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February 2, 2016
Mr. Andrew Longey
Principal
Enfield High School
1264 Enfield Street
Enfield, CT 06082
Via email: alongey@enfieldschools.org

Dear Mr. Longey,
As organizations dedicated to artistic and intellectual freedom, we are writing regarding the
cancellation of the planned production of American Idiot by Enfield High School’s
Lamplighters Theater Group. We believe that the situation and the censorship concerns it raises
could have been avoided had the school had a clear procedure for choosing and vetting material.
We hope this letter will be of assistance in avoiding such controversies in the future and will
help the school respond to potential future complaints by individual parents or organized
groups.
We understand from press reports and an email sent to parents and students that on January 15
you and Nate Ferreira, the director of the Enfield Lamplighters, decided to halt plans to put on a
production of Green Day’s rock opera American Idiot, despite the fact that auditions were
announced for earlier that week. Mr. Ferreira noted in his initial email to parents and students
on January 17, and in an interview with the Hartford Courant, that the decision was related to
complaints by several vocal parents who objected to the production and would not allow their
children to take part in it.
The New York Times, which named it a “NYT Critics’ Pick” in 2010, says “while American
Idiot is nominally a portrait of youthful malaise of a particular era … its depiction of the crisis
of post-adolescence is essentially timeless. Teenagers eager for their lives to begin, desperate to
slough off their old selves and escape boredom through pure sensation, will probably always be
making the same kinds of mistakes, taking the same wrong turns on the road to self-discovery.”
In essence, as Mr. Ferreira probably intended when he initially chose the play, American Idiot
would engage a wide range of students in a way that not many other musicals can.
If the play was cancelled at this late stage solely as a result of complaints by a few vocal
parents, as Mr. Ferreira stated, there are serious pedagogical and constitutional concerns.
Halting the play because some individuals do not approve of its content deprives the rest of the
students – whose parents might welcome the play, even in its unedited form – from
experiencing the production and violates core free expression principles. Indeed, our
constitutional system is designed to prevent the government, including public school officials,
from promoting or preferring any viewpoint over others. The courts have consistently held that

a parent has no right “to tell a public school what his or her child will and will not be taught,” Leebaert v.
Harrington, 332 F.3d 134, 141 (2d Cir. 2003), or “to direct how a public school teaches their child.” Blau v.
Fort Thomas Public School District, et al, 401 F.3d 381, 395 (6th Cir. 2005). See also Parker v. Hurley, 514 F.
3d 87, 102 (1st Cir., 2008). Any attempt to “eliminate everything that is objectionable…will leave public
schools in shreds. Nothing but educational confusion and a discrediting of the public school system can
result…” McCollum v. Board of Education, 332 U.S. 203 (1948) (Jackson, J. concurring).
Every community is home to a diversity of opinions on moral, religious, and sexual questions. No matter how
strong the views of some members of the community may be, however, they have no right to impose their
views on others, or expect the public schools to reflect their beliefs at the expense of others. Cancelling
American Idiot because of a few complaints impermissibly privileges the beliefs of some individuals over
others and is likely to make the district susceptible to many other complaints demanding the cancellation of
plays and the removal of books.
We recommend that in order to protect the school from such complaints in the future, you initiate clear
procedures that utilize Enfield School District’s Policy 6163.1 for “The Selection of Education Resources,”
which bases its language on the School Library Bill of Rights and is intended for “all educational resources in
the schools.” Policy 6163.1a, “Challenges to the Use of Educational Resources,” states that “No parent nor
group of parents has the right to negate the use of educational resources for students other than his/her own
child.”
It appears that, aside from the complaints of parents, there were a number of other problems accompanying the
production, which all point at the need for Enfield High School to clarify its procedures for selecting theatrical
productions. Superintendent Schumann is quoted in the Courant saying that “auditions were posted throughout
the school…before school staff met to finalize plans for the spring production.” It is not clear if established
practice has been for school administrators to review theatrical material before notice goes out to students, but
any administrative review should be done well before an announcement is made about a production. In any
such review, we recommend that deference be given to educators who can best ensure that the material is
suited to the grade and maturity level of the participating students. Procedures should also ensure that any
changes to the script of a play or musical be approved by the publisher or licensing company before the
production is announced to students.
Clarifying procedures for theatrical productions moving forward is imperative to safeguard the artistic and
intellectual freedom of students and educators. Further suggestions for district policies can be found via the
Educational Theatre Association:
https://www.schooltheatre.org/advocacy/local/freedomexpression/specimendistrictpoliciesonplayselection
We hope Enfield High School clarifies it procedures and decides to move forward with its production of
American Idiot in the future, either in its unedited form or with edits approved by the publisher. As one current
student and former Lamplighter said on Facebook, “If we put this play on, it would prove how we, the people
of Enfield High, have a voice and we are not just children you see in the halls.”
Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of further assistance.
Sincerely,

Svetlana Mintcheva, Director of Programs
National Coalition Against Censorship

Chris Finan, Director
American Booksellers for Free Expression

James LaRue, Director
Office of Intellectual Freedom
American Library Association

Howard Sherman, Director
Arts Integrity Initiative
The New School College of Performing Arts

Judy Platt, Director
Free Expression Advocacy
Association of American Publishers

Charles Brownstein, Executive Director
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

Ralph Sevush, Executive Director
Dramatists Legal Defense Fund

Millie Davis, Director
Intellectual Freedom Center
National Council of Teachers of English

CC: Dr. Jeffrey A. Schumann, Superintendent: jschumann@enfieldschools.org
Mr. Nate Ferreira, Director, Enfield Lamplighters: director@ehslamplighters.com