Shorewood holds community conversation on race after play canceled

Posted at 9:51 PM, Oct 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-17 06:23:57-04

The controversial high school play 'To Kill a Mockingbird' at Shorewood High School will move forward, now that the district has held a community conversation on race. 

The meeting was held at the high school Tuesday night, one night ahead of the play's new opening night. 

The district canceled the original opening night three hours before it was scheduled to begin last week, citing safety concerns over potential protests. 

Some parents were upset over the play's use of the N-word. 

Shorewood School District officials said they should have done more outreach ahead of time about the sensitivity of the performance. 

"As a superintendent, [the] principal and our drama director, together collectively take responsibility for honestly the mess, I'll be really honest, that's been created over the last eight days," said Shorewood Schools Superintendent Byran Davis during the meeting Tuesday night at the school. 

Not everyone agreed with the district's decision to cancel the play. 

"I was just appalled, this is censorship," said Steffi Baker, who grew up in Shorewood. 

She says she believes her family was the first non-white family in the Shorewood community. 

"I understand if people don't like certain words, then don't come see the play," she said. "It's really important to remember what life was like back then."

When the district announced that the play will go on, it also announced the first of many conversations about race in the community. 

Tuesday's discussion was led by Shahanna McKinney Baldon, who works to end racial achievement gaps in schools as the Director of Professional Learning at the Minority Student Achievement Network. 

"What you all are dealing with is the effects of racism on your school district and there is some wonderful work going on and there's room for growth," said Baldon. 

The district plans to have monthly meetings going forward with students and additional community gatherings. 

Some asked why the district could not simply remove the offensive language from the script. Because of licensing rules with the estate of Harper Lee, the district says it would face steep penalties and fines for doing so.

The play will go on Wednesday night with the original script.