After public outcry, Sherman ISD reverses school play decision
SHERMAN, Texas (KTEN) — The Sherman Independent School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously Monday to reverse the decision to suspend a high school production of the musical Oklahoma! and replace it with a "different" version and a new cast.
The action followed a meeting of the school board in which members of the community asserted that the changes were misguided.
"Reinstate the real version of Oklahoma! and let the students sing!" appealed one of 65 people who signed up to address the panel.
The school board huddled with an attorney before member Wendy Velotti made a motion to reinstate the original script and cast for the production of Oklahoma!
The vote was 7-0 in favor of the motion
“We want to apologize to our students, parents and our community regarding the circumstances that they have had to go through to this date," board president Brad Morgan said in a written statement. "We understand that our decision does not erase the impact this had on our community, but we hope that we will reinforce to everyone, particularly our students, that we do embrace all of our Board goals, to include addressing the diverse needs of our students and empowering them for success in a diverse and complex world. The Board is committed to uphold its ethical duties to include being continuously guided by what is best for all students in our District.”
Every seat in the auditorium was full, and the walls were lined with people standing, waiting to voice their opinions.
"By prioritizing inclusivity in our artistic decisions, we can foster an environment free from bias, ensuring that every student feels seen and valued," said an Austin College student.
Protesters gathered outside the building with transgender rights flags and posters, chanting, "What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Two weeks ago!"
That's when Phillip Hightower said his transgender son Max was informed that he couldn't play a male role in the school's production of Oklahoma!
Some parents and taxpayers in the district said they believe the Sherman ISD is focused on the wrong issues.
"How they treat people that they like, and how they treat people that they don't like, is way more important than the things that they can't control about themselves," one speaker said.
Students from local universities including Austin College came to show their support for the high school theater program.
"I ask that you evaluate what has happened, the harm that it has caused this community, and work to make amends instead of sweeping things under the rug," urged one Austin College student.
On Friday, the Sherman ISD released a statement saying the high school will recast a different version of Oklahoma!, and that any student — regardless of their gender or how they identify — can try out for any role.
"Public schools are supposed to be for everybody... everybody," said counselor Joangeli Kasper.