A transgender Texas student was kicked out of the lead role of his high school musical after his principal introduced a new gender casting policy.
Max Hightower, a senior at Sherman High School, learned just last month that he landed the starring male role in the school’s production of “Oklahoma!”
But the 17-year-old’s excitement didn’t last long.
“I’m not an activist. I’m not highly political. I have both liberal and conservative beliefs. I’m just a dad that wants to fight for his kid,” Max’s father, Phillip Hightower, told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth.
About two weeks after Max was cast, his family was notified by the school’s principal of a new policy about casting by gender, and Hightower, as well as other students, lost their roles in the production.
“And [he] said we’re instituting a new policy where only males can play males, and only females can play females,” Phillip said.
Hightower's family said his identity has never been an issue before and they intend to appeal the decision to the school board.
The Sherman Independent School District said the performance of “Oklahoma!” will be under review and has been postponed to Jan. 15, 2024.
The district said in a statement Monday: "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 said.
But Phillip Hightower said that’s not the explanation about casting he received from the principal.
“It struck me as kind of odd because it’s ‘Oklahoma!’” he said. “Maybe I saw the abridged version, but it’s not ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show.’"
The district explained that the production was under review because it “contained mature adult themes, profane language, and sexual content.”
"Unfortunately, all aspects of the production need to be reviewed, including content, stage production/props, and casting to ensure that the production is appropriate for the high school stage," the statement said.
Despite the drama over the high musical, Hightower said he’s been stunned by the “outpouring of love and support” for Max.
“I’m not going to quit advocating for my son — ever. Max has shown me what real strength is,” Hightower said.