Public officials in Columbia, Missouri are on the spot to explain themselves after exposing school children to drag performances under the guise of a diversity celebration for MLK Day.
None of the schools informed parents the celebration would include drag performances and there is some indication that they purposefully kept the information from parents.
Middle school children from at least three schools attended the diversity breakfast sponsored by the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs, along with Mayor Barbara Buffaloe, the Libs of TikTok website reported.
The report includes a photo of a permission slip for students of Columbia’s Smithton Middle School that failed to mention the drag performances by a group called NClusion+, an organization that dubs itself “a new-age, next-level club that features all things LGBTQIA+.”
The school discouraged parental attendance by noting on the permission slip: “We do not have tickets for family members of students.”
Instead, parents were encouraged to either allow the schools to provide transportation or to drop the students off at the Holiday Inn Expo Center where the event took place.
When parents contacted the Columbia Public Schools board president, David Seamon, raising concerns about not being informed of the LQBTQ program, he dismissed their concerns, saying that “other than the keynote speaker most of the program is unknown to the public.”
Seamon’s LinkedIn profiles claims he is also Senior Operations Manager for Scholastic, the world’s largest textbook publishing company.
Prior to that, he was operations manager at Jefferson City, Missouri, for three years.
Seamon’s explanation about the failure to notify parents of the drag performances seems implausible as a website for the mayor’s office clearly advertised the drag show as including “entertainment by NClusion+,” as critics have noted.
“I am appalled with Columbia Public Schools thinking it’s appropriate for children to attend a drag show. I am even more disturbed that our Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary, school administrators and school board members were present and let it happen. Especially when parents were not told their kids were going to a drag show,” said one parent, according to the report.
Michelle Baumstark, public relations director for Columbia Public Schools, was also in attendance, and shared a photo of some members of the school board with the progressive “inclusion and diversity” slogan, “Forever Forward,” via her Twitter account.
Members of the #CPSBest Board and administration joined our community in remaining Forever Forward at the Columbia Values Diversity Celebration honoring the life and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. @CoMoGov @comoarts #diversity #unity #community pic.twitter.com/2EuOzVohmt
— Michelle Baumstark (@mbaumstark) January 19, 2023
The Lion’s repeated attempts to contact Mayor Buffaloe via email and telephone went unanswered, as did calls to Baumstark and most Columbia School Board members.
One board member who was reached by telephone said she was familiar with the incident, but wouldn’t talk to an out-of-town reporter about it.
“I am not in a position to talk to a reporter about it…I don’t want to talk to an out-of-town reporter about it. I would consider talking to a local reporter about it after doing some more thoughtful reflection,” board member Suzette Waters told The Lion.
Gov. Mike Parson expressed his concern on Friday in a tweet:
We are deeply concerned about reports that Columbia middle school students were subjected to adult performers during what is historically a MLK Day celebration. This is unacceptable.
— Governor Mike Parson (@GovParsonMO) January 20, 2023
Missouri Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden said on Thursday his office has been “inundated” with calls and emails, vowing to take action in the legislature.
I will use all the resources at my disposal to stand up for kids and their parents, especially in instances where they don't feel like their voice is being heard. #MOLeg
— Caleb Rowden (@calebrowden) January 20, 2023