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Citing Vague Fears, School District Suppresses Stage Production of To Kill a Mockingbird

| October 28, 2010

They can't believe it either.

Fearing unspecified repercussions over the use of the word “nigger” in a student stage production of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Flagler Palm Coast High School Principal Jacob Oliva and Superintendent Janet Valentine canceled the play outright last week. No students or faculty had complained about the production. Valentine cited only one person by name who had voiced “concern” that the play was going to be performed—Holsey Moorman, a black member of the Palm Coast City Council member better known for his humor on the council than for his influence.

John Winston, who leads a mentorship program for the district, had also raised some concerns, but was willing to support the district’s decision either way. He offered to preface each performance with context and history for audiences. He was just as supportive of the decision to cancel the play. “There was no censorship,” Winston said. “This was done for the good of the order.” Winston, who spends a lot of time at the high school, said racial tensions are high and could be exacerbated depending on how the play was put on.

Yet Valentine and Oliva said they knew of no such tensions, and Oliva said he prided himself on running a diverse campus. Nevertheless they cited “students’ safety” as their first concern. “We don’t want students to be ridiculed or be put in a position to be in a debate, or in a situation that’s out of control,” Oliva said. He would not specify what he meant by ridicule or what an out-of-control situation might mean, even when asked what the worst possible scenario might be. Nor would Valentine.

In an interview Friday, Moorman said he had never contacted the school district and didn’t know about the play until he had a brief conversation about it in a hallway with Winston. Moorman said he didn’t know how his position made its way into the superintendent’s email since he had no contact with school officials about the matter—and only fleetingly discussed it with Winston. Moorman says he has no issues with the play, which he admires and has seen several times, including one version on Broadway, but he said the timing of a performance right now might not be a good idea because of racially charged antagonisms he senses in the community. Moorman’s involvement in the controversy, however, appears to have been inflated.

The vagueness—and contradiction—of the administrators’ position was reflected in emails each sent on Oct. 21, once the decision was made to cancel the play. In her email to school board members, Valentine said the drama teacher, Ed Koczergo, had not cleared the script with Oliva before starting rehearsals, as is the custom “when any questionable materials may be introduced.” Koczergo, who’s been teaching drama for 40 years, three of them at FPC, agrees: he said knowing the book and the movie have been on freshman English lists for years at FPC, it did not rank as a controversial work, or as a questionable work that was just being introduced.

Protocol as Pretext

But the district is using the protocol issue as a pretext: Even after the principal and the district were made aware of the script, they tried to get the publisher of the play’s approval to change the word “nigger” to “negro” (the publisher objected, though Koczergo was willing to use all sorts of substitute words), which is to say that the protocol matter was not, by then, a concern. The district then received those “calls voicing concern from the Vice Mayor of Palm Coast, Mr. Winston and several others,” according to Valentine’s email to board members. How those “voices” heard about the play’s content, or why they would object to its stage version before paying audiences as opposed to its mandatory uses before captive student audiences is also unexplained.

Oliva’s email to the FPC faculty the same day said nothing about protocol or prior approval. “I have determined that it is in the best interest of maintaining the security and safety of our students to not perform this production,” Oliva wrote. “A presentation of the material in a community setting does not provide the same opportunity for instruction as a classroom setting. This decision was reached only after extensive consideration and discussion of all factors involved. It would be unfair to put our students into the middle of a highly charged debate that places them in a position where they may be targeted unnecessarily for their participation in the production.”

There is no “highly-charged debate” taking place: Oliva’s and Velentine’s decision are suppressing what debate the play might have triggered, though whether it was going to be “charged” is speculative. It is equally puzzling how students would be targeted over roles on stage, or by whom, since the play was not to be a free event or an imposition on a captive audience (tickets were $12 for adults and $8 for students except on a half-price student and faculty evening).

“Are You Kidding Me?”

The decision stunned other leading members of the black community, if there are such things as “black” or “white” communities, including Jim Guines, a black resident who served on the school board for more than a decade and pre-dates the civil rights era.

“Bullshit,” was Guines’ first reaction to the cancellation. “That play is a classic. I hate that. That’s not what we ought to be doing, period. Not as a school system, not in this county,” Guines said. “In the context, ‘nigger’’s got to be in there. That’s what it’s all about. You can’t take it out of its time and you can’t take it out of its purpose.”

Sid Nowell, the long-time attorney and one of two black candidates for Kim C. Hammond’s circuit court judge seat until his defeat in August, was equally struck by the decision.

“Are you kidding me?” he said. “I’m extremely disappointed because the only way you address race is by talking about it. You don’t stick your head in the sand and hope it goes away.” Nowell said he didn’t begrudge the administration’s concerns, but thought the decision to cancel the play was misplaced. “I’m shocked that somebody would feel that way in this day and age,” he said.

Harper Lee published To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960. The novel, which won the Pulitzer Prize that year and has been on middle school and freshman English reading lists since, explores a variety of themes—race, class, gender—through the eyes of a young girl in 1930s Alabama. The trial of a black man unjustly accused of raping a white woman is the only plotline in an otherwise loose coming-of-age story, though the trial enables Lee to flesh out the humanism of Atticus Finch, the white lawyer and moral center of the book (and the narrator’s father), who defends the accused. The book has no moral ambiguities: It is clear who the bigots and idiots are, and just as clear who the morally just characters are, which is partly why Flannery O’Connor referred to it as “a children’s book.” Lee’s aim is also unambiguous: demolishing the vague fears and baseless assumptions that fertilize bigotry and injustice—precisely the sort of vague fears and baseless assumptions brought to bear against the staging of the play by FPC’s students.

While not itself heavy on irony, To Kill a Mockingbird has triggered numerous ironic controversies: FPC and the Flagler school districts aren’t the first to suppress it at what appears to be slight and vague, if politically titled, pressure. The book has been a regular victim of library and school bans, just as it continues to be widely read, studied and staged. Harper Lee, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush in 2007, hasn’t written a book since.

20 Years of Teaching Mockingbird at FPC

Delphine Williamson, who’s taught To Kill a Mockingbird and shown the movie at FPC for 20 years to 9th graders, and who is African-American, says she’s “never had an issue with this. Ever—with showing the movie or teaching the text.” Williamson puts the book in its historical context and uses it to teach students about the Jim Crow era in the South. “I was elated that we were doing the play this year because I’ve taught the book for so many years, and to find out that they’d canceled the play—I was disappointed.”

Roger Tangney, director of FPC’s International Baccalaureate, put it more bluntly to Oliva, the school’s principal. “I did tell him in an email I thought it was a dark day for education,” Tangney said. “I thought we were well beyond this.” In an interview, Tangney said “students are far more understanding, resilient and accepting of controversial topics than parents or organizations.”

The production, led by veteran drama teacher Ed Koczergo, had been in rehearsals three weeks when it was ordered canceled last Thursday (Oct. 21). It was scheduled for four performances at the Flagler Auditorium the weekend of November 12-14, with Eddie Green in the role of Atticus Finch, Patrick Farris in the role of Tom Robinson, the black man accused of rape, and 21 other student actors. It’s being replaced by three one-act plays based on Aesop’s fables.

