John Jay High School Principal Rich Leprine sent me the following statement just a few minutes ago in response to “The Vagina Monologues” controversy that has developed in his school. Click “here”:http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070306/NEWS02/703060363/1209 to read the full story from The Journal News, or scroll down this blog to read comments students and community members have posted about the administrationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s decision to suspend three female students for saying the word Ã¢â‚¬Å“vaginaÃ¢â‚¬? during an open mic session Friday night. Stay tuned for more on this story as it unfolds.
March 6, 2007
Dear JJ Community Members:
I appreciate the concerns expressed by students and parents over the monologue issue that occurred last Friday night at the Ã¢â‚¬Å“Open Mic Night.Ã¢â‚¬?
John Jay High School recognizes and respects student freedom of expression in the context of the school setting. That right, however, is not unfettered, particularly when an activity or event is open to the general school community where it is expected that young children may be in attendance. The challenge is to balance the rights of student speakers and the sensitivities of the community. The SchoolÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s response to that challenge was to pre-audition the students before several faculty members for the Ã¢â‚¬Å“Open Mic NightÃ¢â‚¬? and to determine the suitability of the intended presentations for the audience. In many cases, younger siblings, often elementary age, attend these types of events. This event was also being videotaped for the local cable television channel.
When a student is told by faculty members not to present specified material because of the composition of the audience and they agree to do so, it is expected that the commitment will be honored and the directive will be followed. When a student chooses not to follow the directive, consequences follow. The students did not receive consequences because of the content of the presentation.
There is a clear difference between putting on a production of a play such as Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Vagina MonologuesÃ¢â‚¬? and an open performance at the microphone of an excerpt from the play before unsuspecting parents and their children. In the first case, the community would have been aware of the nature of the production and could have made an educated decision to attend or not to attend based upon that knowledge. In the case of the Ã¢â‚¬Å“Open Mic Night,Ã¢â‚¬? the community was invited with the expectation that the pieces presented would be appropriate for the general community, including younger children. Parents and community members did not have the ability to make an educated decision about the appropriateness of the content of the presentations for younger children.
There is also a clear difference between what is read and discussed in the classroom and what is presented in an activity open to the entire community. Our judgment was guided by the forum, the audience and the studentsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ commitment. Our decision was made in a considered, careful and thoughtful manner.