When Debra Taylor, an ethics teacher in Grandfield, Oklahoma, was told to not use an excerpt from The Laramie Project in her ethics class, she held a mock funeral to help her students with their feelings about not being allowed to perform the excerpt. When school superintendent Ed Turlington heard about the funeral, he suspended Taylor and she eventually resigned on Friday, March 13, to avoid further consequences.
Students were shocked and spoke out in local news outlets and Debra Taylor told her story in the March 17 edition of USAToday. An URGENT ALERT went out from SIECUS—The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the US—and Mr. Turlington’s email was swamped in an effort to reinstate Ms. Taylor and the ethics class. School officials now say the play about the murder of Matthew Shepard was stopped because of “obscenity” in the script. Kay Holladay, safe schools coordinator for PFLAG- Norman, said "A lot of people find ‘Tom Sawyer’ offensive,” she said. "What are you really censoring? Are you censoring an F word which can be seen and heard each and every day in the hallways of schools or trying to teach something concrete on hate crimes and the devastation of targeting people just because of who they are?”
From left, Matt Ebner,18;Misti Jackson,17;and Amber Squires,15; lead a group of Grandfield students upset with school administrators. Photo by ZEKE CAMPFIELD/STAFF Lawton Constitution.