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'Laramie Project' producer sues school

July 2, 2008 at 3:19 PM

BEAVERTON, Ore., July 2 (UPI) -- A ex-high school teacher is seeking damages from an Oregon school district, saying he was forced to quit because he tried to stage a controversial play.

Wade Willis of Portland, Ore., says he was subjected to harassment and unfairly disciplined because of his attempts to stage a school production of "The Laramie Project," the true story of gay college student slain because of his sexual orientation. Willis is seeking $125,000 in damages, The (Portland) Oregonian reported Wednesday.

Willis once taught at Southridge High School in Beaverton, Ore., where his planned 2005 production triggered outcries from parents groups, students and other teachers who debated the play's content, the newspaper said. It also drew the ire of a conservative local church group.

"At a fundamental level, this lawsuit is about a controversial play," said Willis attorney Michael Vergamini. "There was so much divisiveness and hostility that was generated as a result of wanting to put on an award-winning play that is now recognized as a great piece of literature."

School district officials offered no comment to The Oregonian.

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