A Hillsboro High School graduate who spoke last month against the Hillsboro City Schools decision to cancel the play “She Kills Monsters” in October after rehearsals had already started, said at Monday’s night school board meeting that he was not pleased with the school’s response to his comments.
Patrick Shanahan, a 2015 HHS graduate, said an apology from superintendent Tim Davis for the circumstances surrounding the play’s cancellation did not change anything and did not address his concerns in any way. He said he believes the school board’s response to his statements last month have created a perception of homophobia that is going to create risk factors for students that are part of the LGBTQ community.
Davis apologized in October for the time students had already spent rehearsing for the play, saying that as a district the school based its decision to cancel the play on its use of inappropriate language, profanity, homophobic slurs, sexual innuendos and graphic violence.
In a response to comments another Hillsboro resident, Jaymara Captain, made at last month’s meeting about the play’s cancellation, school board president Bill Myers wrote: “On behalf of the Hillsboro City Schools Board of Education, I would like to thank you for your public participation at our November board meeting. In your speech you suggested to the board to discuss a public apology, renting out the auditorium, and discussing criteria for future plays… As a board we are looking into the criteria for renting out the Auditorium, but there are many details involving sound and lighting equipment, and the amount of time needed to prepare space for props and sets, before that is a possibility. The third suggestion of discussing criteria for future plays is already in motion with Mr. Davis and Mr. Turner meeting with students to discuss this process. Thank you for your participation.“
The school board and administration do not typically respond to public comments during board meetings. Rather, the board’s policy is to respond to the person who spoke within 10 working days of the board meeting.
In a letter he read to the board at Monday’s meeting, Shanahan said he and others are concerned about the discrimination some LGBTQ students at HHS have faced. He said a group called Hillsboro Against Racism and Discrimination are calling on the school district to follow the six recommendations that follow:
1. Establish clear guidelines on the criteria and process for future plays.
2. Establish clear bullying policies in regards to discrimination against minority groups, including bullying by staff members, and an explanation as to why the current policy was seemingly not followed during this decision process.
3. Establish fair and equitable guidelines on renting the school auditorium.
4. Make the auditorium available for students to rent to perform their adaption of “She Kills Monsters”.
5. A clear explanation as to why students were left out of the decision to cancel the play.
6. Immediate mitigation and repair of the damage caused to LGBTQ students by the school through actions such as, but no limited to, equal treatment of GSA club, establishing clear guidelines for staff to use transgender students’ chosen names and pronouns, clear policies on transgender students’ ability to use sex-based facilities that align with their gender identity, and integration of LGBTQ topics into the school curriculum.
There was no other public participation at the meeting and the school board did not respond to Shanahan’s statements. Myers said the board would respond according to its established policy.
However, during his report to board, board member Tom Milbery said that the last couple meetings the board has listened to complaints about the play, and that the decision to cancel the play has received national and international news coverage. He said that if the school is going to foster positive interpersonal relationships, then the school district, school board and community need to foster a sense of empathy, equality and dialogue.
“I think just to sit back and make replies to people that come in and give us their thoughts and their hearts is inadequate. I think we need to have people on this board sit down and actually listen and hear what these people have to say, and see what we can do to embrace where they’re coming from, embrace their humanity,” Milbery said. “I think it would go well and do a lot for us as both a school district, as a board and as a community.
“I hope to see that we do that and we’re not just going to issue a statement, but we’re going to take some communicative response where we actually listen to what the concerns are.”
In other news from the meeting, Davis said that due to a nationwide message on TikTok last Friday, the school district had extra law enforcement officers on its campus, cancelled a couple assemblies, and cancelled a middle school awards ceremony that would have gathered about 200 students in one place.
The TikTok message read: “Praying for people who go to school on December 17.”
Davis said he wanted to thank the Hillsboro Police Department and Highland County Sheriff’s Office for their quick attention to the matter. He also said it is imperative for parents to talk to their children about similar situations, and for students to talk to their parents.
The board accepted the following donations: anonymous $1,600 for high school athletics; anonymous $1,000 for high school athletics; anonymous $3,200 for high school girls basketball team; Tom and Karen Black, $500 for high school choir; Coyote Manufacturing/Reed Trailer Service, toward services rendered for powder coating; Hill City Endurance Fitness and Sports, $100 for robotics programs; Magulac Tire Service, $50 for robotics; Hillsboro NCB, $2,500 for high school baseball team; Speed of Light Laser Tag, $400 for robotics; Susan L. Davis, $50 for robotics; Thompson Funeral Service, $50 for robotics; Walker Real Estate, $50 for robotics; Wilkin-Wilkin Insurance, $100 for robotics.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.