Views & Voices

A gay dad draws protest from the school that cancelled a play about two gay penguins

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As writers and/or activists enter the public discussions, they tend to adopt a style and way of communicating that works for them.  If you are Dan Savage, you devise clever definitions of words based on Known Homophobes, and start amazingly powerful video campaigns. For me, I am a gay dad who writes people letters in a very public way.

I am often asked if I actually send those letters to the people for whom they are intended, and the answer is “yes.” 

How I get the letters to them varies based on their accessibility but in all cases my intention is to communicate directly as well as through the public sphere.

Recently I wrote to a school and the community it serves regarding the cancellation of a play depicting a penguin family, a family of two males taking parental roles over an adopted egg. 

I wrote to them about the cancellation of a play about a family like mine.  When I published it, I sent a link immediately to the school through its Facebook page messages. I got a response: “Hi Rob, not ignoring. I will get back to you.”

Five days and four publications later, I did get a response from Jill Harry, “Mom, 7th-8th Grade Long Term Substitute Teacher, PR Manager, Lead Founding Member, former Board Chair, Sierra Foothill Charter School, sierrafoothillcharterschool.org”.

Jill stated:

“I read and appreciated a lot of what you wrote in your May 1 blog. Unfortunately, not everything you wrote about SFCS and recent events is accurate… I do not have the time or energy to go line by line through your blog and point out all the places where you are incorrect in what you are reporting. Instead, I’m attaching clarifying statements from our principal and our board chair.”

I have attached those documents here.

In the original blog, I also attached the school letter that outlined all the facts I discussed in my commentary. Since all the information I presented was from the school directly or quoting people that their local media had captured on camera, I was very curious as to what “inaccuracies” Ms. Hill perceived.

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After reading the principal’s letter, the main two concerns seemed to be that when he stated that the play “does cross the line for what parents think is appropriate for school,” that he was speaking only for the majority of parents who were against the play, not the whole population.  I don’t think my quote of him indicated that all parents were in agreement, nor do I see that making a difference to the issue at hand.

The school seemed also intent on making clear that the cancellation had more to do with the disruptive controversy — that the play was meant to be “fun,” but was now, not going to be.

My response to Ms. Hill:

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