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Parents object to
staging of The Laramie Project at Iowa high

Parents object to
staging of The Laramie Project at Iowa high

Some parents at Valley High School in West Des Moines, Iowa, are upset over the school's decision to let students perform The Laramie Project, a play based on the murder of Matthew Shepard, the gay University of Wyoming student who was killed because of his sexual orientation. The play discusses homosexuality, uses profanity, and contains violence.

School officials said it teaches tolerance and acceptance of others. They hope the play will encourage families to discuss diversity and hate crimes and whether such behavior is acceptable. "It is edgy, but it is for a mature audience," said Phyllis Staplin, West Des Moines's director of curriculum. "There is no doubt about it--this is providing a teaching opportunity for diversity and acceptance."

About 90 students were signed up to audition for the play this week. Kate Vohs, a Valley senior who auditioned for the play, said it can dispel the myth that hate crimes don't happen in a particular community. "But they do, and they exist in our community too," she said.

Some parents said they are upset by the profanity used in the play and scenes that contain graphic violence and depictions of sex. The parents said they plan to express their concerns to the school board on September 18.

"It is inappropriate material for high schools because of the profanity," said Wendy Ogden, the parent of a drama student. "It's not the issue of homosexuality that I don't think should be discussed. I think there are a lot of people who have severe beliefs about homosexuality, and even teenage sexuality in general. I don't think it's right to portray it in a positive light without ever discussing the seriousness of it."

School board president Deb Thomas isn't bothered by the subject matter but said the language and violence in the play should be toned down. The play is relevant to what happens in high schools because some students are treated with hatred because they are viewed as being different than others, she said. "If we just focus on the issue of homosexuality, we've really missed the boat," Thomas said. (AP)

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