Drama students at Hillsboro High School in Highland County, Ohio were furious after learning the school pulled the plug on their production of She Kills Monsters after weeks of rehearsals.
The reason for the cancellation was due to complaints about a possibly gay character in the play by a local pastor and conservative Evangelical Christian parents.
The school is a public, secular school, not a private parochial school.
Hillsboro City Schools Superintendent Tim Davis released a statement, saying:
"The fall play has been canceled this year because the play was not appropriate for our K-12 audience."
She Kills Monsters was written by playwright Qui Nguyen and has been regularly performed at high schools and colleges since it premiered in New York in 2011.
The play is about a high school senior in Athens, Ohio, who discovers his deceased sister's Dungeons & Dragons campaign, alluding to the fact she may have been gay and had a girlfriend.
Hillsboro High junior Chris Cronan, who had a major part in the play, said he was "beyond livid."
Cronan told local news station WKRC:
"We worked very hard on this play – we had a lot of people in that school who are in the LBGTQ community."
School administrators canceled production on the show after concerned parents confronted the directors of the play at a meeting. Local pastor Jeff Lyle from Good News Gathering was among those in attendance.
Lyle shared with the news station his protestations about the play.
"From a Biblical worldview this play is inappropriate for a number of reasons, e.g. sexual innuendo, implied sexual activity between unmarried persons, repeated use of foul language including taking the Lord's name in vain."
You can watch the news report, here.
Despite parents witnessing Lyle talking to school administrators after the meeting was over, he denied pressuring the faculty to cancel the play.
Hillsboro High graduate Jon Polstra had a daughter and son in the play and was frustrated over the cancellation after the students had dedicated so much time in rehearsals.
"It was inappropriate for them to do and it was a wrong thing for the school to have allowed that influence to cause them to make the decision to cancel the show."
The school's controversial decision caught the attention of Hillsboro Against Racism and Discrimination (HARD), who expressed concern about the damaging message it sends about tolerance in the community.
"An active choice was made to pander to homophobia," the group wrote in a Facebook post, demanding for the school to rethink and reverse their decision.
"This choice is harmful and offensive to the LGBTQ+ community at large, but especially harms the LGBTQ+ students at HHS."
"It shows these kids that their hard work doesn't matter, and creates an environment of fear."
"It shows them that if it comes down to protecting the feelings of homophobic people, or protecting them from discrimination, the school will choose the side of homophobia."
HARD further argued the version of the play was the Young Adventurers Edition, which had been performed in countless other high schools in the country for the past several years.
The group also added how other shows alluding to sexual themes haven't stopped HHS from performing them in the past.
"Notable examples include: Les Mis, which had sex workers; a bed scene in Light in the Piazza; Oklahoma! which included attempted rape and murder (both onstage), and premarital sex (offstage); Into the Woods which had extramarital sex, the beginnings of which were onstage; Oliver! which had sex workers."
Polstra's other son, Zeb Pickering-Polstra, has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to enable a community theatre production of She Kills Monsters next summer to preserve all the hard work already put in by the students involved.
"These kids, my siblings included, have poured their heart and soul into this show," said Pickering-Polstra.
"We want to see their aspirations realized. With your help, we can produce She Kills Monsters."