JACKSONVILLE, Florida – Jacksonville Episcopal School administrators receive backlash from a group of college students and alumni after a planned dance performance, featuring a same-sex couple, was pulled from a next recital.
The dance number was a song from the musical / movie “The Prom,” in which a lesbian couple attends the titular high school event together, but according to a statement from school spokesperson Meg Sacks , the directors judged the performance to be inappropriate. for the youngest students.
“At Jacksonville Episcopal School (ESJ), we strive for justice and understanding among all and encourage everyone to respect the dignity of every human being,” Sacks said in an emailed statement. “As a Christian Episcopal School, the ESJ is committed to teaching our students in an age-appropriate way about adult language, sexuality and all other educational matters. ” The school’s full statement can be found at the bottom of this article.
The decision sparked outrage from part of the student body and former students, who said it was incompatible with the school’s stance against discrimination.
“So we are just asking the school to clarify what it means by discrimination, as they always censor this dance on the basis that it is inappropriate, which is blatant discrimination against the LGBTQIA community,” Gaby said, a former ESJ alumnus. Diaz. “[It’s] just a little absurd, especially in 2021. If you are an educator you are facilitating an environment that is supposed to educate people.
Critics also pointed to other productions the school has recently put on, including a 2019 performance of the musical “Chicago,” as well as dance performances set to music by performers Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, which, according to Diaz, are more sexually explicit than the dance number planned for February.
Diaz and her business partner, Anna Mayo, posted a document online to encourage students, alumni and other stakeholders to contact the school administration and demand an explanation and reversal of the decision.
On November 30, students from the dance ensemble, along with student leaders from the School’s Outreach, Inclusion and Respect initiative, met with the school administrators.
The meeting resulted in the administrator’s promise to schedule a performance of the dance number, only for high school students and older, in the spring semester of 2022.
In addition, after the students brought it to the attention of the school, the “Standards of ethical conduct‘has been updated to replace’ sex ‘with’ sexual orientation ‘and’ gender ‘in the list of specified categories protected against discrimination.
Still, Diaz says that while the updated policy is a positive step, the school still violates its own policy by censoring LGBTQ content from college kids.
“Students have expressed the need for greater LGBTQIA + representation in college, in large part to affirm the safety of people with mental health issues,” Diaz and Mayo wrote in their paper online. “Providing LGBTQIA + representation to a younger age group would not only normalize different lifestyles, but also serve as an outlet for those struggling with internal insecurities. “
In late November, an Instagram page titled “QueerAtESJ” was launched, describing itself as “dedicated to shedding light on how the LGBTQIA + community at Jacksonville Episcopal School is being treated in order to raise awareness.
At the time of this article’s publication, the page had 36 submissions.
The social media echoed similar pages launched in 2020, which offered students of color a way to share their experiences at private schools in the area, including Episcopal.
The school then responded to concerns raised on the page with its AIR initiative.
The issue of including LGBTQIA + in education has been on the rise in Florida recently after the state’s Department of Education cleared a page with anti-harassment content, including information specifically aimed at LGBTQ students, from its website after complaints from a right-wing commentator criticized it. to be inappropriate.
Jacksonville Episcopal School Complete Statement:
“At Jacksonville Episcopal School (ESJ), we strive for justice and understanding among all, and encourage all to respect the dignity of every human being. We welcome students and families of all faiths and do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. We work to act with compassion, love and integrity, as well as to name and challenge behaviors that promote exclusion, discrimination and mistrust.
We are grateful to the students for alerting us to a dated anti-discrimination statement on our website. It was an oversight on our part and without hesitation we immediately updated it.
As a Christian Episcopal School, ESJ is committed to teaching our students in an age-appropriate way about adult language, sexuality and all other educational matters. We assess whether opportunities involving one of our four pillars (academics, spiritual life, fine arts and athletics) should be for all on our campuses (Lower School, which includes students in Grades 1-5; Middle School for students in grades 6-8 and senior school, grades 9-12), or a specific age group only. This may relate to an artistic performance, some aspect of the curriculum, or Chapel’s subject matter, among others.
Meg Sacks, spokesperson for the Episcopal School of Jacksonville
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