Slur in Lenox Memorial school play prompts a community conversation on inclusivity
Clarence Fanto } Berkshire Eagle
LENOX — The use of a gender-insensitive term during a recent middle school musical production has prompted a push for diversity education measures among district administrators, staff and students.
In an email to the community, Lenox Memorial Middle and High School Principal Michael Knybel took the blame for the "derogatory, slang term" that was included in the musical production of "Shrek." "That term was the 'T' word (tranny)," he said, referring to a slur used to describe a transgender person.
"My number-one priority as Principal is to make all students feel safe and comfortable at this school and we made a mistake," Knybel said.
The incident also came up for discussion at Monday night's School Committee meeting. A parent, Jessie Fried, had submitted a letter to the committee earlier in the day about the "offensive language" and she suggested ideas "to make the school safe for all students," said committee Chairman Robert Vaughan.
The "inappropriate, offensive word was in the script as given to the kids," he pointed out. "I don't know what conversations may have transpired prior to the actual production but the performances went on with the word used" in all the shows.
In response to messages received about the incident, schools Superintendent Kimberly Merrick swiftly arranged a workshop presentation for the middle school students on Monday by Gwendolyn VanSant and her team from the nonprofit organization Multicultural Bridge, which promotes training and education to achieve safety, equity and justice.
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