An English secondary school has cancelled its LGBTQ+ Pride day in which children as young as 11 were reportedly encouraged to dress in “full-blown drag” for, sparking widespread backlash.
In a letter to parents, the New Mills School, in Derbyshire reportedly encouraged students to come to school in drag to celebrate its “Drag ‘n’ Rainbows’ themed event to be held on June 16th to celebrate Pride month.
The letter, which was seen by The Telegraph said that students “may express themselves by doing something small like wearing a tutu, make-up, or painting their nails, to going all out in full-blown drag… we are encouraging all students of all genders to wear something rainbow or colourful”.
The secondary school’s senior leader of its science department, Thomas Robertson explained in the letter to parents that the school believes that “drag is an art form that is fundamental to the LGBT+ community that challenges the norm as a celebration and as a form of protest”.
The teacher went on to say that the school is also planning to hold an LGBT-themed catwalk for students on its Pride Day and that “before school and during break and lunchtime, there will be free drag stations where any student of any gender can apply some glitter, eye shadow or paint their nails to fully express themselves”.
Following the publication of the letter and a subsequent backlash, the school’s headmistress, Heather Watts, said that the event would no longer go ahead, blaming press coverage of the planned event.
‘I have today taken the decision to cancel Friday’s event, to avoid any potential disruption to the school on that day, when many of our pupils will be taking GCSE exams,” she told the Daily Mail.
“Although we support diversity, I have to consider the well-being of all our pupils and with a large number of students taking their exams I have to consider the potential impact of any distractions,” Watts added.
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In the letter to parents, Mr Robertson also revealed that the controversial head of Drag Queen Story Hour UK, Sab Samuel, had also been invited to speak to 13 to 15-year-old students at the school to discuss mental health and suicide in the context of homophobia.
The revelations sparked concerns from parliamentarians and parents groups, with Tracy Shaw of the Safe Schools Alliance UK, criticising the previous decision to put on a drag event, the suitability of which for children she said is “widely contested.”
Shaw went on to say that the parent’s group is also “extremely concerned” about the school inviting a drag queen to discuss suicide with children, noting that the sensitive topic should only be discussed with youngsters by people with “rigorous safeguarding and mental health training”.
“Once again safeguarding has gone out of the window as the school appears to be more interested in demonstrating how ‘inclusive’ they are rather than thinking about what inclusivity means,” Shaw said.
Joining the condemnation, the head of the Commons education select committee, Tory MP Robin Walker said that schools should be “sensitive to the views of parents” when discussing LGBT matters and not go “beyond what most people would see as reasonable”.
“One of the concerns we’ve heard widely is that there is a threshold but no ceiling as to what needs to get taught. It should be age-appropriate and discussed actively with parents. It sounds in this case like a school going well beyond that and of course that is a matter of concern,” Walker said.
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