Charter School Censors Penguin Play

Canceling the show was “the best thing for our community.” This was a statement given by a parent regarding the unanimous decision to cancel a showing of the play And Then Came Tango at Sierra Foothill Charter School near Fresno, CA earlier last month.

The play, based on the children’s book And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, tells the true story of two male penguins who together cared for and raised an orphaned baby penguin, Tango. The play put on by Fresno State’s Theatre for Young Adults was initially shown at the anti-censorship conference “Outlawed: The Naked Truth About Censored Literature for Young People,” also in Fresno, but when it came time for the play to be included in a school assembly at Sierra Foothill Charter School just a week later, parents protested. Citing the play’s supposed inappropriate content for elementary-age students — complaints that have made the original book one of the most banned books in schools and libraries across the United States and around the world — the result of the protests was initially a postponement of the play. Sadly, after a meeting of the school board, it was unanimously voted to cancel the play outright.

In an ironic twist, although the play was performed at both an anti-censorship conference in neighboring Fresno as well as other schools within the San Joaquin district, this didn’t sway Foothill Charter parents and board members to show the play at their school, leading to the ultimate censorship of the play altogether.

This cancellation not only impacts the students, whose education is being censored by the decision, but further demonstrates the growing issue of a small number of concerned parents detrimentally limiting the educational experiences of all children in a school or district. As writer and blogger Rob Watson appropriately points out in an open letter to the community regarding the school decision, “By your actions, you have shut down a great educational opportunity. That opportunity was not for your kids, it was for you.”

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Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!