Portland Elementary School Cancels Pride Event After Conservative Backlash

A Portland elementary school was forced to cancel a pride festival after news of the event started to circle on conservative social media sites. Atkinson Elementary School interim principal Beth Essex said the news articles caused concern among parents over potential protests. “Given the fact that the event’s guiding purpose has been overshadowed by manufactured controversy and anti-Queer bias, the event is canceled,” she wrote in an email to parents. “Inaccurate rumors about this event have been shared on social media, leading to sensationalized media inquiries and shameful, hate-infused vitriol aimed at some of the most vulnerable members of our community.” 

The optional after-school event was set to feature “a gender-affirming Q&A, drag show and drag queen story time, self-defense demonstrations, makeup and nail polish stations, crafts.” In addition to the articles, Essex said that the school was receiving threats online and by phone. News of the event was also featured by local conservative radio host Lars Larson, who claimed that parents contacted him to complain about the event. “The parents didn’t feel it was age-appropriate,” he told Willamette Week. “By canceling the event, the school has admitted as much.”

The cancellation is part of a nationwide push against drag queen storytimes and other LGBT events aimed at children. Atkinson Elementary School parents raised concerns that such a thing could happen in a liberal city like Portland.  “I am very surprised that the school district chose to delay messaging to parents around this issue in a more timely manner; because it involved the safety of kids,” Kate Rubick told Willamette Week. She is the parent of a trans student at Atkinson Elementary “And if there’s an issue of safety and children at a Portland public school, the district should be communicating about that. I think it can be easy sometimes to think about what’s going on in places like Texas and Florida and think Portland must be a safer place to be a trans person. But, of course, that’s not true. It might be safer, but it’s not safe.” 

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