District reconsidering postponement pending safety plans
HAMPSHIRE, Ill. (WLS) -- The district superintendent is reconsidering a decision to postpone Hampshire High School's spring musical, "The Prom," which is about an LGBTQ+ girl.
Students are outraged about the decision to postpone.
Ainsley Bryson and her girlfriend Belle Eckert said this year's musical isn't a political agenda, but a representation of reality.
"The plot of 'The Prom' is like, literally what I live every day with like my girlfriend," Bryson said.
"If they were so worried about safety, where was our safety when winning, winning homecoming court?" said Eckert.
The couple won homecoming queen last year. They said they feel confused about the school district postponing the musical due to safety concerns.
"The Prom" tells the story of a girl being banned from taking her girlfriend to prom.
"I, myself, played a gay character in the musical the Addams family and I did not receive any like hate mail, death threats," said Felisa Lascano, graduate of Hampshire High School.
Lascano said she has never been concerned for her or anyone else's safety at the school based on their sexuality.
"This musical embraces, like, being a part of the LGBTQ community," she said.
In a letter to District 300 families, Supt. Susan Harkin said the decision to postpone the performance was due to the believe that the community "may not be prepared to fully support this performance without risking potential harassment, bullying, and violence targeting our LGBTQ+ students."
But after facing backlash from parents, students and alumni, the school said, the district is reconsidering that postponement pending a safety plan.
At a school board meeting on Tuesday evening, District 300 Superintendent Dr. Susan Harkin addressed the controversy surrounding the district's decision to postpone the musical.
Harkin said she's observed harassment, bullying, threats and violence directed toward their LGBTQ+ community in the past, and for that reason, the district was not certain the community was prepared to support the musical without the risk of more of the same.
After the superintendent's statement, there was more than and hour of public participation from parents, students, staff and members of the community, with many explaining the importance of the musical and stating their case for why it should go on as scheduled.
Harkin also said she plans to meet with Hampshire High School students to update them on the status of the musical on Thursday.
"I'd be pretty devastated. I feel let down by the school board and the superintendent," said Henry Hanson, student.
A postponement would mean seniors like Hanson would miss out on what would be his last theater performance. His mom says she won't let that happen.
"If the district isn't going to stand up and say that our kids are worth waiting for then we need to because they need to know that they are all perfectly fine just the way they are," said Mandy Hanson.