SHERMAN, Texas (KXAN) — A North Texas school district has taken back its decision to remove students from roles in an upcoming high school musical after community backlash, according to a press release.
Sherman ISD previously said that students involved in Sherman High School’s production of “Oklahoma!” could not act in roles that did not match a student’s assigned sex at birth. This was justified, the district claimed, because of obscene content in the musical.
“The version of the musical production originally scheduled…is intended for an older audience, and Sherman ISD strives to produce a musical suitable for all ages. After further review of the options available, the District plans to utilize a different version of the production,” the district said.
Phillip Hightower, father of a transgender Sherman High student actor, said that he feels the district only changed its decision due to its fears of national media attention.
“The administration put out an awful press release with the sole intention of scaring off national media, and it worked,” said Hightower, explaining that a national media outlet canceled its plans for an interview with his son.
According to Hightower, the new script is a youth version of “Oklahoma!” and meant for children ages 14 and younger, and is only half the length of the original. It also removed all solo performances from the play, he said.
With a newer all-ages version to be used, the district said that it will permit students to act in roles regardless of their assigned sex at birth, and that factor will not be considered in casting.
“Sherman ISD values the diversity of our students and staff and knows this has been an especially difficult time for many of our students,” the district’s statement reads. “We want to thank our community for the care and patience they have shown as we have navigated these difficult circumstances.”
KXAN has asked if already cast roles will be reinstated. But Hightower’s son, who had been cast in a lead role prior to the district’s decision, does not intend to participate in the new production. According to him, most of cast will also not return.
“The role Max had obtained was cut down to a glorified extra,” Hightower said. “The administration has stripped all casting rights and creative control from the theater director. And the same transphobic administration that kicked out the trans actors, will be the one that selects the parts in the new production.”
The district’s statement also notes the need for a “formal review process” of productions and scripts, which the district said it will implement.
“The fight continues, and our family is here for it. Like I’ve always said, Max is a fighter,” Hightower said.