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Active censorship or community protection?


Two Ohio high schools have now canceled fall productions of the same LGBTQ-themed play

by John Bowen, MJE

Two points.

Two Ohio public school systems.

The first point is about two student performances of ‘She Kills Monsters’ killed this fall.

Students at Hillsboro High School in southwestern Ohio faced the news of the play’s cancellation after rehearsals had begun, about a month before the production was to open. Students there faced opposition from some parents and a pastor who supported cancellation of the play because one character is implied to be gay. 

Administrators deemed the production “inappropriate for K-12,” Newsweek reported Oct. 25, 2021. Students picked a Young Adventures Edition, intended to play for 11 and older. In a letter addressed to the community, quotes Superintendent Tim Davis: “Future plays and predictions will be read and approved by the administration before we hold any auditions.”

According to, ‘She kills Monsters’ ranks number 3 on TheaterLove’s list of 35 best plays for high school.

The other school, Hudson High School in northeastern Ohio, already faced removal of books (one part of a class) and another from the school libraries, attacks on mandates for students wearing masks and the mayor threatening to charge board of education members for having a pornographic book as part of the curriculum. 

Hudson’s principal went to the first rehearsal of the play in September where he told students of the cancellation. School officials cited “feedback from some students, a parent and staff members.” Both school’s performances had been approved, auditions completed and roles assigned.

The play, by Qui Nguyen, popular for high school and college performances, has had praise and success where it has played, according to Ken Schneck of The Buckeye Flame.

A Google search found high schools or middle schools in at least six other states which have produced the play without reported censorship, including a private school in Los Angeles.  

Hillsboro had some national public media coverage; Hudson even less, according to coverage Oct. 25, with information on the two schools facing loss of the same play.

And now the second point: The Student Press Law Center seeks feedback on issues about book, performance, live speeches, student graduation addresses or video removal from public and private schools.

Call it removal, call it censorship. The public and groups like the SPLC cannot act to verify intent and act as needed without knowledge and detail.

We hope student media at Hillsboro and Hudson will dig into these events so the public ultimately understands how such decisions limit freedom of expression – and damage freedoms. Issues like these endanger each citizen’s right to know.

Two instances.

How many more?

A way to monitor censorship

The SPLC has Student Press Freedom Day surveys to document issues of withholding, censoring or restraining information from student media publication, and thus the public.

That survey and much more is available from the SPLC as it prepares for Student Press Freedom Day, Fee. 24, 2022. With more on the way, the following links are available now:

• Unmute Yourself photography contest 
• Draft an op-ed for your daily newspaper
• Post on social media
• Get the Student Press Freedom toolkit
• Homebase for Student Press Freedom Day