Superintendent Turlington at 580-479-5237 *and *by sending an email to
eturlington@ grandfield. k12.ok.us and tell him:
"Debra Taylor did not deserve this kind of treatment. Young people need
dedicated teachers willing to confront issues of respect and acceptance
for people of all sexual orientations. She should be commended for
creating a safe space for all her students and should be reinstated
Gay-themed film cost Oklahoma teacher her job
By Greg Toppo, USA TODAY
Gay rights groups are complaining about the firing of a rural Oklahoma
high school teacher who lost her job last week after assigning a play
about the 1998 death of a gay college student. But the tiny school
district says the move came after the teacher held a mock "funeral"
for a canceled film production of the play.
The episode began in January, when Debra Taylor showed students at
Grandfield High School The Laramie Project, a 2002 film based on the
play of the same name, about the murder of Matthew Shepard. The
students soon decided to film selected scenes themselves for an
Taylor, 50, knew the project was controversial with strong language,
but got her principal's permission. A few weeks into it, the principal
told her to stop production. After students protested, she held a
20-minute ceremony in a nearby park in which students wrote their
thoughts and rolled them into helium balloons, then released them.
The next day, Taylor says, Superintendent Ed Turlington canceled the
class. After she complained to a school board member, Turlington put
her on paid leave and recommended that she be fired. The school board
approved her resignation Friday.
Taylor says she was let go for complaining to the board member, but
others say it was a result of the play's subject: homophobia. "They
don't want something like this addressed in our community," says
senior Matt Ebner, one of Taylor's former students.
The Norman, Okla., chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of
Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) urged administrators to allow The Laramie
Project as a way "to create a culture where everyone is welcomed,
embraced and valued."
John Moyer, an attorney representing the district, says Taylor was
dismissed not because she wanted to put on a play or because of the
subject matter. "If someone is saying that adverse employment action
is being taken against Ms. Taylor because of homosexuality, they're
Written by the New York-based Tectonic Theater Project, The Laramie
Project consists of interviews with Laramie residents after Shepard's
Taylor says she was trying to help students examine their own beliefs.
"I didn't ask them to change their belief systems," she says, "but
what I asked them was, 'Can you be tolerant of those that are
different from you?' Many times the students came back and said, 'I
don't like gays.' I said: 'I'm not asking you to like gays. But can
you be tolerant?' "