A day after learning that a South Carolina high-school principal called off an upcoming campus show by the lesbian folkie group Indigo Girls, another high-school principal has decided to cancel a gig by the duo at his school.
Only this principal says it has nothing to do with their sexuality, but rather their lyrics.
Claiming that he is trying to maintain an atmosphere conducive to a good education, Germantown High School principal Ernest Chism said he decided late Thursday to call off the gig scheduled for next Tuesday at the Germantown, Tenn., school after finding out that the Grammy-winning musicians used vulgarities onstage at a show in Georgia.
"We canceled the show [Thursday] based on the lyrics to a song they performed at Loganville High School in Georgia," Chism explained, referring to the Indigo Girls tune "Shame On You" (RealAudio excerpt). The song, off the folkie duo's Shaming Of The Sun, includes a line that says: "Me and Jesus, we're of the same heart/ the only thing that keeps us distant is that I keep fucking up."
Chism, who first learned about the cancellation of the Indigo Girls' gig at Irmo High School in Irmo, S.C., on Thursday, claims that he has never heard the Indigo Girls' music and that his decision has nothing to do with the duo's homosexuality. Rather, after learning that the duo had sung those lyrics at the show at Loganville High School on April 13, Chism said he called Principal Ken Prichard there to discuss the situation. "I know very well what's acceptable on this campus, and those types of words are not acceptable," Chism said. "We don't let students use words that strong and we don't use that language."
The Indigo Girls -- singer/guitarists Amy Ray and Emily Saliers -- have been playing high schools and universities over the past month as a warm-up for their appearances on this year's popular all-women Lilith Fair and as a way to reach out to their younger fans in a smaller setting. Their May 7 show at Irmo High School, one of five that had been slated for next week, was canceled earlier this week by Principal Gerald Witt following complaints from parents and students concerning the Indigo Girls' homosexuality as well as the idea of holding a concert during a school assembly.
Not everyone at Germantown High School is buying Chism's story. Katie Fort, a 15-year-old staff reporter at The Pitchfork, Germantown High School's student newspaper, said many of the students at her school think that the cancellation has a lot to do with the fact that Ray and Saliers are lesbians. "Every single class I've gone to today, the topic of discussion has been the Indigo Girls," Fort said. "Some people think it is because they're lesbians. Some people think it's because of the incident in Georgia. Everyone has their own theories."
Fort, a fan of the Indigo Girls, said she thinks that if Principal Chism canceled the concert due to that lyric in "Shame On You," he made a mistake. "That one lyric isn't at all indicative of their work," she said.
Meanwhile, students at Irmo High School will be protesting the cancellation of the Indigo Girls' performance at their school by staging a walk-out. Jane Rish, spokeswoman for School District 5 Board of Education, which is home to the 1,800-student Irmo High, said the students are distributing flyers stating that the walk-out will occur at 8:45 a.m. on Thursday, the day the Indigo Girls were scheduled to play.
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force spokeswoman Tracey Conaty is also skeptical of Chism's explanation for the cancellation. "We have to accept it at face value," she explained. "But if he had concerns about the girls singing those lyrics, you would think he would have expressed those concerns. Not to have any dialogue seems a little dubious."
In a statement released Thursday, Saliers said she felt that the cancellations were a clear case of discrimination.
"We are saddened and angry to hear that our show at Irmo High School has been canceled," Saliers said. "It is a blatant case of homophobia. The show was canceled because we are gay."
Elizabeth Glenn, 17, Pitchfork assistant editor, however, backs Principal Chism and said he was just doing his job. "In our newspaper, they have a lot of control over what we put out because they have to watch what the students are exposed to," Glenn explained. "It's not at all a matter of politics. It's a matter of making sure Germantown is not exposed to anyone promoting bad language."
Indigo Girls manager Russell Carter, who had not yet officially heard from Principal Chism, said that he was disappointed by the cancellation. He also said the students of Germantown High School should look to the media if they want someone to blame for the cancellation. "We probably have you guys to thank for that," Carter said. "He probably keeps getting calls from you and thinks there is going to be some sort of problem."
Carter also said that the Indigo Girls were still working on putting together a free concert at an undisclosed location on Thursday to make up for the cancellation at Irmo High School.
The tour was to stop Friday (May 1) in Atlanta at the Midtown Music Fest and then play River Stages in Nashville, Tenn., on Sunday before hitting Franklin High School in Franklin, Tenn., on Monday and Farragut High School in Knoxville, Tenn., on Wednesday.
For students, staff and administrators in Irmo, this has been an exciting couple of days. "We're coming off a very long week," said Karen Flowers, advisor for The Stinger, Irmo High School's student newspaper. "It's the day before prom and this just happened a couple of days ago," Flowers explained Friday (May 1), "So it's been quite hectic around here."