Superintendent says class  play does not 'reference to sexuality or sexual orientation'

NC Senator Bob Steinburg

COLUMBIA – Tyrrell County Schools concluded that a play recently taught in a sixth grade class did not cross the line touching on sexuality or sexual orientation.

Based on a complaint from a parent about the play “Fosters” addressing transgender issues, the school system initiated an investigation into whether the subject material was appropriate.

Written by Kendra Thomas, the play “Fosters” is about the “special connection between abandoned animals in need in need of homes and foster children who feel alone,” according to the play’s Pioneer Drama Service’s website: https://www.pioneerdrama.com/SearchDetail.asp?PC=FOSTERS&src=def

Tyrrell County Schools Superintendent Oliver A. Holley released a statement Friday about the investigation.

“As a part of our investigation and after reviewing the play in question, we have determined that there was no reference to sexuality or sexual orientation within that document,” he said. “I will continue to investigate this issue and take appropriate steps to ensure that we are teaching North Carolina’s standard course of study and complying with our school board policy on teaching controversial issues.”

When NC Senator Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, posted his thoughts about the matter to social media, a firestorm erupted.

“Fosters” is one of manyplays found at Pioneer Drama Service, one of the largest play publishing and licensing companies in the nation that provides musical and drama scripts for schools during the past 50 years.

“Fosters” does not discuss LGBT issues.

“Tender-hearted Michelle fosters four dogs and one cat,” according to a description of the play at Pioneer Drama Service’s website. “Social worker Isabelle is the house parent at a children’s home to four children and teens. As Isabelle starts regularly bringing the young people over to Michelle’s to play with the animals and bonds are formed, it’s clear to see just how beneficial these special relationships are for both humans and animals.

“Teenaged Anna doesn’t have a family to take care of her; the dog Petey was left on the side of the road. Jasmine fears she will stay in foster care because of the color of her skin; the feline Eve knows that black cats don’t get adopted. Brother and sister Harmony and Blake hope they’ll stay together just like Mo and Tucker, two little dogs who grew up in the same home.”

Steinburg said posted these comments Friday social media.

“I received a call from a grandparent this morning who was upset beyond words,” he wrote. “His sixth grade grandson in one of my smallest and rural counties was asked by a teacher, he said, to play the part of a transgender in a so called classroom skit on video as part of a virtual teaching exercise. If this nonsense has already seeped into rural classrooms then what’s next???”

As of Sunday afternoon, Steinburg’s post on the matter received 388 reactions, 680 comments and 149 shares.

Steinburg said he was speaking to the broader issue of the increasing spread of Leftist indoctrination in the classroom. He reiterated that he did not name the school district nor the teacher involved.

“We should get involved with our school systems and be on watch about what the curriculum is teaching students,” he said.

Steinburg said he has spoken to Superintendent Holley about the play’s content.

Steinburg noted that he trusts the grandparent who contacted him about the matter.

“His grandson got the idea from somewhere,” he said. “The boy was crying about having to play a transgender character.”

Steinburg said there is a television series of the same name known as “The Fosters” – a family drama that delves into LGBT themes. He defended his comments posted to social media.

“Apparently the play does NOT have a part that is a transgender,” Steinburg wrote when he updated his original post Friday. “However, there is a TV show – the Fosters – based on this play where one of the characters has been cast as a transgender.

“Where did this 11 year old student hear this? Obviously he was traumatized as were his parent and grandparent. I know this family well and they are a very strong Christian family who are extremely upset.

“It should not even have been mentioned in the classroom if it indeed was. I’m confident this boy did not make it up. He heard it! I am continuing to seek info on where.

“Folks- you better start getting involved in your local schools; and schools- get back to what we are paying you to do- teaching our students academics! We will handle the social issues in our homes.”

People on both sides of this latest flashpoint in the culture war posted comments either dismissing Steinburg or praising him for taking a stand.

Among the many people who left comments critical of Steinburg was Adrian Wood, who pens the blog Tales of an Educated Debutante.

“I am awfully proud to be from eastern North Carolina and consider myself a particular friend to the public schools scattered around this part of the state,” she wrote Saturday in her blog that is followed by more than 136,000 people.

“We may not have the resources that districts in big cities do, but we have a lot of heart and there is no one that deserves respect more than our teachers and administrators.

“Tonight, I heard from a Tyrrell County teacher who is the victim of a rumor circulating on Facebook.

“Worst of all?

“It originated with Senator Bob Steinburg.

“Sixth graders- in drama class- read a play called the Foster’s. Students chose characters if they wanted to read parts of the children and animals who were “fosters” and looking for forever homes.

“After a family complained that their student was forced to read the role of a transgender child, Senator Steinburg shared the ‘atrocity’ on Facebook in a post that has been shared over 100 times.

“He didn’t call the school or superintendent first.

“No, he fueled the fire of folks who raged about their tax dollars and liberals and being woke.

“And when a well-respected teacher shared with him that the play in question has no sexuality assigned to characters and chastised him for not gathering the facts?

“Steinburg wrote: ‘I don’t lie and that’s why I keep getting elected. You want to keep posting on this page I’d cut with the smart remarks. You are embarrassing yourself by being so one sided. A lot of us are busting our butts, not just teachers.’

“The Superintendent of Tyrrell County Schools issued a statement this afternoon in response to the Senator’s post:

“We have determined that there was no reference to sexuality or sexual orientation within that document.”

“And tonight, the teacher at the center of the drama said to me- ‘I don’t want my reputation ruined. What he said is not even close to being true, but everyone believes him because he’s a Senator.’

“Teachers deserve better than this ESPECIALLY from their Senators.”

Several people voiced their support for Steinburg’s concern about Leftist indoctrination in the classroom.

Jenna Lassiter Caldwell posted, “I respectfully argue that you do NOT leave the social emotion portion at home only. That’s what is suffering most with social distance and virtual learning.

“However, I encourage decision makers to not be so passive and accommodating to things that are ludicrous such as believing children truly have the psych to decipher gender decisions than the ones they were born with.

“I can be respectful of others choices without having to ‘practice’ what they believe. In my 11 years in education children don’t have an opinion about these huge political happenings.

“It’s disheartening that it has reached our small towns.”

Staff writer Miles Layton can be reached at mlayton@ncweeklies.com