CAREFREE, Ariz. – Some parents of students at Cactus Shadows High School are outraged over a play that has students acting out sexual encounters with a goat, and using vulgar sexual expressions.
Other parents of students in teacher Andrew Cupo’s advanced drama class believe the concerns are overblown, and resent parents who questioned their children about the sexually explicit play without their permission.
Parents attended the governing board meeting for the Cave Creek Unified School District Tuesday and shared about two hours of public comment on the play “The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?” by Edward Albee, which revolves around a character who falls in love with a goat and has sex with it, AZCentral.com reports.
The public discussion – in which three parents and two students spoke against the play, and about three dozen students and parents supported the material – came after a parent called governing board members to complain. Board President David Schaefer told the parent over the weekend to contact the school principal and teacher, according to the news site.
On Monday, 10 parents went to the high school and urged a school resource officer to investigate their complaints about the play’s explicit content. The officer interviewed several students and drama teacher Cupo was put on paid administrative leave – a district policy during ongoing investigations.
“Elissa Ericson, head of the fine arts department at Cactus Shadows, said that Cupo had warned the students several times about the explicit content and offered several opportunities to opt out and study an alternative script,” AZCentral.com reports. “In addition, parents must sign a syllabus at the beginning of the semester that includes a statement that ‘students may be exposed to stories or characters that express views and beliefs that differ from their own or those of their parents.’”
One of the complaining parents said he signed off on the syllabus because he assumed the governing board had vetted the material. Guy McAtee said “having signed an acknowledgement of the course curriculum is in no way authorization for material of this nature to be approved,” according to the news site.
“I’m sure that since it’s appropriate material, that the language I’m about to use will be approved by the school board,” he said before reading several sexually vulgar passages from the play in the public meeting.
Some students and parents told the governing board they were offended by the way parents who oppose the material took matters into their own hands.
“ … We were asked what we thought of Mr. Cupo teaching bestiality. Ironic that they spoke to us of bestiality without the consent of our parents, the same act they condemn Mr. Cupo for,” said Jacob Emnett, one of the students questioned by parents and the school resource officer the day before.
“My daughter was not negatively impacted by the play but she was negatively impacted by being asked in the office if she acted out this play and things she never would have thought of,” parent Sharon Smith told the board, according to AZCentral.com.
Only one student, Emily McAtee, spoke against the play at the Tuesday board meeting.
“I never took the opportunity of the other script so that I didn’t seem discriminated against,” she said. “I understand Mr. Cupo’s point of what is metaphorically said within the script, but when we’re rehearsing these things and saying these things out loud, we’re not thinking of the metaphorical things, we’re thinking of who we’re trying to portray as the character.”
Superintendent Debbi Burdick told AZCentral.com the results of the investigation could yield a wide range of possible responses from the district, from reinstating the teacher with no repercussions, to including a disciplinary letter in his file, to termination.