The Drama Teacher’s History

Koczergo had taught high school drama for 25 years in Indiana, staging innumerable plays before he was demoted to teach middle school English at the end of a year when he faced another controversy. He had opted to stage “Bat Boy,” a musical wose themes include racism and duplicity. Koczergo’s principal objected and asked for another. Koczergo agreed. He suggested two choices: “Urinetown,” a staire on modern society whose only objectionable line is its title, and “Cabaret,” by far a more daring play for high school students. His principal chose “Cabaret” over “Urinetown.” The play was staged, and Koczergo was sent off to middle school the last day of the year. He retired from the Indiana school system two years later, and was hired in Flagler by Nancy Willis when she was principal at FPC. The issues with his principal in Indiana never came up.

Unquestionably forceful and opinionated (he’s a regular contributor to letters-to-the-editor pages going back to his Indiana days), but just as unquestionably experienced and immersed in theater, Koczergo now fears for his job, and said he was willing to accommodate whatever the district decided. “Having gone down that road before, I didn’t want to go down it again, and I can’t believe it has gotten to this point,” he said. “I don’t know where the objections came from in the community as far as Mockingbird is concerned. But apparently they were strong enough that it warranted the play being cancelled, based on the safety issue of the students. And I can’t argue with that.”

Oliva and Valentine said that other than the protocol issue, the matter had nothing to do with Koczergo, and Koczergo himself said the principal assured him his job was not in jeopardy.

Koczergo was part of the improvised committee Valentine summoned to discuss the matter. Other members in the committee, which met in Oliva’s conference room last week, included Kevin McCarthy (assistant principal at FPC), Lynette Shott, Lorna Moschetti, Diane Tomko and Diane Dyer.

“We have teachers that believe this is unwarranted censorship and may want that addressed by me or the board,” Valentine wrote board members. “We will see how this unfolds from here, but the final decision was that the play is canceled.” Oliva described the suppression to his faculty as “a teachable moment.”

The School Board’s Reaction

The school board was not involved in the decision, though two board members contacted—Colleen Conklin and Andy Dance—were as supportive of the superintendent’s decision as they were uncomfortable with leaving it at that.

“This was a hard call to make, an extremely hard call to make,” Conklin said, adding that she wasn’t sure the community was ready for the play, or what it might trigger. There was no question in her mind, however, as to why the play was canceled. Oliva and Valentine claim the 23 uses of the word “nigger” had nothing to do with it. “The decision was made to pull it because of the term that was used repetitively throughout it,” Conklin said. “It is definitely a word that’s been banned in my household, but it could be an opportunity for great learning, for showing a great work of art and building tolerance.”

Conklin and Dance both intend to use the suppression of the play as the beginning of a debate rather than an end point. Both are open to the idea of staging the play in spring, with better preparation.

“If we have members of the black community that are split on this then maybe we advance this discussion in the community so we can get to the point where the play can be shown, so it’s a healthy discussion,” Dance said. We should get to the point where everybody is comfortable with it as a literary piece, a time-sensitive piece.” He added: “Let’s not make the cancellation of the play the final word. Let’s get everybody together and plan a re-enactment.”

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72 Responses for “Citing Vague Fears, School District Suppresses Stage Production of To Kill a Mockingbird

  1. Lynn says:

    I’m sorry, Mr. Olivia, but the teachable moment is not the fact of the cancellation.

    The teachable moments would have been before, during, and after the production of the play. It’s sad to throw that away.

  2. What a sad and stupid thing to have done. To defend this on any level (in reference to Coleen Conklin’s statement) is asinine. This isn’t defensible. Truly sucks that Mr K. had the fear of losing his job preventing him from speaking freely.
    Selfishly, I am glad my oldest who has had the benefit of Mr K’s teaching for years, is no longer here. Shame on the principal and Mrs. Valentine. As for Mr. Moorman – I am thrilled that beyond this bit of bullying that man is not in charge of anyone’s curriculum.

  3. Anita says:

    Ms. Conklin has been serving on the school board and yet, claims the community is not ready for the production? As pointed out in the article, middle and high school English students have had this on their reading list (and rightly so) for a number of years, so where has she been? Because an ugly word appears in the text , that doesn’t give anyone more license to use it after seeing the play than it did before, and that point needs to be made. I suppose now Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are also on hold until history can be rewritten. Yes, it’s time to have that meeting of the entire community, black and white, so that a healthy discussion can ensue.

  4. Jim Guines says:

    Any other time, my blackness would have placed me in a position to be asked about this situation. I think it is a shame that this has happened. There is nothing about this play that should cause it to be
    rejected as being fine for public performance. I have been to classes as an invited speaker to talk in detail about this work and the history of the times and found the reception wonderful. I do not recall being called the “n” word as we refer to it today.

  5. Kendall says:

    How very disappointing for the students who were working on the play, the community members (myself included) who were looking forward to the performance, and to everyone unfamiliar with TKAM that would have heard the story for the first time.

    To Kill A Mockingbird is one of the greatest stories ever told. It is a story of the pre civil rights racial divide being bridged by a brave man and his family. It’s about learning not to make assumptions about people based on what’s on the outside. Ironic isn’t it?

    I hope Mr. K remains at FPC inspiring and encouraging our students.

  6. Clay Boggess says:

    Turning a blind eye to a past reality doesn’t make it go away. The decision to cancel the play actually speaks louder to the fact that we are still not fully willing to deal with the issue of racism. We end up repeating the same mistakes because we are unwilling to revisit and learn from our past. I’m sure that the cancellation will still cause some tension anyway.

  7. Barney Smythe says:

    Maybe the can change the word to knee grow!

  8. Kip Durocher says:

    Just when I thought I had seen it all, reality pops up and smacks me in the head again.
    I really had a knot in my gut when this appointment was made. I thought it was only
    just a short time before Ms. Valentine’s lack of any substance at all would lead to a major gaffe. And my, what a colossal blunder.
    Flagler County schools deserve a professional Administrator not a plodder whose only real accomplishments are hanging around a long while and not getting in any serious trouble. We get this amateurism for $168,000.00 per year?
    “I’m probably more collaborative in the way I manage and make decisions,” Ms. Valentine says. Sure could not prove it here!!
    “If I had a concern, it would be the public relations portion and the community involvement,” board member Sue Dickinson said. You sure got that right!!

    Flagler Palm Coast High School Principal Jacob Oliva described the suppression to his faculty as “a teachable moment.” Correct, you could probably draw some excellent
    parallels from Nazi Germany and Franco Spain. They rehearsed for three weeks?
    Did Mr. Olivia not have an opinion on this issue until he was told to?

