Broadcasting program suspended in wake of Royse High controversy
ROYSE CITY Royse City High School’s television broadcasting program was temporarily suspended last week after school officials banned a student-produced public service announcement featuring two girls about to kiss, according to a spokeswoman for the town’s school district.
“That was just the teacher’s decision to kind of take a break and let things calm down,” said Jo Nell Mellody, a spokeswoman for the Royse City Independent School District. “It’s a temporary thing. They’ll start back up when he’s comfortable with that.”
The suspension of the program follows recent newspaper and television reports about school officials’ decision to ban the public service announcement from the high school network, known as RCTV, after its producer, senior student Mackenzie Maxwell, refused to edit out the scene of the two girls about to kiss.
“I wanted my original work to be seen,” Maxwell said of her 30-second video, titled “The Path to Happiness is Honesty.” “It’s compromising to the integrity of my work.”
Mellody said the video was banned unless it was edited to suit officials because school policy was not observed during its production.
“There were procedures that were not followed by the young lady,” Mellody said. “The video was the property of the school district, and she did not have permission and she did not have parental consent forms from the young ladies that were in the video. That’s a real problem.”
Maxwell said she has been approached by national talk shows asking her to make an appearance to tell her story, but she has yet to reach a decision on their proposals. That depends upon when and if school officials restart the broadcasting program, she said.
“I’m disappointed that they have closed down the program because I am not the only person in it,” Maxwell said. “A lot of people want to be in broadcasting. I don’t think it’s fair to them. We’ll see if they keep it closed.”
The video, which was produced at a recent high school journalism and media contest in California, shows a young woman sadly spurning the attention of a young man, then later focuses on her smiling with another young woman and about to kiss. The video ends before the kiss.
The judges of the California contest told Maxwell and another student working on the project to be creative and edgy. About 10 Royse City High School students attended the contest and wound up being filmed for a scene to be shown on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno.
Maxwell said that although she is not a lesbian, she has learned firsthand how gay and lesbian people struggle with accepting their sexual orientation through her mother, who is a lesbian.
“I’ve seen a lot of people go through this struggle,” Maxwell said. “It’s something I’m very active about, but it’s not personal to me.”
Maxwell, who plans to study public relations and political science after graduation from high school, said there have been some “ugly comments” posted on the Internet about her and the video, but that her fellow students have stood by her.
“The other students have been very supportive, which is a surprise to me,” Maxwell said. “I didn’t realize they would be so supportive of me, but they have been. They’ve been great.”
Mellody said the community apparently understands and approves of the school officials’ decision.
“We’ve not heard much at all,” Mellody said. “The other students who were involved in the video understood. We’ve had no negative response at all from our community.”
Maxwell said she and her parents hope to meet with school officials to discuss the future of the school’s broadcasting program before she decides whether to take her story to a national audience.
Maxwell noted that more people have now seen the video, which is posted on the Web sites of KDFW Fox 4 and The Dallas Morning News, than ever would have had school officials not interfered with its broadcast.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 1, 2008