Grandfield, Okla., public school teacher Debra Taylor was including The Laramie Project, a play about Matthew Shepard, a man murdered because he was gay, in a unit on the ways in which communities can justify hatred and intolerance. Once Superintendent Ed Turlington learned that she was teaching material that addresses homosexuality, he demanded that she stop teaching the play.
After holding a mock funeral for the play for her students, Taylor was asked to resign. She did so, worried that if she didn’t, she would be fired, and would be unable to work again in the state’s public school system.
Last night, the Superintendent accepted her resignation. Advocates at SIECUS working with Taylor say she has received consistent support from her students and their parents.
"The level of support that Debra is receiving should give more than
enough cause to look at this case again and to question the Superintendent’s movements
here," says William Smith, Vice-President of SIECUS. "But we need to be clear – it doesn’t
matter if there are a huge amount of parents in support of her or against her. It’s the most American of things to speak out
and fight against injustice wherever we find it breeding, and it’s breeding in
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Smith adds, "What happens when the next teacher tries to talk about
intolerance and hatred and murdering people for that, and they get harassed
and forced to resign? This is bigger than just
what’s happening to Debra Taylor. It’s about the perpetuation
of hatred and injustice in our society. The same
sort of hatred and discrimination that led to Shepard’s death leads to this teacher’s
firing. We can’t allow that to stand."
The SIECUS action alert follows:
Tell Superintendent Turlington: Teach Respect! Reinstate Teacher Debra Taylor!
Advocates in Oklahoma, Texas, and surrounding states are strongly
encouraged to call or email in support.
TAKE ACTION NOW…call Superintendent Turlington at 580-479-5237 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell him:
Taylor did not deserve this kind of treatment. Young people need
dedicated teachers willing to confront issues of respect and acceptance
for people of all sexual orientations. She should be commended for
creating a safe space for all her students and should be reinstated