After reconsidering a decision to postpone the event, Community Unit School District 300 will allow Hampshire High School to run its spring musicalThe Prom, which is about an LGBTQ+ girl who wants to take her girlfriend to the titular event, according to an open letter to the community.
In a previous letter to District 300 families that Windy City Times accessed, Superintendent Dr. Susan Harkin said, "The initial decision to postpone the musical was unrelated to Hampshire High School students or their desire to demonstrate their school's progress toward supporting the LGBTQ+ community. Instead, the postponement reflected a concern held by our administrative team that the larger District 300 community may not be prepared to fully support this performance without risking potential harassment, bullying, and violence targeting our LGBTQ+ students, performers, staff, or community members.
"Due to the seriousness of these circumstances and our concern for our students, especially those in the LGBTQ+ community, the district believes a comprehensive safety plan must be in place before the musical can proceed. Hampshire High School and District 300 have started developing such a safety plan."
However, in a more recent letter, Harkin stated, "The most important factor in granting approval for the musical was the development of a comprehensive safety plan. Hampshire High School, with support from District 300, law enforcement, and the village of Hampshire, has developed a plan that provides the necessary protections for 'The Prom' to be performed within a safe and supportive environment. This plan extends beyond the scheduled performance dates. It spans from today, the date of the announcement, and continues after the final show to effectively address any post-performance issues.
"The plan offers safeguards addressing a wide range of potential issues, including, but not limited to, potential harassment, bullying, and violence targeting LGBTQ+ students, performers, staff, and community members. Please note: While the district and each school have effective safety plans in place, I felt this production required an additional level of security due to a national rise in bullying, threats, and violence directed toward the LGBTQ+ community (source: ABC News).
Also, Harkin requested that "if community members become aware of any information that could endanger a student or staff member, please report these details using the 'Safe School Tip Line' available on the District 300 website at www.d300.org ."
The school's play is slated to run next April.
Ariana DeBose, Jo Ellen Pellman, Meryl Streep, Kerry Washington, Nicole Kidman and James Corden were among those who starred in the 2020 Ryan Murphy-directed film version of The Prom. The original Tony-nominated musical debuted in Atlanta in 2016 and premiered on Broadway two years later.
Harkin will retire from District 300 on June 30, 2024. Dr. Martina Smith, the district's current deputy superintendent, will succeed Harkin on July, 1, 2024.
Another local production of The Prom runs at Northwestern University from Nov. 10-19.