    And it just get’s worse.
    “John Winston, who leads a mentorship program for the district, …….. “There was no censorship,” Winston said. “This was done for the good of the order.”
    Winston, who spends a lot of time at the high school, said racial tensions are high and could be exacerbated depending on how the play was put on.”
    I question the judgment of allowing this person onto the high school ~ unless it is his job to throw gas on the fire.

    “The school board was not involved in the decision, though two board members contacted—Colleen Conklin and Andy Dance—were as supportive of the superintendent’s decision as they were uncomfortable with leaving it at that.”
    The ages of cronyism and nepotism have long ago passed. It is time for voters to become much smarter ~ asking hard questions of the candidates ~ and demanding answers.
    The various media need to play a much more stronger and honest role in politics.
    School Board Members in Flagler County are paid over $30,000.00 per year. We, the taxpayers, should demand some type of professionalism for this type of money. This is not a mere stipend to a volunteer position. It is time for $30,000.00 a year employees to get involved and find out what is going on..

    Delphine Williamson, who’s taught To Kill a Mockingbird and shown the movie at FPC for 20 years to 9th graders, and who is African-American, says she’s “never had an issue with this. Ever—with showing the movie or teaching the text.”
    Way to go Ms. Valentine ~ you have reinvented the wheel ~ square not round ~ and in 2010. Great leap backwards to 1960!!

    “Bullshit,” was Guines’ first reaction to the cancellation. “That play is a classic. I hate that. That’s not what we ought to be doing, period. Not as a school system, not in this county.” I think we need Jim back on the board again!

    Maybe this time we will be the butt of Letterman’s jokes.

  9. Orion says:

    I hope she makes better decisions in the future

  10. Jenn Kuiper says:

    As a former drama club sponsor at FPC, I was so saddened to hear that this happened. It seems we still don’t know all of the details. Yes, the play should have been reviewed and approved, but I can see how Mr. K. wouldn’t have thought to have done that since the book is read in all 9th grade classes on campus. The script is always somewhat different from the book and it’s better to have the approval than not to have the approval. On the other hand, I am concerned about censorship in general. Mr. Oliva assured me personally that this was an issue of student safety and not one of censorship. I hope I can believe him. Regardless, there needs to be a discussion about the relevance of this play so the community can come to an understanding and the show can go on. There will always be people who refuse to hear the message of this story or who just don’t care and choose to remain ignorant. It’s heartbreaking to see these wonderful kids work so hard for something that never materialized. They even want to workshop some scenes with the 9th grade classes so they can discuss what it felt like to use the n word onstage and to be called the n word by another peer. I think that’s really where the teachable moment will occur if given the opportunity. Consider writing to Principal Oliva and Superintendent Valentine to let your opinion be known and to affect any future decision they may make on this issue.

  11. Barb says:

    Books and movies come and go and fade quickly from memory. Very few are read and seen that stay with you for life. TKAM is a lifetime memory for me and one of the first movies I saw that left a deep impression on me as a movie whose characters taught a life lesson about acceptance and courage in a racist day and age. How sad that censorship and ignorance has reached Palm Coast and our students will be denied this opportunity. Those censoring this play and supporting the censorship should be deeply ashamed of themselves.

  12. Patricia Ajram says:

    As a graduate of FPC (I was also very active in theater and served as Thespian President my senior year), I am appalled and ashamed that they are pulling this play. Like the article states, all students read the book version, so why is there a problem with the play? Considering Flagler is one of the last counties in America to integrate, shouldn’t this subject be even MORE prevalent to the people of this community?

    Also, Mr. Nowell has a point: are we just supposed to bury our heads in the sand and not embrace our differences and one of the largest uprisings for justice our young country has seen to date? If Mr. Moorman had actually read To Kill a Mockingbird, he would know that it’s about racial tolerance and acceptance, and a man being wrongly accused due to the color of his skin. As a Middle Eastern American, I have learned that as long as you give ugly words like the n-word power, then the words will power over you. To simply sweep an important part of America’s history under the rug is only permitting ignorance to continue to breed.

    Also, reading this article and the comments that followed make me feel privileged to have been taught by and/or know Roger Tangney, Jennifer Kuiper, Dr. Guines, and Mr. Nowell. Hopefully their voices of reason will be heard over the calamity of ignorance.

  13. Holsey Moorman says:

    Who ever said that I spoke with the Superintendent of Flagler County Schools is a flat out right LIE. Did you ask Ms. Vallentine or are you going on hearsay. I do object to your charracterization of me. Just because I don’t have a lot of rhetoric as other people, doesn’t deserve your negative comments. I know that I will not see a retraction in this age of negatism but I know what was said and who I spoke with and it was not the school board , the superintendent or the principal. It would be nice if you checked your facts before publishing a story based on rumor. Please provide the name of the person that used my name erroniously and we can confront them together. I am disappointed that you would publish this type of informatin without checking with the accused. I am a person of honesty and integrity and I stand on my word. May the Lord Bless and keep you.

    • Pierre Tristam says:

      Holsey, this is straight from Janet Valentine’s email to every school board member, dated Oct. 21: “The district received calls voicing concerns from the vice mayor of Palm Coast, Mr. Winston and several other stating their concern.” When I asked for specifics, I was not only given your name (just to be sure who they meant by “vice mayor”), but one board member gave some details of how much you objected.

      Your name and position, in other words, gave heft to this decision. If going on a superintendent’s email to five school board members is hearsay, we have a different understanding of official words and official records. You may object to what you consider negative comments. I object to your rather slanderous suggestion that this article had so much as a hint of hearsay, or that facts aren’t verified.

      I called you five or six times today, beginning at 8 a.m., left at least two messages. You returned a call after 7 p.m. while I was covering the follies in Flagler Beach (which make the Palm Coast City Council look good in comparison). It’s convenient for many people in this story to act cagey after the fact. If you know who you spoke with about this, then by all means, clarify it explicitly. If you did not object to the play being staged, then say so. That would be good news. If your name was misused in that superintendent’s email to board members, your beef is with the district, not with FlaglerLive.

      I look forward to hearing from you Holsey. But if you want to stand on your honesty and integrity, you could start by not deriding mine or this site’s.

  14. Kyle Russell says:

    *facepalm for society*

    If you’re buying a ticket, you presumably know the context and more than likely the content of the production, especially in the case of such a classic work. I feel that NOT discussing these issues openly is what leads to racial tension in our schools, not the other way around.

  15. LeanaG says:

    I was a part of this production. I was to portray the role of Miss Maudie.

    All I can say is that the show was going to be one to remember. The cast was incredible and the message that was to be conveyed was powerful. It is still heartbreaking to me that we won’t be able to perform this wonderful play. We were already more than halfway through the play when it was canceled, and the feeling of having a show ripped out from under you is one I never thought I would experience. It was a terrible feeling and it still fills me with sadness.

    It was not a just decision.

