It was late and they were tired.

Report on May 25 Legislative and Policy Committee Meeting

Workplace accidents more often happen at the end of a long work day, when people start to get careless. It wasn’t until after several hours of deliberation over what language to include in a policy governing theatrical presentations that the truth finally popped out.

Some of the School Board members finally had to admit that it wasn’t “sexual interaction” or “depiction of sexual acts” or “sexual themes” that they really object to after all. They had to admit that they think a kiss between two people of the opposite sex is perfectly appropriate, but even an implied kiss between two people of the same sex is “lewd,” “shameful” and possibly even “obscene.”

After many, many frustrated attempts to include language like Mr. Geurin’s that would “do more” than prohibit obscenity, because that “doesn’t go far enough” in addressing “these things that concern us,” and after some pointed questioning by their colleagues, Mr. Nuzzaco, Mr. Guzman, Mr. Geurin and Mr. Ohneiser finally admitted what they had so carefully resisted saying in plain English.

Struggling to explain why he and Mr. Guzman thought it necessary to include language that specified “content that depicts sexual acts that warrents a disclaimer” be prohibited, Mr. Ohneiser informs us that “you could have sexual acts that are not necessarily obscene but are shameful or morbid.”

“What exactly do you mean by sexual interaction?” asked Superintendent Hatrick. “Are we talking about copulation? Are we talking about a kiss? Holding hands? Is there a legal definition?”

“There could be depictions of sexual interaction that are not shameful or morbid,” Mr. Ohneiser explained. Mr. Nuzzaco, helpfully, reassured everyone that his proposed language wouldn’t prohibit “sexual interaction, like a kiss, between a male and a female,” but would “cover this stuff we’re concerned about.”

It ought to be clear where we are going with this. What they are trying to craft is viewpoint discrimination, pure and simple. The difference between a kiss between “a male and a female” and a kiss between any other two persons is . . an idea.

The play that these gentlemen object to had a strong message of compassion and personal integrity, and conveyed the viewpoint that gay people are part of our society and are entitled to the same respect, dignity and happiness as everyone else. What they want to prohibit is the expression of this idea. That is a violation of the law, and they know it.

To the credit of the committee, this language was not included in the draft policy that was ultimately adopted for recommendation to the full board, provided below. Additions to the original policy drafted by Superintendent Hatrick and staff are in italics.

8-42 Theatrical Presentations

The Division Superintendent shall develop and implement guidelines for the presentation of theatrical productions presented as part of the public school curriculum. Those guidelines shall be designed to support drama presentations that challenge, nurture and extend student skills while adhering to the basis educational mission of teaching students boundaries of socially appropriate behavior, the rights and responsibilities of the expression of free speech and the importance of taking into consideration the sensibilities of the community.

Theatrical presentations involving obscenity shall not be permitted.

Disclaimers shall not be used in place of this policy.

The drama sponsor has the primary responsibility and the principal has the final authority for ensuring that this policy is followed.

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