idiot-patchA high school theater group in Connecticut managed to make headlines across the country for a show it never performed, sparking discussions about artistic censorship and parental complaints about 'inappropriate' subject matter. Today a coalition of free speech and free expression groups sent a letter to the school, Enfield High, suggesting ways to turn the controversy into a learning experience.

In mid-January the director of the Enfield Lamplighters sent an email to parents and students informing them that the group would not be performing Green Day's rock opera American Idiot, despite the fact that auditions had originally been planned for that week. Evidently some parents were very vocal about some language and themes in the show, and the director and principal had agreed to halt the production. 

As the letter, which was signed by the American Booksellers for Free Expression, the Office of Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association, National Council of Teachers of English, the Arts Integrity Initiative at the New School College of Performing Arts, Dramatists Legal Defense Fund, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the Association of American Publishers, states:

If the play was cancelled at this late stage solely as a result of complaints by a few vocal parents, as Mr. Ferreira stated, there are serious pedagogical and constitutional concerns. Halting the play because some individuals do not approve of its content deprives the rest of the students – whose parents might welcome the play, even in its unedited form – from experiencing the production and violates core free expression principles.

In order to manage such disputes in the future, the groups recommend that the school adopt policies to protect the rights of students: "Clarifying procedures for theatrical productions moving forward is imperative to safeguard the artistic and intellectual freedom of students and educators."

The letter is posted below; click here for a full-screen view.

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