The show will go on: District 300 reverses course on 'The Prom'

The show will go on.

Hampshire High School will feature "The Prom," a Tony Award-nominated production that centers around a lesbian couple who wish to go to prom, as its spring musical.

Community Unit District 300 Superintendent Susan Harkin Thursday met with students for the second time in a week. This time, she reversed her earlier decision to postpone the musical.

"District 300 is dedicated to providing a welcoming and supportive community where every student feels a strong sense of belonging," Harkin wrote in a statement issued after meeting with students. "We value offering students opportunities to participate in inclusive performances that represent and support all members of our school community."

Harkin initially told students and staff at Hampshire High School last Friday that the musical would be postponed out of concern for student safety. In a statement released earlier this week, she pointed to concerns of violence, harassment and bullying targeting LGBTQ+ students.

By Monday, however, Harkin issued a statement stating she was reconsidering her decision based on the outpouring of student support. In that statement, she said any production of the musical would need to include a safety plan.

On Thursday, she said Hampshire High School, in cooperation with the village, law enforcement and the district, has developed a safety plan that goes into effect immediately and will remain in effect until after the show's last performance.

"While the district and each school have effective safety plans in place, I felt this production required an additional level of security due to a national rise in bullying, threats and violence directed toward the LGBTQ+ community," Harkin said in her statement.

Students at Thursday's meeting said they were happy the school will host the musical. Several students attended Tuesday's school board meeting to make their case for the musical.

"This is probably one of the best civics lessons I've ever had," said Henry Hanson, a Hampshire High School senior. "The power that you have with your voice is really strong, and I got to see that first hand."

While the past week has been a "roller coaster," as Hanson put it, students and parents said they were grateful for the support they received from the high school musical director and principal.

"It's great to have teachers in our building who support us so much," said Ainsley Bryson, a Hampshire High School senior, who plans to be playing flute in the orchestra pit for the musical.

The drama surrounding the musical decision caught the eye of theater groups across the country and sparked a petition. The musical's co-author and lyricist also took to social media and reached out to Harkin upon hearing of the initial decision to postpone production.

"I'm beyond thrilled that the students and their supporters worked to make their voices heard," Chad Beguelin, the show's lyricist and co-author, said in an email. "To quote a lyric from the show, 'It's time to build a prom for everyone!'"

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