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By Ashley Sharp
ELK GROVE, California (KOVR) -- A Pleasant Grove High School drag performance on campus has stirred emotion and divided parents over this question: should drag shows be allowed in schools?
A student-led routine by the high school's LGBTQ+ group showed students in drag, performing to songs in a four-minute dance.
It happened at the school's annual multicultural assembly on Friday, March 3. It's an event that has been going on for decades within the district, showcasing culture and allowing students to educate their peers on different backgrounds.
The drag performance came at the end of the assembly. Parents choosing to speak out say the district should have given them the choice of whether or not their student would attend.
"I don't think that drag belongs in school," said Amy, a mom of two sons at the school.
"And so it was a complete shock," said Heidi, who has two daughters enrolled.
Both parents asked their last names not be used to keep their students from being identified.
The moms say what disappoints them most is that school leaders did not make it known that students would be performing in drag at the assembly and that their students would be required to attend.
"They were not transparent and it was mandatory," said Heidi.
Parents say that this year, all of the groups performing were not outlined to parents ahead of the assembly like they have been in years past.
Heidi and Amy say their children texted them during Friday's assembly that they were uncomfortable with the performance.
"My son said to me, 'mom, I'm just going to put my head down.' I texted him back and said, 'you can leave if you are not comfortable' and he said that they were not allowed to," said Amy.
School district leaders told CBS13 in a statement that, "all performances at the multicultural assembly were approved by school staff and administration."
Parents say they wish they could have had a conversation with their own children about drag.
"It is my right to decide when they are exposed to certain things and when they are not," said Amy.
However, not everyone thinks the performance was inappropriate.
Beverly Kearney with Sacramento's Love is Love movement told CBS13 she sees nothing wrong with it.
"While one parent may take offense to it, what about that parent whose kid for the first time got the chance to be who they are?" asked Kearney.
She argues every child deserves to see themselves represented in school activities.
"I think it sends a message to kids that who they are is valid, it's important, it matters. That there is nothing wrong with them," said Kearney.
At the center of the debate is the question of whether performing in drag sexualizes these students.
"When you are sexualizing kids under the umbrella of inclusivity, that is where it draws a line," said Heidi, who argues certain aspects of the routine were overtly sexual.
Kearney disagrees, saying after watching the video of the performance, it was not.
"I've seen far more sexualized performances by high school dance teams and they are wearing far less clothing than the drag performers were," she said.
The Elk Grove Unified School District statement released to the media reads in its entirety:
"On Friday, March 3rd, various students at an Elk Grove Unified high school performed as part of the school's multicultural assembly. The show included only Elk Grove Unified students and was held in full compliance with student codes of conduct and existing requirements for on-campus events. All performances at the multicultural assembly were approved by school staff and administration with the support of EGUSD Secondary Education.
"All EGUSD students are protected under numerous federal, state and district anti-discrimination laws. California and federal law require schools to afford students equal opportunity and access to the school's activities and programs, in a manner that is consistent with each student's gender identity and gender expression. (California Education Code section 234.1).
"The primary responsibility for a student's attire resides with the student and families. The school district and individual schools are responsible for seeing that student attire does not interfere with the health or safety of any student, and that student attire does not contribute to a hostile or intimidating atmosphere for any student. The BP and AR 5132 Dress and Grooming includes the following:
a. Allow students to wear clothing of their choice that is comfortable.
b. Allow students to wear religious attire without fear of discipline or discrimination.
c. Allow students to wear clothing that expresses their self-identified gender.
d. Ensure that all students are treated equitably regardless of race, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, cultural observance, household income or body type/size."
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