Judge allows high school students to perform

A District Court judge on Tuesday refused to drop the curtain on high school productions of "Rent" and "The Laramie Project."

Henderson’s Green Valley High School can proceed with both plays, including a Thursday night performance of "The Laramie Project," which deals with the murder of a gay college student in Wyoming.

Sarah Balogh, 17, who has a role in "Rent," said the legal ruling was a victory for the plays’ themes. "I think it’s a start toward what they’re all about: compassion and tolerance."

"The Laramie Project" will be performed at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The high school is at 460 Arroyo Grande Blvd., west of Stephanie Street.

"Rent," about starving artists coping with AIDS and drug addiction, will be performed early next year.

Some parents who object to the plays’ "mature content" had sought a preliminary injunction to stop both productions.

But lawyers for the Clark County School District said the parents’ lawyer failed to prove one of the basic criteria for a preliminary injunction, that it would cause "irreparable harm" to the plaintiffs.

Participation in the plays is voluntary and requires parental permission. Students are not required to attend the plays, which are extracurricular activities.

When the district’s general counsel, Bill Hoffman, contended that the plaintiffs had failed to "provide any evidence," Cory Hilton, the plaintiff’s attorney, responded that his clients’ children would not be able to participate in the school’s one musical of the year, "Rent," or cite participation in the plays on their college admission applications as proof of their extracurricular activities.

"There’s your irreparable harm," Hilton said. "It’s exclusionary."

The children could not participate because of their parents’ objections to the material, Hilton argued.

The judge was not persuaded by his arguments.

"It’s a matter of choice," Judge David Wall said.

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada filed a court brief supporting the district with constitutional arguments for free speech.

Hilton had also argued that Green Valley failed to follow district regulations in presenting controversial curriculum, emphasizing that Musical Theatre International, the publisher of "Rent," had given the high school edition of the musical an "R" rating. The district does not allow R and PG-13 movies to be shown in the classroom.

Lawyers for the district responded that movie ratings and parents’ right to "reconsideration and review" of curriculum materials do not apply to extracurricular theatrical plays, which have been edited for high school audiences.

Rick Magness, whose children are Green Valley graduates, said the parents who objected to the plays will meet soon to decide what to do next. He said he did not regret taking legal action.

"In our opinion, it was the right thing to do," Magness said.

Hoffman did not think the parents had any legal options left to stop the productions.

"As a practical matter, the case is over," he said after the hearing.

Students were relieved at the outcome.

"I’m ecstatic," said Amanda Smith, 16, who has a lead role in "Rent."

Green Valley drama student Anthony Bell, 17, felt the same way. "Now, we can concentrate on doing the show."

Contact reporter James Haug at jhaug@ or 702-374-7917.


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