Canceled Texas High School Production of THE LARAMIE PROJECT Reinstated Following Backlash

In an email, the superintendent wrote the production would proceed as originally planned.

By: Mar. 06, 2024
Canceled Texas High School Production of THE LARAMIE PROJECT Reinstated Following Backlash
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A canceled High School production of The Laramie Project in Keller, Texas is back on following community outrage and a petition calling for the reversal by the school board.

BroadwayWorld previously reported on the cancellation.

In a written statement sent to the school community, superintendent Tracy Johnson wrote "Keller ISD's administration recognizes the time and effort that has been put into the adapted version of The Laramie Project by students and staff members. Upon further consideration of this, the administration has decided to proceed as previously planned with the May performance of The Laramie Project."

The play, which explores the aftermath of the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay student in Wyoming, is scheduled for performance this spring. Timber Creek High School parents previously received an email informing them of the cancellation without an explanation.

The online petition which urged the school district to reinstate the production currently stands at over 4,000 signatures. The petition emphasized the play's significance in understanding LGBTQ+ struggles and promoting awareness.

Following the cancellation, concerns were raised regarding a perceived pattern of anti-LGBTQ decisions by the Keller school board, including 'controversial' bathroom and pronoun policies. 

The district has enacted policies barring teachers from using transgender students’ preferred pronouns and banned books that mention gender fluidity. 

Judy Shepard, Matthew Shepard's mother and president of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, spoke of her disappointment at the increasing attempts to cancel productions of the play, stating "My heart is broken when people still refuse to see how important this work is."

"When the administration of the Timber Creek High School cancels a production of The Laramie Project, it’s telling the LGBTQ students that their stories are unwelcome, that they should refrain from speaking their truth and that that community is not willing to listen. This is a terrible thing to do to any minority..." said The Laramie Project playwright Moisés Kaufman.

"The Laramie Project has been performed in thousands of universities and high schools around the world. The only logical reason to censor it is homophobia – and that’s not what that school should be teaching its children."

The cancellation comes during a period nationwide of heightened scrutiny around LGBTQ+ rights in schools, with several districts facing similar controversies.

The petition, started by former Keller High School student Dee Lepine noted "By banning this play, we are not only suppressing an important piece of history but also denying our students a chance to understand and empathize with the struggles faced by the LGBTQ+ community. The absence of such narratives can lead to ignorance, prejudice, and discrimination. According to a 2019 report by the FBI, Texas ranks third in the nation for hate crimes [...] It's essential that our education system works towards creating awareness about these issues rather than shying away from them. We urge you to reconsider this decision and allow Timbercreek High School to perform The Laramie Project."