  16. Holsey Moorman says:

    I left home this morning at 7:30 for a 8:00 AM and attended meetings all day and did not return until 7:00 PM at which time I did return your call. I will call Ms. Vallentine on Monday. I must leave town tomorrow due to death in the family. I will affirm on the bible that I did not speak with her.If she used my name, it was hearsay. I did speak with Mr. Winston and I did not know enough about the situation to approve or disapprove. It is not my way of doing business.I give my opinion when I have all the facts. I don’t even know anything about the drame teacher to include his name. People are throwing my name around because they think that gives them some horsepower and I don’t get the opportunity to defend myself prior to publication. I have learned a very disappointing lesson. I am not deriding you or your site but is hurts to see unthruths printed about me.

  17. Really? says:

    “Yet Valentine and Oliva said they knew of no such tensions, and Oliva said he prided himself on running a diverse campus. Nevertheless they cited “students’ safety” as their first concern. “We don’t want students to be ridiculed or be put in a position to be in a debate, or in a situation that’s out of control,” Oliva said.”

    If you had ended the article here it would have been clear and concise that throwing both Valentine and Oliva out of their respective positions would be a good idea. Sounds like two inexperienced or under-qualified individuals in power over at FPC. As a proud former student, that’s sad to see.

    To take away the possibility of debate – heated or not – within the classroom and, in turn, the minds of our students is to bring up a generation of children unable to lead, critically assess, and solve problems that they will inevitably be faced with. I sure hope Valentine and Oliva will be keeping their personal phone lines open to solve all of the “potential problems” each student has as they grow older.

    Allow the students to debate. I vividly remember the charged debates over having the word “nigger” in a book for students to read when I was in high school with other classmates. Let the children speak for themselves, stop speaking for them – especially in such a confounding and irresponsible way.

  18. cyd weeks says:

    What’s next? Book burning? So sad that they have so LITTLE faith in their students!
    And thank you Really? for your post. Very well said.

  19. judy vanderoef says:

    I am so utterly angry right now. As a parent whose children were heavily involved in theater at FPCHS for many years, this is mind boggling. If there were concerns, a simple director’s note in the program giving context would have taken care of it. Or how about a question and answer session with the cast, crew and audience? I have great respect for the students of our county being able to deal with this situation.

    I taught my children that when they are wrong, they need to stand up and take responsibility for their action. I worked at FPCHS for many years and tried to instill that same lesson in all students I came in contact with. It’s time Mr. Oliva and Ms. Valentine to “walk the walk”. You are wrong, OWN IT. You owe this to the students of Flagler County.

  20. Itchey says:

    Although I do not see a problem with the play, Commissioner Moorman, has now brought to light an important fact. He claims he never spoke to Ms. Valentine, the editor here say’s that there is an email from Valentine claiming different. That email is public record and should be published in it’s entirety without editing. I feel it should be published because there are 2 public officials involved and with their differences and allegations it is important to get to the true bottom of this.

    Commissioner Moorman wrote:”Who ever said that I spoke with the Superintendent of Flagler County Schools is a flat out right LIE. Did you ask Ms. Vallentine or are you going on hearsay” … Valentine and the editor here both stated that it was Commisioner Moorman, who strongly objected to the play.

    We need the truth. The truth in this case may well lead to the actual reason for the cancellation of this plays performance. If no one really objects then the least that could be done is to allow the students to actually perform this play as they have rehearsed for 3 weeks already. Giving up is understandable on the Drama teachers part due to job concerns, but would it not be important to consider the hard work that the students have already put in… Should we not teach them instead that in the face of adversity to consider the sides, repurcussions, and doing the right thing regardless of outside influence and prejudice? To kill a Mocking Bird is fiction but it represents what America and the Deep South was during a very turbulent time. To ignore that completely or even worse in this case to hush it up is just wrong on every level.

    The community needs to get involved and set this situation straight, while letting the School Superintendent, School Board, and elected officials that this kind of shenigans will not be tolerated by us, we’re the ones who pay the bills.

  21. Laura says:

    The show must go on.

    …and it will,
    sadly, elsewhere.

  22. bill gordon says:

    Who is suprised with this we live in a world of PC and zero tolerence in our Government schools.

  23. Mr. Moorman – while I suppose it makes sense for you to defend your being unreachable, it would probably make more sense for you to actually state what your feelings on the play in question being staged at FPC are. Since your name was brought up, you have the forum here to let everyone know what, if anything you did say, and to whom. What facts exactly would be required for you to have an opinion on the subject?

  24. notasenior says:

    As someone who is on the liberal side of viewpoints I find this action disgraceful and less of PC and more of CYA. I want people running our schools to have at least some intestinal fortitude.

  25. Jim Guines says:

    I want to know what the Board of Education has to say about this, they are the final boss. It seems to me that I would be coming off the wall if this happened while I was on the board. I am sure there is some policy implications here. What is the board’s position???

  26. Kip Durocher says:

    I think they stick their heads in the sand ~ so their postion would be butts in the air.

  27. Mary Ann Clark says:

    Apparently no one recalls that the first selection of the Friends of the Library’s “Flagler Reads Together” in March 2002 was Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird.” As one of our programs, Mary Beale’s drama class presented a courtroom scene in the Old Court House to an audience who raved about the production (pictures available).

    I am truly sorry this episode has occurred in what I consider a progressive, enlightened community.

  28. emile says:

    “Is there not a man among you…” This to our elected school board.

    One of the sad things about this debacle is that very few people will go to see Aesop’s Fables, and funding for the theater department might be cut.

  29. Rick G says:

    This is a classic case of censorship. It’s a terrible comment on our society and adults should know better. I guess the first amendment is only for those with piles of money… or as the Supreme Court calls it “free speech”.

  30. Tina Jeffe says:

    WOW! I didn’t know that we live in a 1950’s environment! Haven’t we learned anything about getting along? These words were used–like it or not, and if we never let our kids know what happened we are in for more of the same. A “teachable moment” swept under the rug!

  31. cyd weeks says:

    I’ve emailed all the board members as well as Mr. Moorman. I’ve received neither a response or acknowledgement from any of them. Perhaps they are busy answering their phones which I hope are ringing off the hook.

  32. Kip Durocher says:

    It is time to look at termination of contracts, recall elections, firing of salaried principals. And finally a complaint to the United States Comission on Civil Rights.
    Poor decisions have been made at elections, staff appointments ect. This mess must be cleaned up
    even if it involves removing people before they do any more damage.
    I always looked upon a high school principal as the last advocate for their students. Not a lap dog of the superintendent and board..

  33. Barb says:

    Time for the school to retract this ridiculous decision and allow the play to go on. And if they do, I will most definitely be in attendance.

  34. emile says:

    Quote: “Time for the school to retract this ridiculous decision and allow the play to go on. And if they do, I will most definitely be in attendance.”

    In fact, it would probably be Standing Room Only!

  35. Nancy N. says:

    The lack of logic in forcing Flagler students to read this book but then telling them that they are not allowed to perform the same story makes my head hurt.

    This is really about the lack of comfort the school officials have with certain things: It’s ok apparently to force kids to quietly read certain words, but not alright to let them voluntarily say aloud those words within the same literary context. It’s about their own hang-ups, not what is good for the kids. They don’t want to have to hear those words said because they are uncomfortable with them in any context.

