SHERMAN, Texas (LifeSiteNews) — A school board in north Texas this week caved to pro-transgender protests after initially blocking a gender-confused girl from taking a male role in an upcoming high school musical performance.
The Sherman Independent School District on Monday voted unanimously to back off of its new policy requiring boys to play male roles and girls to play female roles following backlash over its changes to a high school production of the musical Oklahoma!
The decision restored the original casting of the production, which included the casting of children in opposite-sex roles, most notably permitting a gender-confused female senior called “Max” Hightower to play the role of a leading male character, Ali Hakim.
Sherman High School principal Scott Johnston told parents that the school would be “taking a new path” and would require that children play roles that align with their biological sex, The Dallas Observer reported.
“They made a new policy where the role cast would be as the gender assigned at birth,” Hightower said, according to the outlet, “I got really upset and I couldn’t speak properly. I said, ‘Why?’ and [Johnston] said, ‘Good question, Max’ and that it was an administrative decision.”
The girl’s family went public with the school’s decision, gaining national headlines and support from pro-transgender community members, WFAA reported.
In responding to the backlash, the school opted to move forward with a revised version of the production to eliminate the sex-based casting requirement while presenting a more “age-appropriate version of the play.”
The change wasn’t good enough for activists, though, who insisted that the original play, with its gender-bending casting, be allowed to take place.
Transgender activists protested outside the school district building during its regular meeting on November 13 chanting slogans about “justice,” according to KTEN of Denison, a local NBC affiliate. More than 60 members of the public, including students at Sherman’s private university Austin College, spoke during the public comment section and lashed out against the board for its earlier move to recast members in accordance with their biological sex.
“I’ve played male roles in the past and it was no big deal. And guess what? That’s theater!” an actress told the board, according to WFAA.
Another person who spoke at the meeting told the board, “I’m transgender, I’m risking coming out to my entire homophobic family for this because this is a hill I will die on!”
Hightower told WFAA that the support from pro-transgender activists had been “empowering.”
After a motion by board member Wendy Vellotti, the board voted 7-0 to side with the pro-transgender community members and “reinstate the original script of the musical Oklahoma! at Sherman High School and the cast that was assigned as of November 2, 2023.”
In a statement, board president Brad Morgan apologized for the earlier decision that supported biological reality and instead reaffirmed the district’s goal of “empowering” its students “for success in a diverse and complex world.”
“We want to apologize to our students, parents and our community regarding the circumstances that they have had to go through to this date,” he said, though noting that the reversal “does not erase the impact this had on our community … ”
“The Board is committed to uphold its ethical duties to include being continuously guided by what is best for all students in our District,” Morgan said.
Originally slated to take place in December, the play is now scheduled for January.
The Texas school board’s decision comes as parents, students, and schools are actively embroiled in nationwide controversy over gender-related issues as transgender ideology has gained a strong foothold in the national discourse.
Conservative-minded parents and lawmakers have responded by working to require schools to notify families of a child’s gender confusion, pull sexually explicit and pro-LGBT curricula and materials from classrooms and school libraries, protect girls’ sports and spaces, and ban sexualized performances targeting children.
Meanwhile, advocates for transgender ideology have decried the conservative efforts as instances of discrimination, bigotry, and book-banning. They have worked to strip away parental rights with regard to their children’s alleged “gender identity,” permit boys to compete in sports against girls, and require children to be exposed to content that promotes LGBT ideology.