No criminal charges in controversial high school play

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

CAVE CREEK, Ariz., -- Scottsdale police said Friday morning there is no evidence a crime was committed in connection with a controversial play being taught at a local high school.

Advanced drama students at Cactus Shadows High School were studying and performing a play for two weeks that had some students and parents upset and the community divided.

The Tony Award-winning Edward Albee play, "The Goat or Who is Sylvia," is about a man who falls in love with a goat. The play depicts bestiality and incest and contains sexually explicit language.

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The investigating officer spoke to all the students in the class and spoke to the parents who were concerned about the play, according to an email sent to 3TV from Sgt. Mark Clark with the Scottsdale Police Department. “Our investigation is complete and the school staff has been notified that our investigation is complete. Unless new information is uncovered, our involvement in this is finished.”

The drama teacher, Andrew Cupo, who selected the play for his class, was placed on paid administrative leave on Monday.

Meanwhile, on Friday morning students gathered at the school wearing "Free Cupo" T-shirts to show their support for the drama teacher.

“This is pornography, simply put,” said Michael Longman, who learned about the play from his 15-year-old son. “They’re having me play a guy who (expletive) a goat.”

“Tony Award-winning porn is what it is,” said Douglas, a parent who did not give his last name. “It is a play that is horrifically disgusting. It has every dark part of human sexuality that you could ever explore.”

He and several other parents immediately met with school administrators after they found out the play was being taught.

The play has been performed on Broadway, in London, in community theatres all across the country and countless universities.

“Most of the kids expressed that they were afraid to tell their parents because it was so bad,” said Douglas. "And they felt guilty like a person who has been abused would feel guilty. And they have been abused. They’ve been exposed to porn.”

“If you can’t understand that that is not material for children…you’ve got a problem,” Longman said. “This should not come anywhere near a high school age group.”

The superintendent of the Cave Creek Unified School District told 3TV she thinks the play is inappropriate for high school students.

At a packed school board meeting Monday night many parents and students defended the drama teacher.

“When I talk to my friends outside this school about why they think Cactus Shadows is great we don’t hear about our football team or our swim team. I hear about the prestigious theater program at Cactus Shadows that Andrew Cupo has built,” said one student speaking to the school board.

“I’m a conservative parent and I personally don’t love the play but I’m all in favor of our kids being exposed to a lot of different viewpoints and different literature while they’re in high school,” said Sharron Smith.

“It was very eye opening and I worked with Cupo for three years and I respect him so much. He is by far my favorite teacher and such a respectable man,” said student Emma Smith.

District officials are investigating the situation. They have not said if any disciplinary action will be taken against the teacher or his superiors at the school.

Cupo is a graduate of Cactus Shadows High School. He studied theatre at Northern Arizona University and started teaching at Cactus Shadows in 2010.