Flagler County School Superintendent Janet Valentine late Monday afternoon removed all doubts that she would be fully supportive of a student production of To Kill a Mockingbird, after drawing criticism last month for endorsing a decision to scrap it from the Flagler Palm Coast High School Drama Club’s schedule.
“Would I completely support it? If all the pieces are in place, yes,” Valentine said. “In hindsight, I wish we had discussed the postponement of it, not the cancellation, because no one intended this to be viewed as censorship.”
Earlier in the day, an appeals committee convened by Valentine heard the case of the play. There was confusion regarding its final recommendation. There were, in fact, two versions of that recommendation.
The recommendation Diane Dyer, the chairperson of the committee, read immediately after the meeting, held at Matanzas High School at 9:30 this morning, was this: “To Kill a Mockingbird is appropriate instructional material for use by high school students.” Dyer said there would also be a note appended to the recommendation: “The committee further suggests that the district develop a policy and a procedure to cover student productions, because policy 414 does not cover that.”
That recommendation was confusing to at least two members of the committee, and to Board Member Colleen Conklin (who triggered the appeal, but was not a member of the committee) who were left under the impression that the recommendation did not directly address the play’s performance.
The recommendation Valentine and Conklin were endorsing late Monday afternoon was different. Here’s how it read, as printed on school district letterhead and presented by Valentine: “The committee’s recommendation is that the play To Kill a Mockingbird is appropriate material for use by high school students. The committee suggests that the district develop policy and procedure for school productions.”
That recommendation clearly endorses the production of the play, and would appear to recommend reversal of the decision to scrap it last month.
Valentine said the difference between the two recommendations was a matter of semantics. Conklin agreed. The committee’s focus on the play as instructional material was in itself an assumption that that material could be used by students anywhere, even on stage.
Going further, Valentine said she could have done better in conveying the decision to cancel the play with clearer reasoning–and, in retrospect, with postponement rather than cancellation in mind. Conklin said that earlier this morning, even Flagler Palm Coast High School’s principal, Jacob Oliva, in a statement to the committee, was openly embracing the play and inviting the community to be part of the event, when it’s put on–under the right circumstances. Conklin said that that approach alone settled the matter in her mind, since it made clear that the intention to stage the play is still on the table.
Valentine wouldn’t say when the play would be staged, stressing that she didn’t herself want to be dictating when the play would be staged. That would be up to the school. So whether the play can, in fact, be staged later this year may still be in question.