Numerous parents have expressed their outrage over Bristol Primary school’s initiative to bring in cross dressing men for World Book Day.
The Drag Queen Story Time organization has performed for over 2,000 children over the course of the past eight months, which included readings conducted for the Bristol’s libraries back in the summer of 2017, in order to teach “tolerance” for LGBTQ lifestyles. The Bristol Post reports:
Disgruntled parents of a Bristol primary school have hit out at the academy for going a “step too far” in inviting drag queens to read stories of tolerance to their children for World Book Day.
Parson Street Primary School is welcoming the Drag Queen Story Time (DQST) organisation on March 1, 2018 to ‘Share a Story’ with them in keeping with this year’s book day theme.
Speaking to the Bristol Post, a number of parents expressed concern about who the drag queens are as adult entertainers and the age-appropriateness of the reading materials.
The organisation has had country-wide success in teaching LGBT tolerance after a crowd funding campaign helped founder Tom Canham buy books and pay for a DBS check to perform in nurseries in London.
A team of six drag queens have since performed to over 2,000 children during the past eight months, including those who attended the performances in Bristol libraries over summer 2017.
Speaking about the project last year, 25-year-old Mr Canham said: “For me the project is about drag queens providing fun and inclusive reading for children about issues around misogyny, homophobia, racism, LGBTQ and gender fluidity in a way which they can understand.
“Racism, homophobia, misogyny and the like are all learnt behaviours – we aren’t born with any form of hatred, you get taught it over time. And if projects like these can go some small way to helping prevent or curtail that, then it can only be a good thing.”
However, many of the parents at the Bedminster primary are in disagreement with the event. “Lots of parents at the school are not happy about it but the headmaster says there’s no negotiation and if we don’t like it we should take our kids out of school on an unauthorised absence,” said one mum who asked to remain anonymous.
“There are books dotted around the school about sexuality, they learn a lot about LGBTQ+ in that school and that’s fine,” said the mum.
“But I just think it’s gone too far now and the head is using his position of power and influence to push this information on the children.
“One of the drag queens refers to herself as Bristol’s Resident Slag, these are children of between four and 11 – they don’t need to be exposed to that.
“They are adult entertainers, I just don’t see how that is age appropriate,” she added.
Several mothers also accused the headmaster of the school Mr Jamie Barry of being deliberately “vague” about which drag queens were attending the school and what stories they would be reading.
However, the school stated it takes the safeguarding of its pupils to be their absolute priority and confirmed it has communicated information about DQST to the parents of the school prior to the event.
DQST organiser Mr Canham said: “All of the reading material we use at our performances are specifically written for children, and cover all of the topics we engage with in an age appropriate format.
“If parents have any worries, especially in regards to age appropriateness then I encourage them to go on our Facebook page which has all the books and authors we use at readings. It ranges from The Hungry Caterpillar to And Tango Makes Three.”
Parents’ agitation is also to with whether or not the drag queens who volunteer with the self-funded organisation are DBS checked.
However, the organisation reassured many of the drag queens it uses are already DBS checked for jobs they have done previously as teachers and volunteers in outreach programmes.
Mr Canham added: “But, as the law states no-one has to be DBS checked unless they have regular unsupervised contact with the children, so we are going above and beyond what the law tells us to do. But we are currently trying to sort out DBS checks for all our queens.”
He also said Miss B, one of the drag queens parents had concerns about, was not scheduled to perform at the school.
“Drag Queen Story Time understands and appreciates the concerns of all parents who may be apprehensive about engagement with our project. When people think of Drag Queens, they think of adult entertainment that isn’t age appropriate for children,” said Mr Canham.
“However, our performers are at the top of their field in their art form, and like all performance artists are able to tailor their performance to the audience that they work with.
“We have worked with organisations from all across the country, from London to Manchester. Receiving five-star reviews and requests for repeat performances from teachers, parents and children alike,” he added.
DQST is officially registered with the LGBT Consortium, and in contact with Stonewall, Schools Out, and various other LGBT groups that provide resources to tackle HBT bullying nationwide.
“We fully support all of the efforts being made by Parson Street Primary School, and Mr Barry, to ensure that the school is at the forefront of providing a safe and inclusive space for all children that they teach,” said Mr Canham.
“I whole-heartedly believe they should learn about these ideas. When you introduce tolerance at a young age they take it on board. Many of these children will not be LGBT themselves but they will at some point come into contact with someone who is,” Mr Canham added.
“We have an opportunity to provide our children with a better world in which to grow up, free from fear of rejection, or abuse, for being who they are – and Drag Queen Story Time is proud to be working with fantastic organisations all across the country to help make that a reality.”
Parson Street Primary School is the first Bristol school to be awarded a Gold Practice Status for promoting equality and diversity. The curriculum at the academy primary being ‘Live and Learn’, “preparing children to live in an ever-changing and diverse world”.
Mr Jamie Barry, headteacher at Parson Street Primary School, said: “ We are a community-focused school and lots of effort is put into working in partnership with parents. We understand the concerns that have been raised and have spoken with many of our community to reassure them of the appropriateness of the activities planned for World Book Day.
“Children are at the centre of all that we do at Parson Street so it is fantastic that so many of them are excited about March 1. We know that many of our parents are also equally as excited and they look forward to also joining us on the day.”
Cllr Anna Keen, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills for Bristol City Council, said: “We are very supportive of children engaging with different groups of people in an educational setting as it teaches them about accepting themselves and others.
“We know that good reading skills can help set children up for life and reduce inequalities.
“Our experience of welcoming Drag Queen Story Time in to our libraries was very positive and successful.”
School systems on both sides of the Atlantic are in full swing on their agenda to promote LGBTQ lifestyles to young, impressionable children, regardless of their age. The LGBTQ community feels as though it must force their way of life on the community at large given the reality that they are a societal minority, and they intend to change that with a healthy propaganda campaign in every facet of community life.
These activities are being pushed on families even as they protest in outrage against it. It increasingly seems as though these school districts and LGBTQ organizations will have their way regardless of whether it is welcomed by the community, and opposition against such agenda will continue to be termed “hate speech” and “intolerance”.