Community Fights Back After Texas High School Cancels THE LARAMIE PROJECT

The community has rallied behind the production, pushing for reinstatement with a petition which now has over 2500 signatures.

By: Feb. 28, 2024
Community Fights Back After Texas High School Cancels THE LARAMIE PROJECT
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A canceled High School production of The Laramie Project in Keller, Texas has sparked community concern and prompted calls for the decision to be reversed, reports Dallas News.

The play, which explores the aftermath of the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay student in Wyoming, was scheduled for performance this spring. Timber Creek High School parents received an email on Friday night informing them of the cancellation, but no explanation was provided.

A petition launched in response has garnered over 2,500 signatures, urging the school district to reinstate the production. The petition emphasizes the play's significance in understanding LGBTQ+ struggles and promoting awareness.

School officials stated they are "working on developing an alternative production opportunity" and that students "will still have an opportunity to read, discuss, and analyze the play during the school day."

District spokesperson Bryce Nieman explained the decision was made "by many stakeholders" and aimed to provide a similar production to past successful musicals like Mary Poppins and White Christmas.

However, concerns have been 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 amidst a nationwide climate 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 notes "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."

Find the petition here.