Oklahoma High School Teacher Fired Over Laramie Project?


Here we go again, dealing with a scenario that pits a school against a teacher who wants to teach students about something gay. In Grandfield, Okla. (about two hours southwest of Oklahoma City), a high school teacher was reportedly fired for having students produce their own short films about Matthew Shepard, after watching The Laramie Project. And even though Grandfield High School’s Debra Taylor got permission from the principal to conduct the project, it all blew up in her face.

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 in-class project.

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.

And now gay rights organizations are on the case.

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 wrong.”

[USA Today]

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  • radg

    Sick! Once again the younger generation is smarter, better and more advanced than the elders who are stuck in a hate filled time. It’s really awful that this woman got fired, hopefully someone will help her…

  • Jon B

    Does anyone really wonder why America’s education system is broken? Especially in states like Oklahoma. It seems like the students were engaged, which is rare. Frustrating… Very very frustrating.

  • sal

    the struggle continues,head up!

  • Chip

    Is it all we can do, to simply wait for these assholes to retire and/or die off? It’s so damned sad, the choke-hold that they hold over real education.

  • Alan down in Florida

    Seems to me the school board is a loser whatever their “real” reason was. Fired for complaining to a school board member? Last time I looked that was not grounds for dismissal.

  • Attmay

    When I have kids, they are SO going to a Jewish private school.

    Maybe this “school” can do a musical version of Mein Kampf.

  • dk

    She was not fired for the play or its contents. She was forced to resign over her own actions after the cancellation of that part of her lesson plans. She took students off school property without permission. The park where this mock funeral was held is NOT school property. She did not get anyone’s approval for this mock funeral. And this funeral can be viewed either as a continuation of the lesson plans or a demonstration against the administration’s decision. Either way the school board views it, they have legal standing for disciplinary action against Taylor. If she had simply done nothing and was fired, she would have claims for an appeal or lawsuit. Sometimes the best action is inaction.

  • Martin Ballesteros

    Hello everyone I am a former student of Mrs. Taylor’s now cancelled Ethics Class.The class will now be a reading class.For more info or any other questions,just ask and I will do my best to answer.

Comments are closed.