Earlier this week, we reported on the decision by District 300 administration in suburban Chicago, Illinois, to cancel Hampshire High School’s spring musical The Prom. Dozens of people showed up on Tuesday night at the district’s school board meeting to express their dismay at the decision. It is a school board meeting public comment session worth watching, filled with people across the community defending the rights of these students to perform the show and volunteering to help develop a comprehensive safety plan to ensure everyone participating and attending will have no worries. It is the kind of outpouring of love and support for LGBTQ+ students that all communities should experience. Public comment begins at minute 30:
The key reason that administration elected to cancel the show was safety. The district worried that with several instances of harassment, bullying, and targeting of LGBTQ+ students over the past year, they would be unable to protect students with the play. However, as the public comments made clear, the administration also did not reach out to the various communities that feed into Hampshire High School to ask whether or not they could develop a plan together. Further, many parents who spoke asked why, if safety had been a concern for so long, a safety plan had not been a priority until now.
Though the board did not change their decision at the meeting, the board has now reversed course and The Prom will go on at Hampshire High School this spring.
Superintendent Susan Harkin met with students on Thursday to deliver the news. She offered a statement on the district’s website following the meeting–her second with students in a week.
“The most important factor in granting approval for the musical was the development of a comprehensive safety plan. Hampshire High School, with support from District 300, law enforcement, and the village of Hampshire, has developed a plan that provides the necessary protections for “The Prom” to be performed within a safe and supportive environment,” it reads, adding “This plan extends beyond the scheduled performance dates. It spans from today, the date of the announcement, and continues after the final show to effectively address any post-performance issues. The plan offers safeguards addressing a wide range of potential issues, including, but not limited to, potential harassment, bullying, and violence targeting LGBTQ+ students, performers, staff, and community members.”
The safety plan was a crucial part of the decision, and it’s one that district officials have had the opportunity–indeed, the necessity–to develop. The press release even states there are already school-level and district-level safety plans but “this production required an additional level of security due to a national rise in bullying, threats, and violence directed toward the LGBTQ+ community.” It is noteworthy that the district “cites” ABC News here about the rise of violence toward the LGBTQ+ community when there have been dozens of examples within the local area. Indeed, administration made it sound as though they themselves have a wealth of examples.
District administration’s initial cancelation of The Prom highlights the continued censorship of creativity that has been on a steep rise since mid-2021. Although it is a victory for students, staff, and the communities of Hampshire High School that the decision has been reversed, it should never have happened in the first place.
“This is probably one of the best civics lessons I’ve ever had,” Henry Hanson, a Hampshire High School senior told the Daily Herald. “The power that you have with your voice is really strong, and I got to see that first hand.”
Dates and times of The Prom have not yet been announced, but it is likely that the show will not only sell out, but it may even encourage more performances than initially planned.