Dubious Dismissal

By Liana Loewus — March 17, 2009 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A high school teacher in rural Oklahoma was fired after assigning her students a play about the murder of a gay college student, reports USA Today.

With her principal’s permission, Debra Taylor showed her class The Laramie Project, a 2002 HBO version of the play about Matthew Shepard, and allowed students to film their own scenes for a class project. A few weeks into production, the principal ordered the project’s termination. In response to her students’ protest of the decision, Taylor held a ceremonial “funeral” for the class film, during which students wrote notes about their feelings and released them inside helium balloons. Ed Turlington, superintendent of the Grandfield Independent School District, cancelled her class the next day.

Taylor complained to a school board member and Turlington put her on paid leave with recommendation for firing. On Friday, the school board accepted her resignation.

The exact reason for Taylor’s dismissal is unclear from reports.

Gay rights advocates are citing the case as a clear instance of homophobia. Grandfield senior Matt Ebner, one of Taylor’s former students, agrees. “They don’t want something like this addressed in our community,” he says. Taylor, however, maintains she was let go for her complaint to the board member.

John Moyer, the district’s attorney, also says the dismissal was not a result of the play’s subject. “If someone is saying that adverse employment action is being taken against Ms. Taylor because of homosexuality, they’re wrong.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.