February 16, 2005
By Jeri McGiverin, Mainstream Loudoun
The Loudoun County School Board’s Committee on Policy has been assigned the dubious task of “investigating” the original one-act play, “Offsides,” put on by the Stone Bridge High School Drama Club over the course of one weekend.
In the words of the playwright, Sabrina Audrey Jess: “It [the play] tells the story of the protagonist Ryan, a popular football player who is hiding the secret that he is gay. Throughout the play we see him evolve as his friends find out and shun him.” Ms. Jess explains: ‘I have heard many stories from gay friends about the challenges of coming out and I was hoping to shed light on it to allow those pains and sorrows to be heard, not ignored. My intent of performing the play was not for shock value or to promote homosexuality. I wrote it as a form of self-expression, a freedom guaranteed to me by the first amendment in our law of the land. As an avid artist, I had something to say and I said it.”
At this point, little is left to actually discover.
The students involved in this extra-curricular production have stated that they were not influenced by any adults; that the play’s purpose was to promote tolerance; that the audience was warned of explicit content beforehand; and that they received approval from their principal. Most members of the School Board appeared to accept all the above as true.
So apparently, the “investigation” will not focus on those issues but rather on the appropriateness of the play as part of a high school activity.
Judging from the comments of many School Board members on Tuesday night, for them, the issue of appropriateness will be viewed through a prism of strongly held religious beliefs. It seems intuitively obvious that a board member who attaches labels such as “sin,” “perversity,” and “immorality” to homosexuality will not be inclined to find a play dealing with homosexuality “appropriate.”
The problem is that those labels are subjective and far from unanimous.
Many religions, churches, and people of morality and faith (yes, Christians too) do not consider homosexuality sinful, perverse or immoral. They accept gays and lesbians for who they are – the way God created them, if you will.
In addition, school board members heard from parents who stated they would approve of their children seeing the play, further demonstrating that there is no public consensus about this issue.
Yet some board members began making noises about possible firings and criminal lawsuits based on the introduction of minors to “prurient material.” This negative overreaction does not bode well for those of us who expect the board to make a reasonable, unbiased decision about an emotionally loaded issue.
The board must not be influenced by the political agenda of people like Dick Black and his gang of would-be censors, who fired off a factually inaccurate alert to create a flood of calls and emails from people who had never seen the play. Instead, the board must leave their personal prejudices behind and make an objective determination by taking into consideration the opinions of all citizens, not just a vocal minority.
The students at Stone Bridge demonstrated great insight and maturity in the play they produced and staged. Let’s hope the school board does the same.
Public Relations Director, Mainstream Loudoun