School officials in west-central Minnesota are canceling field trips to see a play about tolerance because it calls for tolerating people who are different.
Controversy over the show, a heavily edited version of a series of scripts titled Cootie Shots: Theatrical Inoculations Against Bigotry, began when a few parents saw the script.
The Morris production of this show, which originated in California and has played nationwide, “does not mention, refer to or portray sexuality of any kind in any way,” said Ray Schultz, the show’s director.
“Oh, it’s very obvious,” countered Laura Carrington, a Morris school board member and retired teacher. “There’s a script called ‘The Parable of the Stimples.’ The Stimples are people who are told that it’s OK to make loud noises, but just don’t make them in public. Isn’t that similar to what, for years, homosexuals were told?
“Suddenly, there were more Stimples than ever. They mention that Stimples don’t seem quite so ‘queer.’ That’s pretty out front. I don’t think it’s the school’s responsibility to promote the homosexual lifestyle.”
Here’s a fuller description of the Stimples in a story about a lawsuit, ultimately unsuccessful, filed by parents in Novato, California.
One skit in the play that angered the parents was “The Parable of the Stimples,” during which a group of “funny noise-making people” are ridiculed. The script states, “BUT the BIG PROBLEM was that everyone was taught that making funny noises was BAD! Wrong! Something to be afraid of!”
During the play, Stimple Gilbert is sent to the principal’s office after making a funny noise, only to discover that the principal himself is a secret noisemaker.
When Gilbert’s parents discover that Gilbert is a noisemaker, they react with embarrassment. They tell Gilbert not to make the noise so that he can be “normal like them.” Soon, Gilbert discovers that people are “afraid” of the noise.
At that point, the narrator encourages the audience to save Gilbert by making a loud noise themselves.
“Make a noise for Gilbert!” the narrator says. “Make a noise for all of the Stimples in the world.”
Kids might grow up to make funny noises.
In other school news, Snohomish High near Seattle has lifted its ban on the Snoho T-shirt.
Senior Justin Patrick originally was told his T-shirt was derogatory to women because it contained a slang term for prostitutes. But a school-district official who considered Patrick’s appeal ruled the boy won’t have to serve a two-day suspension for dress-code violation, sexual harassment and gross insubordination.
Patrick, however, will serve six days of after-school detention for swearing at a vice principal who told him to cover up the T-shirt.
The decision means school officials won’t have to rule on “gung-ho,” “tally ho,” “Ho-Hos” and “coho” salmon.
Update: After attending The Vagina Monologues, two girls at a high school in the Minneapolis area began wearing buttons proclaiming: “I (heart) My Vagina.”
School leaders said that the pin is inappropriate and that the discomfort it causes trumps the girls’ right to free speech. The girls disagree. And despite repeated threats of suspension and expulsion, (Carrie) Rethlefsen has continued to wear her button.
The girls have won support from other students and community members.
More than 100 students have ordered T-shirts bearing “I [heart] My Vagina” for girls and “I Support Your Vagina” for boys.
“We can’t really find out what is inappropriate about it,” Rethlefsen, 18, said of the button she wears to raise awareness about women’s issues.
There’s no question the girls, both excellent students, are engaging in political speech. Yet I can’t help thinking that buttons proclaiming support for sexual organs are inappropriate in the high school context.