School cuts gay characters from musical because head didn’t want to offend religious family
A headteacher who intervened in a school musical to cut out gay characters has claimed he was worried the show would upset a Jehovah’s Witness family.
Anninksschool primary school in Hengelo, the Netherlands, stages a traditional end-of-year original musical as a farewell for Grade 8 pupils (aged 11-12).
However this year’s show has been rocked by controversy – after the school’s head reportedly acted to censor LGBT content the production.
Dutch-language local newspaper Tubantia reports that the original script for the show included two characters who are in a relationship, and during rehearsals the pupils themselves decided that both roles should be played by boys.
However, the school’s headteacher Ben de Vlugt shocked both pupils and parents when he intervened to block the move.
Speaking to the newspaper he explained that the class had a student from a Jehovah’s Witness family, and claimed it would be inappropriate to include a gay couple at risk of offending them.
He said: “I know how Jehovah’s Witnesses feel about this. You can be gay but not practice being gay.
“I thought it was likely that the girl would no longer be allowed to join the musical if we left it as it was, and I think every single child should participate in what is the final event at their school.
“That’s why I decided to revert the musical to the original script, with a man/woman couple.”
He added: “I explained to [the students] that I am very proud that they have brought in these gay roles… that is what we stand for as a school. Everyone participates, everyone can be the way they are.
“But I also explained to them that there are people in the Netherlands who think differently and that I also want to respect that opinion.
“I do not want to exclude anyone from this event and that will happen when we bring those roles on the stage. The children did understand that.
“They really do not agree, they do not have to. But they did understand.”
He added that many parents had also got in touch to voice their outrage at his actions – but he defended the decision.
The headteacher continued: “If there are more parents who have problems with this, then I would like to talk to them.
“I respect everyone and that is why this was not an easy decision. I just felt like King Solomon from the Bible, who has to make an impossible choice.
“The most important consideration for me was that all children can participate. That is my responsibility.”
According to Dutch News, the girl’s family were not consulted ahead of the decision.
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The decision has led to condemnation by public figures in the country.
It has even made it to the Dutch Parliament, where Labour Party MP Kirsten van den Hul tabled a question on the issue.
The question asks whether the government will take any action in the case, and whether they will make clear that all pupils should learn about the reality that LGBT people exist, regardless of their religious background.