Mature judgment

By C.R. Phillips, Sterling

Feb. 23, 2005 –“Offsides,” currently the center of controversy within the Loudoun County School Board, is a well crafted play written and produced by Stone Bridge High School Senior Audrey Jess. The play was one of five one-act plays performed at Stone Bridge as part of the recent “Postcards from Paradise” drama production. As described by the local media, the play deals with the themes of a popular high school student coming to terms with his homosexuality and the resulting intolerance he receives from his former friends.

According to many media accounts, the controversy surrounding the play focuses on a “stage kiss” shared by the protagonist and another character, portrayed as a new student. The kiss, which may or may not actually take place just as the stage goes dark, is not the problem. As far as homo-erotica is concerned, the near intertwining of the protagonist and his new male soul mate in an earlier scene is much more suggestive, and while lacking in good taste, it too is still hardly obscene.

The play’s underlying theme, that homosexuality is an innate lifestyle for some that others should accept as normal, is at the heart of the controversy.
At a recent School Board meeting Jess insisted that she has “no secret agenda” and was not “promoting any sexual lifestyle.” Nevertheless, the play does go far beyond simply condemning rude or hostile behavior towards others with different values. Whether she realizes it or not, her play clearly has taken a position espoused and endorsed by homosexual activists involved in efforts to move society from simply tolerating their private behavior to accepting their lifestyle choice as legitimate.

Additionally, by juxtaposing readings of Christian scripture, I Corinthians Chapter 13, with the evolving relationship on stage, one could reasonably question whether or not Jess was intentionally baiting those whose religious faith teaches that promiscuous and homosexual activity is morally wrong.

Supporters from Equality Loudoun, a homosexual’s rights group, and Principal Jim Person have both raised the issue of censorship concerning the play. David Weintraub, of Equality Loudoun complained of ” . . thought police trying to dictate to all of us what we and our children can see and read and think.” While Principal Person admits to having suggested (required?) pre-production changes to the script, he states “I did not censor this work or end its production.” One wonders what was removed.

Censorship, however, is not the point. Hardly anyone would question the need for the school administration to censor a high school play that focused on condoning the use of tobacco, alcohol, or drugs by students and had, as a central message, the idea that fellow students should approve of that lifestyle choice as legitimate for some of their classmates. While all of those positions are real current political issues in today’s society, they are inappropriate positions for the school to endorse. By approving the script, the school administration was in fact, endorsing the messages of the play.

If you think you oppose censorship in a high school academic environment, think about your reaction to this: Reverse the premise of “Offsides” so that it advocated hostility towards homosexuals. Those crying out now against censorship would likely call for the firing, or other punishment, of the adults responsible for allowing such a play to be produced by the school. And they would be right to do so. Face it. Censorship is not always bad. It usually is only deemed to be bad when it is exercised against a position you support.

Administrators are expected to exercise mature judgment as they set out, and enforce, reasonable boundaries dealing with what is and is not age-appropriate for the students in their care. It is apparent from the predictable controversy that has erupted over “Offsides” that such clear judgment was not exercised as it should have been. Jess and her talented cast have been let down by the adults who should have known better. The adults are the ones who should be flagged for lack of judgment.

[Originally published in Loudoun Easterner, February 23, 2005]

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