Superintendent and Columbia High Principal Comment on FNL

Brian Osborne and Lovie Lilly released a statement on Monday

On Monday, Superintendent Brian Osborne and Columbia High School principal Lovie Lilly released a statement about , a sketch comedy club. The statement appears below in full:

To the CHS Community:

As you may know, some public debate arose in response to the district's decision to cancel the final performance of "Friday Night Live" (FNL), and to the discipline meted out for infractions related to the show.  Respect for the confidentiality of students and staff members has prevented the administration from directly addressing many of these concerns publicly.  However, the ongoing controversy has prompted us to provide some clarification concerning the district's approach to responding to this incident.

As a learning community, it is essential that we create positive avenues to reaffirm our core values that everyone is important, and that everyone deserves to be respected.  Last week, controversy arose for the second time this year over the differences between humor and offense.  Sketch comedy and improvisation should indeed have a place within the public school setting.  They can be avenues for brilliance, student creativity and growth, and social satire.

This latest incident is about crossing the line, not merely a matter of who was told to do what or not to do what.  The idea that one can push the envelope in the name of "irreverent humor" by deliberately offending and denigrating others cannot be countenanced in a public school setting.  All members of the school community, no matter their role or background, should be able to participate fully in the school community without being denigrated or having aspects of their personal identity subjected to ridicule.

The FNL show contained a sketch which was particularly offensive and inappropriate for a number of reasons.  Discussing the specifics would compound the invasion of privacy of the several faculty members involved.  After being made aware of the offensive sketch on Friday June 8, administrators considered permitting the final FNL performance to take place if the sketch were eliminated.  Ultimately, however, the district determined that an additional performance was not in the best interests of the CHS community, and therefore the Saturday performance was cancelled to prevent reoccurrence.

Nevertheless, the students and their families subsequently chose to present the show on Saturday June 9 at an off-campus location.  The offensive sketch that the co-directors had agreed to eliminate remained part of the show, although we understand the characters were renamed along with other minor edits.

The district cannot comment on consequences for individual students.  We can say that the high school practice is to follow the CHS Handbook and to take into account prior student behaviors.  We have reviewed the matter and affirmed that CHS acted within its authority and applied consequences within the guidelines.

This incident has highlighted the need for more accountability and oversight of FNL and other similar groups.  Through this controversy, we understand that prior year performances have also included material patently inappropriate for a public school setting.  FNL will undergo a thorough review and guidelines will be established that will enable the development and performance of sketch comedy to continue in the best tradition of thought-provoking satire, while ensuring that all members of our school community can be free from ridicule and invasions into their private lives.

More importantly, this incident presents a learning opportunity for our school community.  Maplewood South Orange is a very special place where families of all backgrounds have chosen to come together.  As a community, it is imperative that we strive to understand other points of view, and navigate with respect the balance between intention and perception.  As the character Atticus [Finch] says in To Kill a Mockingbird: "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it."

As we work through these difficult issues together, we can renew our school community's commitment to truly respecting each other in every aspect of our lives, regardless of background or role.  The district is planning ways to create more opportunities for dialogue in the school community in the coming school year, and opportunities for each of us to take a walk in the shoes of someone else.  We look forward to continuing this dialogue with you in the coming year.

Brian G. Osborne, Ed.D.                                  Lovie Lilly, Ed.D.

Superintendent                                               Principal of Columbia High School

Morrisa da Silva June 18, 2012 at 07:39 PM
So let us all understand that this statement corroborates the FNL cast timeline of only being asked to cut the skit on Friday. This stands in direct opposition to the statement made by the district and printed in Patch previously. Marcia , can you try to get a statement regarding this discrepancy.? It seems that the punishments meted out stem from the off-site performance . This puts the district on shaky legal ground. In addition mention is made that the district decided to cancel the Saturday performance even though the skit was not going to be performed "to prevent reoccurrence" Reoccurrence of what? What were they reacting to? It is clear that the district did everything in their power to keep this from being a teachable moment and asking for this to be viewed as a learning opportunity is laughable if it weren't so sad.
christian cooper June 18, 2012 at 10:37 PM
This request for "dialog" is a complete joke. In the volleyball incident, the principal and the superintendent did their level best to intimidate the students and hide from the students and their parents when the inevitable reaction came. For a principal to take sides and to engage in race baiting is unforgivable and should be grounds for instant termination. Personnel changes must be made immediately at the principal and superintendent level, and most likely in a number of faculty positions as CHS as well. This is not an issue of race or who is right and wrong. This is an issue of arrogance and incompetence that is not in keeping with the level of educational services the people of South Orange deserve -- and which they have bought and paid for.
Marcia Worth (Editor) June 19, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Morrisa, Patch will stay on the story. Thanks!
Marian Cutler June 19, 2012 at 12:37 PM
Considering the dust storm from the last verbatim statement from the District related to the FNL mess and the obvious discrepancies between first and now second statements, I am hopeful The Patch will put forth an opinion piece and/or article about how basic communications have failed the District Administration. It is quizzical for all of the District’s talk about "learning opportunities" inherent in the FNL situation, their position appears to be that the students and community can learn from the situation, but I challenge what is the District willing to learn from their role in this mess? A journalistic perspective on the larger situation and its supporting machinations could be valuable to all involved. Marian
aimee willis June 19, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Marian, I agree, but I think any inquiries will be met with stonewalling and mumbles about confidentiality. The FNL students and their parents are trying to get a meeting with Osborne, Lilly, and the FNL advisors in one room, to get the real sequence of events and conversations straight, once and for all. Lilly and Osborne owe us an apology for defaming our children, and to the community for their complete lack of skill necessary to do the job we pay them to do. We need sensitive leaders, who accept responsibility for their actions, not adults with hair trigger tempers, who take it out on our children, and then refuse to discuss it. I should say, except for publishing edicts full of fiction and untruths that further malign minors. This has been quite a 'teachable moment' for our 'community of learning'. It really begs the question, how dumb and gullible do they think we are? Let's please show them that we know better, and that we will fight for our children, our neighbors' children, and our schools. Write and call the BOE and ask for an investigation. Don't let them dodge this.
aimee willis June 19, 2012 at 05:53 PM
An FNL parent ran into Lilly at CHS yesterday, and stopped her to speak about FNL. Lilly was surprised and expressed that in her opinion, all of this is over, why are we still talking about this? This is leadership in our high school.
MMS Parent June 19, 2012 at 07:09 PM
The entire event was unfortunate and could have been handled better on both ends....but at the same time, please tell the FNL parent to get on with her life. This was hardly the worst injustice ever visited upon a child. Sheesh!


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