Shortly after Del. Mary-Dulany James weighed in late last week with a letter on the Drama Therapy saga, Del. Rick Impallaria offered up this letter as rebuttal:
MDJ states, “…ordinarily state legislators do not, and should not, take it upon themselves to delve into critiquing or censoring local high school theater, particularly in an official capacity.” [paragraph 3]
I heartily disagree. It is the duty of every legislator to investigate how state (and local, insofar as we represent counties) tax money is spent in any area, particularly when constituents have brought abuses to our attention. The parents who initiated the queries into what happened at HdG HS were stonewalled by the school and by the HCPS administration. No information was released until help was requested from the delegate. And the administration tried to stonewall him.
On page 2, paragraph 2, MDJ states, “I have received two detailed letters from a single person expressing concerns about the content of the performance and the process of addressing these concerns.” Now, I have no doubt that the complaint letter was from a single person – I received a copy myself. However, MDJ neglects to add that that “single person” represents many others. That “single person” has taken it upon him/herself to be the point person and push the issue due to the harm done to his/her child by the drama therapy presentations.
In the next 2 paragraphs MDJ says she does not consider the effect of the drama therapy as child abuse. Again, my opinion is totally opposite. Two paragraphs later, discussing the content of the production MDJ states, “’Drama Therapy’ was R-rated with adult language and content, … ‘suitable for mature audiences only’. In high school those attending range in age from 13 to 19…” Is it suitable for 13-year-olds to watch R-rated material? Without their parents’ knowledge? Shouldn’t teachers and administrators who put on this “show” and forced the entire student body to watch be reprimanded? How many parents would allow 13-, 14-, 15-year old teens to watch an R-rated movie? MDJ admits “It seems reasonable to have required some kind of a collaboration with families so that each could choose if they wanted … to … opt out.” MDJ also says, “…my common sense and life experiences tells [sic] me that when you try to blend drama with therapy, entertainment [sic. Do we send our children to school to be entertained, or to be educated?] with raw emotions, and a public forum with..private matters, it will be hard to strike the right balance. … I imagine… [that] it requires considerable expertise and a great deal of care.” It is our contention that drama therapy, as done at HdG HS, was indeed not done with common sense, and that it does require considerable expertise. What are the qualifications of the English teachers who put on the drama therapy to do therapeutic work? They certainly did not foresee the consequences to certain members of the student body in the audience who were greatly upset by what they saw on stage. Does this not indicate a great lack of judgment on their part, and on the part of the school’s administration which failed to oversee their activities?
It is well that the school has begun to take action to address parents’ complaints about the drama therapy program. However, I want to point out that when MDJ says that “All of the school systems’ [sic] actions were undertaken long before without the need for threats”, she is not entirely accurate. Nothing was done, as I said before, to address parents’ concerns until the state delegate began making enquiries. Parents were stonewalled by the school and by the superintendent. And I don’t understand what MDJ means by “threats”. It is not in my power to fire anyone, although I can and do think that those teachers should be fired by those that have the power to do so, if they put the students’ and parents’ safety and interests first, instead of circling the wagons to protect those who have demonstrated academic incompetence and bad judgment.