SHERMAN, Texas (AP) — A Texas school district has apologized and reversed a decision that ousted a transgender student from a part in the musical “Oklahoma!”
The school board in Sherman voted unanimously Monday to reinstate the original show and cast after a meeting in which dozens criticized them and spoke in support the 17-year-old transgender boy who’d lost his role in the production because of a new policy.
“We want to apologize to our students, parents and our community regarding the circumstances that they have had to go through to this date,” President Brad Morgan said in a statement on behalf of the board following the vote.
Sherman, a city of 45,000 about 65 miles (105 kilometers) north of Dallas and near the Oklahoma border, became the latest community embroiled in the national debate over the rights of transgender students this month over its production the the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic.
In early November, Max Hightower, a senior and theater enthusiast, was cast in a prominent part that included a solo. Hightower had been excitedly preparing for the role of a peddler but was devastated when the school’s principal told his family that, based on a new policy, he would lose the parts.
The school also removed girls from the male roles they’d been cast in, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Phillip Hightower, Max’s father, recalled the principal describing the policy as, “only males can play males, and only females can play females.”
The school later changed course again, saying it would not consider sex in casting but instead put on an abbreviated version of the show tailored for young audiences.
On Monday, speaker after speaker condemned the decisions to the school board — a consistent outpouring of support that Max Hightower called unexpected and empowering.
“This is something that feels so big and out of my hands,” he told WFAA-TV. “To know there is a big group out of people who want to help me, and help everyone affected, it feels like we’re on even sides now and can actually win this fight.”