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Public school board calls decision to pull ‘Prom Queen’ funding a mistake, reinstates $15K contribution

Prom Queen: the musical, will premier at the Segal Centre.
The musical is based on the true story of Marc Hall, a gay Oshawa student who fought to bring his boyfriend to his high school prom in 2002, despite opposition from the local Catholic school board. Global News

The Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB)’s administration are reinstating their $15,000 contribution to the Grand Theatre’s production of Prom Queen.

“A mistake was made,” said Matt Reid, chair of the board of trustees. “The decision to not fund Prom Queen: The Musical is a blemish on our board.”

The musical is based on the true story of Marc Hall, a gay Oshawa student who fought to bring his boyfriend to his high school prom in 2002, despite opposition from the local Catholic school board.

A decision not to fund the play because of its inappropriate language and portrayal of adults was met with intense criticism last week. The community rallied to raise more than $58,000 to make up for the funding shortfall, prompting administration’s about-face.

READ MORE: Online fundraiser hits goal after London school boards cancel funding for high school musical

“It was administration’s belief that [Prom Queen: The Musical] undermines the concept of a safe adult, which is so important in our schools,” explained the board’s director of education, Laura Elliot.
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“Staff also saw many instances of exclusionary language and behaviours in the script, which are counter to Thames Valley’s mission, vision and commitments.”

Due to its mature content, Elliot says the administration will decide which grades are allowed to attend the play. There will also be classroom materials designed for before and after the play, so students understand its content and context.

“The decision was not taken lightly,” she explained. It’d been their intent to speak with the rest of the school trustees before the Grand Theatre formally announced the production in early February before the decision was “leaked to the media.”

READ MORE: Prom Queen: The Musical shines light on student’s fight to bring boyfriend to school

It was an emotional evening for Matt Reid, the first openly gay chair of the school board in Canada and the first openly gay politician in London.

“I remember all to well, 14 years ago, while I was a student trustee, watching as trustees, many of whom are still around this table, stood up against the homophobic hate that was directed at us when we chose to pass a safe school policy to protect gay and lesbian students.”

His voice shook, as he spoke of the pride he felt seeing how “love won over hate that day.”

“While our admin had the best intentions, the actions were unfortunately viewed by those in the public as rooted in homophobia. For this, I am truly sorry.”

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Reid himself pitched money towards the crowdfunding campaign, emphasizing a separation between his role on the board and his personal views.

“I think it’s important that our students hear the story of Marc Hall and they understand it.”

The change of heart shows “strong leadership,” according to Pride London president Andrew Rosser.

“It’s fantastic to see that the school board stepped up, admitted they made a mistake in this decision, and are reversing it.”

Rosser adds he’d like to see a similar decision by the London District Catholic School Board. They too, pulled their usual $15,000 contribution towards theĀ Grand Theatre’s High School Project.