Grandfield teacher suspended for controversial play surrounding gay hate crime

Grandfield_A controversial play could cost Grandfield High School teacher Debra Taylor her job.  She teaches the school's Ethics and Street Law class, and says she was told by Superintendent Ed Turlington not to run a play titled "The Laramie Project."  The play is about a gay person who was murdered.  After being forbidden to put on the play, Taylor held a mock funeral for the play in class so students could have closure.  She says the mock funeral got her suspended.

7News spoke with Taylor, students, and parents on Thursday, but Turlington did not comment after our calls or emails.  Taylor says she can't comment either, but she hopes for a positive outcome.

The students say the superintendent didn't think the subject matter of the play was appropriate for the community.  Student Amber Squires says she doesn't understand why her teacher was suspended.  She says the class has covered other mature matters in the past, and that the matter must have been sensitive to school officials.  "Our ethics class goes over stuff like that all the time," she said.  "Abortion, stem cells - this topic was very sensitive to our school or the school board."

Amber says it wasn't the sensitive subject matter that may have caused controversy.  "They were trying to turn it into that we were promoting gay rights' or something," she said.  Her mother agrees and wonders why Turlington waited until the students had worked for one month on the play before cancelling it.  "He would know in advance what it was supposed to be about - that's what I don't understand about this whole thing is about," said Elizabeth Squires.

Elizabeth says the entire thing may have been a misunderstanding from the beginning.  She says the superintendent should have given it more thought.  "He just took it the wrong way," she said.  "I don't think he read the script, or knew what the story was really about."  Amber says she now is using her teachers own classroom lessons to defend her.  "She always taught us to speak our minds and have our voices heard," she said.

Amber says that the class has been turned into a reading class, and students have had to start the class over.  She says they have had to learn a completely new curriculum.  Turlington says the school board plans to meet next week to determine whether they will keep Taylor on as a teacher.  He says he may be able to comment after that meeting.

Count on 7News to keep you updated.