Students protest play ban, school board is mum

The Oak Harbor School Board did not respond to students who asked to perform the “The Laramie Project”

Oak Harbor School Board members did not respond to two students who asked for permission to perform the “The Laramie Project” at the high school.

Oak Harbor High School Principal Nathan Salisbury vetoed the play even after a majority of the drama club’s officers voted to produce it. In a statement to the News-Times, he said the play — which depicts a community’s reaction to a young gay man’s murder — was not age or school appropriate. “The Laramie Project” has been performed at high schools across the country.

Juniors Grace Jones and Eclipse Garrett both made public comments at Monday’s school board meeting.

“Grace and myself are fully aware that this board may be unable to overturn the decision made by our principal,” Garrett said. “But we both aim here to provide further insight into our hopes for this production and why we continue to fight for it.”

Garrett discussed other plays the high school’s drama club has considered but were not ideal due to things such as cast size, budget or how recently they had been performed by other schools in the area.

Garrett said they wanted to perform “The Laramie Project” because the events took place in a small town and focused on an LGBT story.

Garrett said “Clue” is the only other play in consideration that fits the theater department’s criteria.

“However, it has very little, if any, similarities to ‘Laramie’ and the main reason we want to perform ‘Laramie’ is how well it conveys such an important message,” Garrett said.

Garrett said that the Whidbey Playhouse has offered to produce the show but the students would appreciate the school board’s support in pursuing a production at the high school.

School board members were silent on the issue. School Board President Lynn Goebel said that the board doesn’t respond to public comment. According to Oak Harbor School District’s board policy, however, the board clearly can respond to public comments but are not obligated to do so. Many elected boards on the island, including the county and municipalities, make a point of responding to comments in order to be transparent, encourage involvement and build confidence in government.

Jones and Garrett started a petition entitled “Perform Laramie Project at OHHS” that currently has over 700 signatures.

Photo by Rachel Rosen/Whidbey News-Times
Eclipse Garrett speaks at Monday’s school board meeting.

Photo by Rachel Rosen/Whidbey News-Times Eclipse Garrett speaks at Monday’s school board meeting.