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Seattle elementary school play stirs up big controversy

Third graders at TOPS school in Seattle were preparing to perform a play based on Homer's Greek classic The Odyssey, but the day of the performance principal called for a rewrite because he felt the material was inappropriate.

A little kids’ play has created a big controversy at a Seattle elementary school. First it was canceled, now it’s being rewritten because of language the principal says is inappropriate for third graders.

Matthew Strako says when his daughter came home with the script for her play two months ago, he couldn’t have been more excited. She would be playing a character from Homer’s “Odyssey.”

“I am a huge Greek mythology fan, and she knows that I love it,” says Strako. “She was excited about doing something that I was passionate about, and that was taken away from her. That’s sad.”

Another parent at TOPS school in Seattle emailed the principal to tell him they were concerned about some of the language in the play. The principal looked it over and agreed it wasn’t appropriate for third graders.

Among the questionable passages were phrases like “put you across a log and cut your head off” and creating a “tar man” to guard as well.

The principal asked the director to rewrite the lines, but the director refused and quit.

So, less than 48 hours before curtain time, the principal emailed parents and students to tell them the play had been canceled.

Strako says his daughter was sad.

“I tried to assure her to keep her hopes up. Even though her school let her down, her father was not going to,” says Strako.

He joined a number of parents who let the school know they were disappointed and frustrated that all the hard work their kids had put into the play would be for nothing.

Teresa Wippel with the Seattle School District explains the principal’s position.

“Our job as educators is to make sure that kids are exposed to age appropriate things, and he feels very strongly that this particular script is not appropriate for third graders,” says Wippel.

In an email, the principal apologized to parents for the terrible timing of his decision. But, after talking it over with the kids, he has now decided to rewrite part of the play rather than cancel it.

“He worked with the kids to rewrite the script, and they’re going to go home and practice their lines. They hope to put (the play) on next week,” says Wippel.

Still, Strako says this is not the solution he was hoping for.

“Being a person of the arts, I fully agree with the director,” says Strako. “To alter your play for one person’s opinion is not being true to your craft.”

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