded to Smith, noting that, with Pennsylvania’s recent marriage-equality win, she didn’t view the wedding scene as questionable, adding that, as a “public high school, an institution funded by the state, I do not understand the problem.”

The district also publicly stated that there had been no contract yet for the production, but that was refuted in the documents that were released last week.

Keystone Progress executive director Michael Morrill said there are many unanswered questions.

“[We] believe that the school should be a safe haven for all young people, including those who are questioning their sexuality,” Morrill said. “The South Williamsport Area School District owes parents, students and taxpayers an explanation of their actions and words. Why did district officials feel it necessary to cover up the principal’s remarks about ‘homosexual themes’? Why did they assert that ‘Spamalot’ had not been agreed upon when nearly $2,000 in taxpayer dollars had gone to purchase the license for performances of the play?”

Morrill urged the district to continue looking into the situation.

“It’s clear that the administration would like this to be brushed under the rug, but they owe it to their students, the parents and the taxpayers in South Williamsport to be fully transparent,” he said. “This is about making sure all children feel that they can trust school administrators and feel safe in their schools. This is about a school administration’s responsibility to the community to be honest and upfront about how they run their schools.”

From our media partner PGN


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