LYCOMING COUNTY — There has been a bit of controversy this week in South Williamsport, all because of a school musical that was never performed. Beneath the surface linger questions of tolerance in the community.
The South Williamsport Area School District made national headlines after the director of drama at the school claimed school officials decided to cancel plans for the musical “Spamalot” because of gay themes.
Thursday, several community members said they hope the controversy will bring the community closer together.
Community members made their way to the front of a news conference inside New Covenant United Church of Christ on East Third Street in Williamsport.
They wanted to respond to claims that homophobic remarks were made by officials at South Williamsport High School when the district dropped plans to perform the musical “Spamalot” this coming spring.
“We just talked about the controversy at hand and how it was handled, whether comments were made or not, and how we can move forward,” said Dan Warner from South Williamsport.
The South Williamsport Area School Superintendent and school board president also spoke at the news conference. They say claims that homophobic remarks were made by school officials have been damaging to the high school principal and to their community.
“It`s disgusting. It’s inconceivable that anyone would think Jesse Smith would even say anything like that. It just doesn’t make sense,” said John Engel, the school board president.
Drama director Dawn Burch sat in the back with her daughter. Burch claims she received an email from the principal explaining why “Spamalot” would not be performed. Burch is seeking help from an attorney and has not yet made that email public.
“I was open to conversation, but then I received another email stating that the show could not be performed due to homosexual content,” said Burch.
People who attended this event say they aren’t worried that the musical was not approved. Instead, they’re using this as a teaching experience.
“There is no price you can put on acceptance and making students feel safe every single day,” said Adrienne Straub from Equality Central PA.
“When you sift through what is personal attacks and look at the heart of the emotion of what people are actually saying, I think there are some really important lessons I think we can learn,” said Mark Stamm, the South Williamsport Area School Superintendent.
Community members at the event hope to meet with school officials in South Williamsport to talk about ways that can help students in the community feel more accepted.