Is this appropriate for a public school?

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April 11, 2016
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I teach and direct in a public school. I am very familiar with this show (at least the full length version) having performed in it twice, and having worked crew on it once, so I know the story and the songs. What I am wondering about is if any of you have done this in a public school, and have you run into any issues because of the religious themes. I saw one comment on another question that indicted that they painted symbols of all of the monotheistic religions on the stage floor. I am wondering if that would make matters better or worse. Am I being overly sensitive/cautious, or has anyone else run into a similar concern?
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April 11, 2016

Greetings!  I am so glad you connected; situations of this nature take a lot of energy and can be stressful BEFORE your kids even take the stage. It strikes a chord with me personally as I was teaching in a public school where the issue escalated to a national level.  It all ended well and a great story for another day, BUT it all comes down to a some key points.

• Know your community. The less experience and earned respect you have in a district, the less leeway you have with choices of shows that break the mold for what has been done in the past.  The longer you have had successful productions and the more you know your audiences, your choices and artistic reasoning for them will be accepted.

• Run your artistic vision and reasons for it by your administrator.  He or she is the one that will hear more feedback than anyone. Be prepared with data such as age appropriate storytelling, casting, $ for costumes, scenery etc. to substantiate your show choice.

• History is indisputable.  What we teach may not align with individual beliefs, but we teach it fundamentally for decision making.  When we do Fiddler on the Roof, Once on this Island, Guys and Dolls and even Kinky Boots, we portray many varied religious and moral viewpoints.  It doesn't mean we advocate them, but we are living in a world that includes all.

• According to the law, sacred music can be used in the public school music curriculum.

The First Amendment does not prohibit the use of religious or sacred material in the public school. How the material is used determines whether or not it is legally acceptable. Sacred music should not be used for the advancement of any particular religious viewpoint or activity. Further, instructional materials should not be used to inhibit or infringe upon religious beliefs or practices.

In other words, students may be taught about religion, but public schools may not teach religion.  The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly said, “one’s education is not complete without the study of comparative religion, and it would be difficult to teach art, music, literature and most social studies without considering religious influences.”

• In essence, trust your community "read", have your artistic vision clear, and if all that aligns, move forward with purpose and present a work that serves your students and community with pride.

Please email me with details or any other info you need or want to share.  I apologize if this is more than you asked for.  I am passionate about allowing kids freedom with artistic material.  cr