    It’s important for our kids to understand the past of race relations in our country and works like To Kill A Mockingbird have something important to say. Why not let it be heard, not just read?

  36. starfyre says:

    we cant say “nigger”–but kids can rap about it all day long

    its just a word!

  37. Sue Dickinson says:

    This is in response to Cyd Weeks. As of 5:01 PM today which is the last email that I have received – I have not received any emails from you – unless you go by a different name. Please advise.

  38. Kyle Russell says:

    Despite this whole mess, Oliva is still a far better principal than Nancy Willis ever was.

  39. Eddie Green says:

    My name is Eddie Green and I was going to portray Atticus Finch. The one word that comes to mind when I think of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird being shut down is: sad. Sad that such a thing happened to my fellow cast members, director, technical director, stage crew, costume crew, etc. Sad that we can’t accept a historical and classic piece of American literature. This play is about SHOWING racism at its worst and TEACHING how wrong it is. Sadly, that message was terminated before it could be told.

  40. Nothing is that simple says:

    I think this conversation is just crazy. Not to mention hurtful-personally, professionally, educationally, and economically. Way too many assumptions and accusations. Frankly, I am sick that folks are portraying Jacob or Holsey or our County in this manner. The best way to create a world class school system or a sustainable community is to ORGANIZE, not PERSECUTE. Get the facts. Don’t believe everything you see, hear or read-in stories or blogs.
    This is not about censorship, it is due diligence. I support Jacob.
    WE SHALL OVERCOME!!! (And I think some folks will be eating humble pie.)

    • Pierre Tristam says:

      Nothing is that simple: Before you start hurling stones at at these “stories or blogs,” especially in a story like this, have the courage a) to identify yourself, and b) not to do the very thing you blame this story of doing. If the lead actor in the play (Eddie Green), teachers, board members and others have the guts and honor to sign their name, why don’t you? You’d like to dispute facts or assumptions, then do so by backing up what you’re saying instead of making veiled accusatory assumptions of your own like a latter-day McCarthy.

      People aren’t “portraying” Jacob, Holsey or the county in “this manner.” Jacob and Janet Valentine made a decision, Holsey was manipulated into supporting it (though he stands by that support). They made their decision. Now the community is reacting. There are consequences for ill-advised, absolutely censoring decisions. Flagler County now looks like a regressive place because of that decision. I’m sure it wasn’t their intention: Jacob and Janet aren’t by any means regressive in their thinking or in their pedagogical philosophy. To the contrary. But this particular decision was regressive, losing the forest (Harper Lee’s overall message) for a single tree (“nigger”). I’m, also sure that neither expected this backlash, though I’m not only glad there is a backlash: I’m proud of it. That’s what speaks well of the county, though it’s not nearly enough.

      The matter didn’t have to end with a cancellation. It still doesn’t have to. Slogans won’t fix this, especially not your kind of slogans disingenuously cribbed off the legacy of the civil rights era. Nor will these comments. What we do next, what Janet, Jacob and with Conklin’s exception, an embarrassingly timid school board, should do next, can fix this: The actors are ready to put on the play. The director is ready to direct it. They should. Not in school. Not behind “controlled” barriers. At the auditorium, as was originally planned. They’ll pack the place more than they ever dreamed. If Jacob and Janet were to take that course, they’d not only be transformed into the very champions they should have been all along; they’d be making the sort of enlightened decision that makes bigots and fear-mongers look like the non-entities they are. And they’ll turn shame to pride. Only then could we say that this county isn’t the back-assed, cowardly place it is now.

      And yes. Facing down bigotry is that simple.

  41. Kip Durocher says:

    “I think this conversation is just crazy.”
    ” I support Jacob”
    Mr. Oliva had 3 weeks of rehearsal on his campus. Then, when told to get a new opinion on the matter his backbone did a double back flip.

    “Oliva and Valentine said that other than the protocol issue…..”
    “Delphine Williamson, who’s taught To Kill a Mockingbird and shown the movie at FPC for 20 years to 9th graders, and who is African-American, says she’s “never had an issue with this. Ever—with showing the movie or teaching the text.”
    This makes the “protocol” a convenient lame excuse making them look even more foolish.

    I am not as polite as Pierre ~ nothing, I think you are an obtuse fool.

    What’s in the lack of a name?
    Cowardice, no strength of character, no personal moral code to even back up your own convictions.
    As I told my children “What is in a name? It is your honor, that is what is in your name. And a person with no honor is nothing.”

    @nothing ~ your humble pie is ready !!

  42. Tera c. says:

    I was playing the part of mayella Ewell , Our cast had worked so hard on this . We want a message to be heard . The whole point of the play is to show how bad racism is and perhaps to show how times have changed … But apperantly times havnt changes as much as one would think . It’s heartbreaking to know that everything has come to this , but we are embracing this as a learning experiance and proving to the world that we will triumph over this and still bring out a show that will knock your socks off . I hope that our future generations can teach the world what we so hoped to do .

  43. Katrina says:

    Sad. I find the teenagers in Flagler County to be mostly intelligent, socially conscientious, fair minded and supportive of each other. The majority value each other’s differences, are curious about expanding their view of the world and segregate far better than the adults of this community. By taking this away from them, you are undermining an opportunity for them to delve further into the history of racial tension in this country, how far we have come and a chance to be exposed first hand to the injustices of how the system sometimes works. Unfortunate. I don’t think the kids and their reactions are the real issue here. By pulling this play, the administration has demeaned the intelligence of every student in Flagler County 9th grade and above and have managed to offend far more people than a high school production “Of To Kill A Mockingbird” ever would. Maybe if these young people saw the play, they would understand just why the use of derogative racial terminology is so hurtful and they wouldn’t throw it around so much. Maybe it would inspire a little empathy from some and a little more pride in others.

  44. EMPM OF PALM COAST says:

    That is Palm Toast for you. Stealing peoples properties, stopping the children from being open minded, bullying every businessman that doesn’t kiss the Mayor, and the council’s Ass and don’t you forget the arrogant big jerk the manager and the rest of their good ol’ boy group. what did happen to this great nation? where’s the balance? where’s the common sense?

  45. EMPM OF PALM COAST says:

    a businessman knows where the employees pay check comes from and make sure how to come up with it the honest way out not just collect the tax payers money and piss it away on lawyers to get away with his visions.

  46. colleen ajram says:

    “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” HELLO! Was that all a dream?My four children all went to Flagler Palm Coast High School and I cannot believe what I have read. What would Martin Luther King Jr. think if he were alive today? Despicable!! I am truly ashamed of the school boards decision to not have a play that has been a monumental part of education for decades. Appalled at anyone that would not let the show go on and for what? I believe that if you are comfortable in your own skin, all is well. If you are not, you are the first to scream the loudest.

    The show MUST go on!!!

