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
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.
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."
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