Max Hightower

Sherman Independent School District does not have a policy regarding “how students are assigned to roles” when it comes to school plays.

Well, except for this time — you know, the time when 17-year-old trans male student Max Hightower was cast in the male lead in Sherman High School’s production of Oklahoma!

Max, a SHS senior, found out in October that he had been cast in the lead role. Then two weeks later he found out that he had been kicked out of the lead role  when the school principal told him and his parents that there is a “new policy that only males can play males and only females can play females,” according to Max’s father, Phillip Hightower.

Phillip Hightower told NBCDFW Channel 5 that he, his wife and his son were “devastated” by the school’s decision, which has apparently caused other students to also lose roles in the production, He said there are other parents who plan to appeal the decision, as well.

Sherman ISD has since released a statement saying that SHS’s production of Oklahoma! is being reviewed after “It was brought to the district’s attention that the current production contained mature adult themes, profane language and sexual content.”

And, seemingly in contradiction to what the principal told the Hightowers, and even what the statement itself says, the ISD’s statement continues: “There is no policy on how students are assigned to roles. As it relates to this particular production, the sex of the role as identified in the script will be used when casting.

“Because the nature and subject matter of productions vary, the district is not inclined to apply this criteria to all future productions,” the statement continued.

So. There was no policy — until there was a policy. But there’s really no policy, except, you know, this time. But there probably won’t be a policy next time. Except there might be.

Phillip Hightower said his son’s gender identity has never seemed to be an issue for the school district before now. He also praised the Sherman High School theater teacher for creating an inclusive space for all students, and said his son and their family have been comforted by their community’s reaction since the situation became public.

Phillilp Hightower said Max was invited by the theater department at Sherman-based Austin College to a special event over the weekend. There, he told NBC 5, “The outpouring of love and support was something like I’d never seen before. I didn’t see any hate in any of that.”

According to Sherman ISD’s statement, performances originally set for Dec. 8-10 are being rescheduled to “a later date,” probably sometime after Jan. 15, 2024. Between now and then, we will be working diligently to produce Oklahoma! as a music that is appropriate for the high school stage.”

— Tammye Nash