  47. Patrick Pielarz says:

    My name is Patrick Pielarz, I was also a member of the wonderful cast of “To Kill A Mockingbird”. The Character that I was going to Play was Jem, Atticus’s son. I must say the production being canceled leaves me a feeling of disgust. The reason is not that we put 30+ hours into this, but the good deed we were trying to accomplish. Here is a quote from the novel “It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.” ~Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, Chapter 11. This is not just any production we decided to try, our goal was to send a message to future, past, and present generations, to show how times were, are, and should be, how being racist was common, how rare it is now and how we should continue to work on treating each other equal like we were ment to be. How we were made by the hand of god. This was a true and noble message we were trying send out to all that would listen, but we just happened to be stopped by our principle. My only question is why must one word must be the barrier to a great message that should be sent out. A word that was unfortunatily used in history, one thing we cant change no matter what… Will we ever be able to get over this Stupid barrier?

  48. Brian Winchester says:

    Fear and hatred strikes again in Flagler County. Hitler is smiling from down below. Censorship dominated in his extreme right wing fascist movement. The Nazis burnt books….. destroyed art…… stopped plays from being performed etc. so people could only hear and see the narrow minded message of Hitler. Shame on the Superintendent and Principal. Instead of acting as competent leaders for the school…… they provide a perfect example of what still must be overcome in our society.

  49. Barbie says:

    I am disappointed. My daughter was cast to play Scout and was so excited about it. Just through rehearsals and the movie, she learned so much about our history and how far we have come as a society. In preparation for the play, watching the movie again and so many years reminded me again how ignorant ‘white’ people were and treated others – it was such a lesson in humility and something that doesn’t need to be forgotten. Students today are FAR more tolerable than we give them credit for – it’s very apparent in the interracial friendships / relationships.
    It’s a shame the decision makers think that the citizens of Flagler County are so beneath them in their ability to think/process/ understand a play such as this – we can’t trust a play like this to our citizens because of their possible reaction???

  50. Truthbetold says:

    And here is our new superintendent at work. You know…the one that received a 4% raise before a single day on the job, while teachers wallow away on the same salary schedule from two years ago.


  51. Bill Ryan says:

    I photographed “To Kill a Mockingbird” and posted them on the then County/Library website back in 2002.
    It was staged by the Library Young Adults then, and given in the authentic County Court Room.
    The young people did such a good job, it brought tears. I knew the difficult times Flagler had at that very courthouse during integration. I thought how far we had come with “Flagler Reads Together” and this beautiful performance. I hope we have gone further since 2002.

    I hope that these wonderful young people of today can again stage their play here. If they could do it in the larger Flagler Auditorium I would think we could fill the house. It is a great, thoughtful play and surely should be again given here. Yes there are rough, cruel words. But that is the way it was then. History is not always a kind, happy place, but we can all learn and benefit from it for the future. I believe our young people are far more knowledgeable and can handle the roughness of a few bad words.

  52. cyd weeks says:

    I just want to follow up and let everyone know that I have not received ONE email response or phone call from any of the board members I emailed when this first was reported on. NOT ONE.

  53. Liana G says:

    As a mother 4 – ages 12-24 – ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ has and is on our bookshelf both in the children’s version and the adult version. We’ve also wathched the movie together and we’ve not not only discussed the differences in book versus movie but we have also discussed the story itself. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, and the fact that this book has garnered this much attention is a testiment of its powerful message. This decision by our school officals is indeed a missed opportunity to create a meaningful and much need discussion on tolerance and injustice. Folks, like it or not, we now live in a global economy, and in order for our children to succeed we need to be tolerant and mindful of each other. And that begins with dialogue. But if this is the position our school personnel is taking, we are in a sad state of affairs. And we are seriously failing our students, the future generation that will lead this country.

    Atticus Finch
    Folks don’t like to have somebody around knowin’ more than they do. It aggravates ‘em. You’re not gonna change any of them by talkin’ right, they’ve got to want to learn themselves, and when they don’t want to learn there’s nothing you can do but keep your mouth shut or talk their language.
    Pt. 2, ch. 12

    Well folks this is no longer 1960!

  54. Andy Dance says:

    I appreciate all the comments on this. I knew when I submitted my application for this position that my decisions would not always ring true with everyone. I also understand that I must hold myself accountable for my decisions, even when they are not popluar.

    My decision to support the superintendent and principal is not based on censorship, but protocol. Specifically, in this situation, how not following protocol placed the Superintendent and the principal in a tough situation.

    The principal and superintendent decided to cancel this production after careful consideration. First and foremost, the typical procedures and protocols used to determine what productions are performed at the high school were not followed. These procedures are in place precisely to avoid the situation that has now arisen. The drama teacher has admitted that he did not clear the play’s manuscript with the assistant principal before proceeding, as required. As such, the administration did not feel they had time to properly prepare the remaining student body or community for the offensive words and the context in which they are used. In this situation, you are “reacting” instead of being “proactive”. Taking a lead on an issue, being “proactive” and gaining community support in advance of a production such as this is a much better position to be in.

    Again, it is not about cencorship. This book is read in the high school and used in high school curriculum, so there is no censorship of the book. In a classroom setting, the teacher is able to focus attention and explain the context of the book’s racial slurs, profanity, and frank discussion of rape to the students. However, once a play is performed to the general public and student body, you lose that control to a degree. To those students, parents or community members who are not familiar with the book or story, great care needs to be taken to present this in the right context.

    As I stated in the article, I hope the play is presented in the future. And I agree with Pierre, showing the play at a later date can only ensure a sold out crowd! But first, the principal and the superintendent must be comfortable with the decision to proceed based on their due diligence and sufficient time to include the community and place the play into the appropriate context.

    I look forward to discussing this further if you like, so please do not hesitate to contact me by email ( or phone at 386-627-5600.

    With my regards,

    Andy Dance

    PS. I recieved three emails, and returned them today. Cyd, your email must have been directed to “spam”, and I can’t retrieve them from home.

    • Pierre Tristam says:

      Andy, obviously the detailed comment is appreciated, but the follow-up story, just posted, reveals the matter of “protocol” to be pretty much bogus–an after-the-fact pretext rather than a deciding matter.

      Even if it were a matter of protocol, does the district–do you, do Jacob or Janet–really expect us to believe that three weeks’ work by students on an unqualified classic celebrating its 50th anniversary, in a drama department that staged that very play and has had that script in its repertoire for eight years, was junked just because of a matter of protocol? Protocol? Is the district that obtuse? That narrow-minded? That contemptuous of the actors in the play? Say it ain’t so, ladies and gentlemen of the jury.

      This isn’t about protocol. It certainly isn’t something so patronizing as seeking “community support” or preparing the student body, as if we or the FPC student body are all intellectual toddlers needing shepherding from the school district. Are you kidding me? That same student body that supposedly has been reading that book and seeing the movie since 9th grade? If that isn’t preparation, what’s school supposed to be about anyway if not inherently “preparing” students to handle as simple-minded a children’s classic as Mockingbird? Are you telling me that all those English classes are useless? That they didn’t do the job? That students and the community need remedial work? That we need to be lectured by people like John Winston to have the wherewithal to handle this thing? Christ, I hope not. Of course not. But you see the hole the district is digging deeper every time it attempts to justify the unjustifiable. Protocol? Preparation? Please. Which leave what?

