Some school parents in Maryland are concerned that a local junior high tried to cancel the school’s musical production because of the presence of LGBTI characters.
Hyattsville Middle School parents told WJLA (ABC 7) they recently received a letter announcing the cancellation of an upcoming performance of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
One parent, Robert Kapler, said his daughter came home ‘disappointed’ about the musical’s untimely end. When he asked what happened, she reportedly told him it was because there are gay dads in the musical.
A meeting ends with unclear answers
Parents and students attended a school meeting about the decision on Tuesday (23 April). They were told the problem was with the show’s profanity and sexual innuendo, not any LGBTI characters.
‘There are a handful of “damns”or “Jesus Christs” that are in there, that could easily be cut out, I don’t think with any complaint from the licensing agency,’ said dad and Broadway concert producer Jamie McGonnigal.
ABC 7 confirmed with the musical’s licensing agency, Music Theatre International, that they have previously worked with school’s before on amending the language.
They also offer alternate song choices, such as changing My Unfortunate Erection to My Unfortunate Distraction.
‘I have no doubt in my mind that the fact that there are gay parents in the show is one of the primary reasons for the cancellation here,’ McGonnigal continued. ‘And when we asked pointedly if that was one of the reasons, they said they could not say.’
The school district defends the choice
A spokesperson for Prince George’s County Public Schools released a statement advocating for ‘appropriateness’.
‘Our chief concern focused on the age-level and grade level appropriateness of the material We are not seeking to remove gay characters from the production,’ they said.
‘As a school system, we celebrate our diversity and recognize the many rich contributions of the LGBTQ community to our school and the greater Hyattsville community.’
A district spokesperson said a parent reportedly raised concerns earlier in the month.
The district is now looking at developing a new policy for approving school plays and musicals.
A battle won
The battle wasn’t over, however.
Many parents and students called for the school to reverse their decision. An online petition currently has over 7,500 signatures demanding the musical be reinstated.
The musical first bowed on Broadway in 2005. It follows six quirky students competing in a spelling bee at the fictional Putnam Valley Middle School.
‘For the kids to spend three months working their butts off and pouring their hearts and souls into this, to then have it taken away by the people who are supposed to be standing up for you is ridiculous,’ McGonnigal added. ‘It’s so hurtful and so harmful to these kids and they need to reverse the decision.’
On Wednesday (24 April), the school reversed the decision.
McGonigall posted another letter he received from the school on Facebook.
He wrote that ‘despite the ridiculousness of this letter, and all the lies in it’, he’s happy the students get to perform.