The principal of Sherman High School in Texas has apologized for leaving a voicemail to a theater parent that sparked a backlash over the school district’s decision to postpone and recast the musical “Oklahoma!”.
The voicemail, which was obtained by KXII News 12, was left by Principal Chris Mogan to Phillip Hightower, whose 17-year-old son Max is a transgender student who had been cast in a male role in the musical. In the voicemail, Mogan said:
“Hey Phillip, this is Chris Mogan, principal at Sherman High School. I wanted to give you a call and let you know that we are postponing the musical and we are going to recast it. And the reason why is because we have some guidelines that we have to follow as far as casting goes. And one of those guidelines is that only males can play males and only females can play females. And so I wanted to let you know that and I apologize for any inconvenience that that may cause you or Max. But I wanted to give you a heads up and let you know what was going on.”
Hightower said he was shocked and stunned by the voicemail, and that his son was crushed by the news. He said Max had been looking forward to performing in the musical, and that he had been accepted and supported by his peers and teachers at the school.
The voicemail sparked a public outcry from parents, students, and community members who supported Max and the other students who had been removed from the musical. They accused the school district of discriminating against transgender students and violating their rights. They also questioned the timing and the source of the new guidelines, which were not publicly announced or explained by the district.
More than 60 people spoke at a school board meeting on Monday, urging the board to reinstate the original cast and script of the musical. They also presented a petition with over 2,000 signatures in favor of the students. Some of the speakers included Max’s parents, his sister, his friends, his choir teacher, and his theater director. They praised Max for his courage, talent, and character, and said he deserved to be treated with respect and dignity.
After hearing from the public, the school board voted unanimously to reverse the district’s decision and restore the original cast and script of the musical. The board also apologized to the students and the community for the impact of their decision, and said they would embrace the diverse needs of their students and empower them for success in a diverse and complex world.
Mogan also issued a public apology on Tuesday, saying he regretted the voicemail and the hurt it caused. He said he was following the district’s guidance at the time, and that he did not intend to discriminate against any student. He said he was proud of Max and the other students, and that he looked forward to seeing them perform in the musical.
The musical “Oklahoma!” is now rescheduled to be performed in January 2024, according to the district. The musical is a classic American story of love, rivalry, and community in the early 20th century. The original cast includes students of different genders, races, and sexual orientations, reflecting the diversity of the school and the society.
The district said it would review its policies and procedures to ensure that they are consistent with the law and the best interests of the students. It also said it would provide training and support to the staff and the students on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.