      Egos, which are infantry to protocol and where this trench warbling seems to be right now. Because there’s no reason why the thing can’t be staged, freely and with minimal interference from the district, which has damaged things enough as it is.

      It was a poor decision from the start, and the district is grasping at straws trying to justify it. The question is how to fix the damage, assuming there’s a desire to fix it. I don’t see it yet, though right now it’s about doing what’s right for students and the community’s self-respect, pure and simple. “Nigger” was the tree by which the forest was lost. “Protocol” is the lynching rope hanging from that one poisoned tree. No wonder Tom Robinson was shot trying to escape that hive of ignorance. This county’s pulling the trigger all over again, and the school board is still trying to figure out which way to set the wagons circling. Enough.

  55. Judy Vanderoef says:

    Andy, it’s good that you are able to stand and defend your position. However, what exactly is the protocol here? Does every script go through an assistant principal for approval? In the article it is stated that only “questionable material” has to be approved. Sadly, I think we are throwing Mr. Koczergo under the bus. Why ever would Mr. Koczergo think this was questionable? AND he asked if he could change the language in script, which thank goodness the publishing company would not allow.

    How long does it take to figure all this out? The students have been in rehearsal for three weeks. And again, a simple director’s note in the program would have explained the context of the piece. So we’re going to wait and educate the whole community before scheduling the performance – good luck!

    FYI, I believe Matanzas High School is doing the musical “Godspell”. Anyone offended by that?? I’m certainly not, despite not being a particularly religious person.

    Nothing that has been said here has changed my mind. This is still an embarrassment to the community and not caused by Mr. Koczergo.

  56. Big Apple says:

    It is not censorship?
    When I see an animal that walks with a waddle and quacks I am certain that it’s a duck.

    If the play had suited the principal and superintendent’s taste protocol wouldn’t have been an issue.
    Since it didn’t it is.

  57. Andy: first, it’s great to finally see at least one school board member publically state their opinion on the subject, so thank you.
    As for the subject at hand, my understanding of the protocol you refer to was that Mr. K. would have had to seek approval for any “controversial” production. I am not sure it’s reasonable to expect the drama teacher to assume that the play based on a book which has been required reading for many years at the same high school would suddenly be deemed controversial, and hence requiring that prior manuscript approval.

    Additionally, this invoking of protocol as the reason for shutting down the play seems rather convenient, as excuses go. What exactly would the principal of the school have done to adequately prepare high school kids for hearing the word nigger in that context that the kids themselves wouldn’t have already been aware of? I have a ten year-old who hears that word on his school bus daily, for example, and there is not a stitch of redemption for him as far as context goes in those cases. This play, with all its language, is as black and white as it gets, and no one with an average IQ who’s ever read the book or watched a movie can possibly be confused about its meaning.

    As for “preparing the community”, just to what extent do you think the members of this community, kids and adults alike, are incapable of thinking for themselves and being able to interpret one of the least ambiguous works of literature?

    Lastly – this performance, last I checked, was never mandatory to either participate in or to attend for any student or adult, for that matter. The students and their parents had a choice on whether or not to be a part of this production, and if any member of the community was offended at anything in the play in advance, they had a very simple option of saving the $12.00 and renting a few Disney flicks instead. With that in mind, it certainly seems like censorship to me. Censorship that found its post-factum justification in ‘protocol’ and whatever else was convenient as an excuse. As such, it smacks of all the regressive practices of a regime this particular republic abhors, at least in its slogans. Sadly, only in its slogans in our little county.

  58. Lynn says:

    Andy, while I respect your opinion, I must disagree with your assessment that the play needs the protective net of a classroom with a teacher in it in order to have its context explained. Those who spend more than four years in high school classrooms (teachers) know that this is one of those rare works that indeed speaks for itself.

    Fear is an enemy to real education.

  59. emile says:

    Andy, I appreciate your trying to put a good face on things. And I also like the fact that, in public at least, the school board members are supporting the superintendent and principal.

    But the protocol defense is so transparent, and so obviously an after-the-fact excuse.

    Is the school board unable to reverse the stand of their employees? Do you feel that you must support them, even in the face of “howling protest” from the community?

  60. J.J. Graham says:

    The most amazing thing about this book is its ability to allow us to peer into the face of the beast and see it for what it is. I remember moving back to Mississippi from Texas my sophomore year of high school. It was like going back in time. Black kids sat at separate lunch tables, had separate elections for class favorites, and even lived in separate parts of town. I can still remember when Mrs. Pierce announced that we would be watching the movie in class. The next day she wheeled in the huge A.V. cart into a class that was pretty evenly populated with both white and black kids. I had already read the book thanks to my grandmother, who saw fit to challenge my young mind with upward thinking literature. Some of the kids did not know what they were about to witness. We all got very emotional and recognized what a shameful thing prejudice can lead to. Kids look at each other differently when confronted with this kind of material. What is being censored here is an opportunity for growth. It makes me wonder if the people driving the bus are even aware of the destination we would all like to arrive at. There is a serious problem in Palm Coast when people who don’t really appreciate culture take it upon themselves to attempt to govern it. This book is a source of enlightenment. It casts a shameful glance down on an injustice that should be a thing of the past. Much like the character of Boo Radley, these people are trying to hide it away, saying,” that might be a little too ugly, and painful to look at”. In reality these ugly truths when faced, often save the day.

  61. Nothing would make me happier than if the powers that be retracted their ill-thought-out decision and having admitted their own narrow mindedness let the play proceed as planned. Sadly, I don’t see it happening. But we are a community of some 70K people that are not all uncomfortable in our own skins and that don’t appreciate the pedantic condescension exhibited in this case. That said – I think this community has a few other venues, the Flagler Playhouse being one, where this play can be put on by those same kids without the school board or the high school administration’s approval. Of course this would raise a few logistical issues, but with the venue willing to put this play on, everything else can be resolved.

    Personally, I would gladly volunteer promotional & design services of my company, Hardison & Associates to help promote and publicize this performance, no matter what the venue is. Just contact me for details via a link under my name or call me at 597-0304
    inna hardison-

  62. Kip Durocher says:

    “First and foremost, the typical procedures and protocols used to determine what productions are performed at the high school were not followed…”
    This is just a very lame attempt to CYA after the horse has left the barn.

    What is the matter with this principal? Does he never leave his office? Is he aware what is happening in the school he has charge over? After 3 weeks of rehearsal he finally has objections? When did Ms. Valentine tell him he had to object? Are the phone logs available of their communications?
    How many secret school board meetings have happened this weekend?

