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Teacher files grievance

Burroughs High educator was reassigned after productions of ‘The Laramie Project’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet.’

June 25, 2008|By Alison Tully

John Burroughs High School drama teacher Scott Bailey recently filed a grievance against the school’s principal concerning his reassignment to the English department.

The Burbank Teachers Assn. sent Principal Emilio Urioste a grievance letter in May stating that his reasons for the move were “capricious,” or not well-reasoned, Bailey said.

The reappointment came after several disagreements between Bailey and Urioste about school productions this year of “The Laramie Project,” about the killing of a gay University of Wyoming student, and a modern-day adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet.”

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Urioste must agree to a formal meeting with union representatives to reach a resolution, Bailey said.

Burbank Unified School District officials did not issue a comment on the matter, but Supt. Gregory Bowman said grievances are rare in the district.

“It is the right of the principal to make assignments based on the credentials of the teacher,” Bowman said.

Bailey said he learned about his reassignment after the annual Shakespeare tournament held at the school.

“[Urioste] didn’t ask me about the tournament or congratulate me on the several awards that my students won,” he said. “Instead, he told me that I would only be teaching English next year because the school needed to move in a different direction.”

Parents who attended “Romeo and Juliet” complained about the use of French maid costumes on the servant characters, Bailey said. He has also heard of petitions concerning the kisses between the two female leads, he said.

Bailey said Urioste told him that “The Laramie Project” would “tear the community apart,” based on its controversial subject matter. Urioste refused to allow students to perform the play at the school.

The play, written in 2000 by the Tectonic Theater Project, is based on interviews concerning Matthew Shepard’s death with townspeople from Laramie, Wyo., that playwright Moises Kaufman and other theater members conducted.

John Burroughs High students put on two sold-out shows of “The Laramie Project” in May at the Colony Theatre.

Protesters, including members of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, a group opposed to homosexuality, protested outside the theater.

Modernizing plays like “Romeo and Juliet” and performing shows such as “The Laramie Project” make students reexamine their ideals, Bailey said.

Burroughs High graduate Madison DiNapoli, who starred as Romeo in “Romeo and Juliet,” said tackling difficult subjects like those raised in “The Laramie Project” has helped her grow.

“Bailey has always chosen theater for mature audiences, but he has taught us how to deal with the subject matter in an adult manner,” DiNapoli said.

“A lot of administrators think that you shouldn’t talk about certain things [until] after high school, but the truth is that all you need to do is teach them in a productive way.”


 ALISON TULLY covers City Hall and public safety. She may be reached at (818) 637-3242 or by e-mail at alison.tully@ latimes.com.

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