Nevada District Court Judge David Wall denied today a request filed by a group of local parents that sought to stop productions of The Laramie Project and Rent: School Edition at Green Valley High School in Henderson, Nevada. ACLU of Nevada attorneys, who argued that the parents should not be allowed to stop the plays, applauded the decision as a victory for free speech.

After the lawsuit was filed challenging the school’s sponsorship of both productions due to their thematic content, the ACLU of Nevada received a number of inquiries from parents of students in the plays and other community members concerned about censorship. The ACLU of Nevada filed an amicus brief on behalf of the parents and their children as well as the ACLU and its members, in support of the school and the District’s defense of the plays.

“This case is important because it emphasizes the fact that schools, if they are doing their job properly, will confront and deal with controversial issues and will not be stopped because of the wishes of a few disgruntled parents,” said Allen Lichtenstein, General Counsel for the ACLU of Nevada. More importantly, the students who have worked so hard to put on these performances will have learned a valuable lesson about their own free speech rights.”

Working in cooperation with Clark County School District counsel, the ACLU effectively argued on behalf of the discretion given to school administrators to make decisions about curriculum, as recognized the U.S. Supreme Court in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier.

Both The Laramie Project and Rent: School Edition have been successfully performed at high schools across the country, and local school administrators had already approved the scripts as both appropriate and beneficial for students who chose to perform with parental consent. Participation in the plays and attendance is entirely voluntary.

“I’m very, very happy to hear that our kids will have this opportunity to perform,” said Alice Ronconi, a parent of a Green Valley High School student performing in both productions and one of the participants in the ACLU’s amicus brief. “Hopefully it is the positive messages that both plays deliver that will prevail, not the controversial aspects surrounding this legal challenge.”

Green Valley High School’s production of The Laramie Project is scheduled for November 12-14, 2009, and Rent: School Edition will take place in early 2010.

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