Annual ‘Drag and Donuts’ event canceled at Florida high school. ‘Shocked and dismayed’

·3 min read
Screengrab from Boone High QAA on Instagram

A “Drag and Donuts” event set to be held at a Florida school for a third year has been canceled, officials said.

An LGBTQ student club at Boone High School in Orlando planned to welcome guest Jason DeShazo, a performer also known as Momma Ashley Rose. He was scheduled to dress in drag and share his “story as a queer person” on Thursday, March 23, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

The annual after-school gathering wasn’t going to be a drag show but instead was an “opportunity for the students to hear a positive message of acceptance and love,” an Orange County Public Schools spokesperson told McClatchy News in an email.

But on March 22, Boone High School announced it was canceling the event after it reported receiving a call from the Florida Department of Education.

“The Department questioned whether the event was age and developmentally appropriate and indicated any administrator, teacher, or staff member in attendance may be investigated and jeopardize their professional license,” the district wrote in its statement.

The same day as the cancellation, Momma Ashley Rose in a Facebook post said “it has been proven that our events are positive, educational, and beneficial.”

“I was shocked and dismayed today to learn that the third annual Drag and Donuts event with the Boone High School (Queer and Ally Alliance) was abruptly cancelled when the Florida Department of Education threatened to strip the licenses of any teacher, administrator or staff having any involvement with this totally voluntary, student-led, after-school event,” the post said.

School board member Alicia Farrant had expressed concerns about the “Drag and Donuts” event the morning it was called off, though she told WKMG she wasn’t behind the cancellation.

“I do NOT condone this type of event,” Farrant wrote March 22 on Facebook. “We need to be RAISING the standard of excellence in our schools and helping students excel academically, not inviting drag queens in to eat donuts with our children.”

The cancellation comes as Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration plans to expand the contentious Parental Rights in Education Act, which critics have called the “Don’t Say Gay” law, to higher grade levels. Under the new rule, Florida students up to grade 12 wouldn’t be allowed to be taught about gender identity and sexual orientation, the Associated Press reported March 22.

Also this week, Momma Ashley Rose was among the entertainers who spoke out against “proposed legislation that, if approved, would tighten restrictions on venues that allow minors into drag queen performances,” the Miami Herald reported.

After the event was nixed, the performer in a statement wrote: “This is clearly an attack on the LGBTQ+ community and harmful to our queer youth and their families.”

It’s just donuts y’all. It’s just donuts,” DeShazo told WESH. “It’s an after-school club. They can invite a sportsperson to come in and speak to a sports team. What’s the difference in inviting a queer person to speak to the queer youth?”

But school board member Farrant told WKMG she believes the cancellation was justified.

“We have a high standard of morals and dignity here in Orange County for our public schools,” Farrant said. “What happens outside of our public schools is on parents, but here in our public schools, as educators, we are held to a higher standard.”

In the wake of the cancellation, the Queer and Ally Alliance in an Instagram post said it plans to have an alternate event that will discuss Florida’s education policy.

“There was nothing wrong with what ‘(Momma) Rose’ was going to wear if it was on a woman,” Scarlett Seyler, a high school junior and president of the student group, told WOFL. “It was a wig and a dress. But the problem was who was in the dress.”

The Florida Department of Education didn’t immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for additional information on March 23.

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