    “The drama teacher has admitted that he did not clear the play’s manuscript with the assistant principal before proceeding, as required…..
    Was this admission made under threat of losing his job? How could he feel any other way?
    “Delphine Williamson, who’s taught To Kill a Mockingbird and shown the movie at FPC for 20 years to 9th graders, and who is African-American, says she’s “never had an issue with this. Ever—with showing the movie or teaching the text.”

    Please make available the correspondence of all the principals for the last 20 years that
    took place with Ms. Williamson. 10 years ! 5 years !
    The “protocol” lie makes you look even more deceitful and condescending .
    Mr. Dance your conduct in this whole matter makes you appear misguided, lacking in education and judgment, and wholly unfit for your position on the school board. You have just today alone made the hole you have yourself dug doubly deep.

    People who cannot admit their mistakes are not worth keeping around ~doubly so on the taxpayer’s dime.

    I repeat ~it is time to look at termination of contracts, recall elections, firing of salaried principals. And finally a complaint to the United States Commission on Civil Rights.
    Poor decisions have been made at elections, staff appointments ect. This mess must be cleaned up even if it involves removing people before they do any more damage. Which they are !!

    • Pierre Tristam says:

      Kip, let’s not compound overreaction with overreaction, or turn what has been a revealing debate into our own staging of The Crucible. Reason needs to prevail here, not witch-hunts.

  63. Kip Durocher says:

    Sadly, Pierre reason is not prevaling. There is no “revealing debate” going on at all. There is gross misconduct and then stonewalling silence. There is citizen outrage and no official outlet for it. There has been plenty of time for the School Board to allow reason to prevail and save face in the process. To step forward and own up to the mess they created, come out looking wiser and stronger.
    But, they are retrenching ~ not reaching out.
    Recall elections have a valid place in our system ~ they are not witch hunts.
    So sorry to see you do their P.R.

  64. Ed Koczergo says:

    I can settle the issue of “protocol.” At 9:00 a.m. on October 21, 2010, protocol came into existence at FPC in terms of what future plays would be produced. Prior to that time, NO form of protocol existed! Ms. Hardison is correct and Mr. Dance is not. When I was hired by Nancy Willis in July of 2008, I asked her if scripts needed approval prior to production. Her response was: “Come and see me if you think there might be something questionable or if you have any concerns.” As has been stated, the book is read, the movie is seen, and since it is a part of our curriculum, I had no concerns with producing an outstanding adaptation of one of the great American novels. Also, it contains no questionable material. (Delphine Williamson actually poked her head into my classroom during the first read through of the script with the cast letting us know how excited she was that we would be doing this play.) This has nothing to do with protocol.

  65. Kaylyn Lowe says:

    As a former student of FPC and a proud technician to many professional and school related shows at the Auditorium, I am extremely appalled and disappointed by the actions taken in regards to this play. While at FPC we put on Fahrenheit 451, a book/play that has the same questions/concerns with censorship. How was allowing Fahrenheit 451 to occur any different from putting on To Kill a Mockingbird? No, the n-word is not said, but if I go back and read the play, which I still have in the same binder with all the notes from when we put it on, I am sure to find many lines that the school board could find to be a concern for students. There was even a student smoking a pipe on stage! He was 18 and thus legal, but many people would not have approved I am sure. Even so, did I find these lines/actions to have any shame? No, because I was putting on a play that many would not even consider doing in HIGH SCHOOL, which was and still is of major importance to myself and society.
    I do understand the importance of how it should have been reviewed and approved, but I agree with many others who have said they didn’t see it 100% necessary due to the book being taught in schools, and at a young age at that. To Kill a Mockingbird is still in my top 10 list of books I have read and as an avid play and book reader I have read a great many.
    However, I cannot understand how the people of this county could still be so archaic on this sort of matter. I have lived in cities that would be considered much more conservative and still put on such works as Oleanna, Doubt, or Ethel Waters: His Eye is on the Sparrow. These are three very controversial plays and were put on in a town in North Carolina. When people think of NC I am quite sure they do not think of progressive agendas and people. Yes, these were put on by adults, but I can tell you the audience members were not just adults. I worked on two of these productions and viewed the audiences each night. I saw the outrage and shock that people saw in Ethel Waters’ life. The n-word appears on many accounts in that play. And despite the shock or outrage, the audiences were filled most nights of the month long production and standing ovations were quite common. Same occurred with Oleanna, where the majority of the audience consisted of college students. I feel like this would be an action (standing ovations/great applause) for To Kill a Mockingbird if it were put on. I know I would be in the audience applauding these young actors who would be helping to make this world, this county a much better and less ignorant place.

  66. J.J. Graham says:

    I think the administration should be applauded if they decide to reevaluate their decision and allow the play to go forward. We all sometimes make hasty decisions. We should not judge them to harshly if they try to make it right. They could give themselves a slap on the wrists for thinking the parents of these kids are as ultra-conservative as “some” of the older majority running this town, and say “Hey, easy guys, we can make this right.” Arrogance is worse than ignorance, in my opinion. Admitting when you are wrong about something, is an admirable trait.

  67. Joshua Fagundes says:

    So, I’m am an FPC alum who was heavily into theatre. I just stumbled upon this particular discussion, but the sad fact is I’ve known about this whole affair from day one given I had spoke to a school board member who had found out at point zero and been following it since. And I have the same thoughts now as I did when I heard it first:

    This is all a giant load of bull.

    Let’s be real here: It is a *required* reading. It is something that everyone in that school HAS to read. And while, yes, a teacher preface a reading in class, much in the same way you CAN place warning signs and speak to a crowd before a show. Something as simple as a sign that says “Warning: There will be offensive language presented in this show” and a little word beforehand speaking of Harper Lee’s message of racial tolerance and acceptance actually makes the word lend all the credence it needs. It’s suppression, or even if they agreed to put it on but censored, would be like trying to ignore the past, and in trying to ignore ones previous mistakes you forget them and bring yourself to make them again. To quote Bertolt Brecht at the conclusion to his play “The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui” (Said in reference to Adolf Hitler) “Don’t rejoice in his defeat, you men. Although the world stood up and stopped the Bastard, the Bitch that bore him is in heat again. ”

    In short? Evil lives on in the heart of man, and unless we are reminded that we are possible of it, we will succumb to its grasp. Patricia Ajram is a wonderful and smart friend of mine, but she missed the mark at one point: Flagler County wasn’t one of the last counties in America to desegregate. It was *the* last. Which makes it all the more poignant here than anywhere else it could be.

    The bottom line is that this school district is acting in a cowardly manner unbefitting of educators and role models. They should be the ones setting the example by having us all able to see it and having us say yes, this did happen. And damnit, it was wrong on every level and never should be allowed again. I second the motions presented before: To all those who stand against this, I salute you. And Judy Vanderoef, Roger Tangney and Jennifer Kuiper amongst others, whether or not you remember me, I am proud to say I have known, worked with and been taught by you, and I hope you never for a moment back down or think you have no impact, because your personage and your lessons have impacted many of us.

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