Firefighters, doctors, astronauts, artists…and drag queens?
The typical middle school career fair features a wide array of moms and dads (and the occasional sibling, aunt or uncle) sharing the jobs they perform and how they help the community at large with students. The focus is on jobs and careers — and the usual career day is designed to give kids a look at a potential path and learn more about the jobs that interest them most.
Rocky Top Middle School in Thornton, Colorado took a different approach during a recent career day, which was focused on literacy and the importance of reading to a given career. Guests were invited by the school to talk about their jobs and the connection of literacy to their careers. The focus and event was overshadowed, though, by the school’s choice of speakers and failure to notify parents that one in particular could be problematic.
Jessica L’Whor, aka drag performer Zachary Sullivan, was invited to the school for the event, and attended in full drag. Using the name “Miss Jessica”, Sullivan spoke about a book, Horrible Harry. Horrible Harry covers the topics of bullying and being different, Sullivan shared the ways the book impacted him and his career.
Parents later told CNN that they were not notified of the potentially controversial performer ahead of time.
According to one parent, Sullivan is “an adult entertainer and is talking to 12-year-old students about something that’s kind of adult-natured.”
School principal Chelsea Behanna stated that the school would be sharing future career day guest lists with parents and offering alternative sessions for those students who needed them.
For parents, the visit opened up more adult conversations that may have been better if there was time to plan or notice that one guest was attending in drag. While the intention and diversity was seen as a good thing by the school district, the questions that the session may have brought up for families would have led to richer conversation had the parents been aware or even been invited to attend. By springing the guest as a surprise, the school district made it impossible for parents to make informed decisions about their own children’s education and exposure. It also meant that there was no way to opt out for those who chose to do so, and no way to explore the topic in a meaningful way for those who opted to attend.
In short, the school misstepped by bringing in an adult performer and missing out on the real conversations that this could have generated. Conversations about differences are a good thing for most families, but being able to prepare and actually have a voice in this process is an essential component.
~ Patriotic Freedom Fighter