LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — Online backlash is spreading over a video posted of an after-school drag show event held at Hempfield High School in Lancaster County on April 25.
Hempfield High School’s Gay Sexuality Alliance club hosted the event, which featured professional drag queen performers. During the show, performers wore tight, revealing clothes and danced provocatively.
The performers volunteered for the event and were not paid, according to a production company that was not involved with this event but does work with the same performers.
After a video of the show surfaced online, parents took to social media with strong opinions on the appropriateness of the event.
Meridith Hilt, mother of a 1st grader and an 8th grader in the district, moderates an online community group called “Let’s Talk Hempfield.” The page has been inundated with parents both outraged by and in support of the drag show.
Hilt said the video did concern her, not because of her kids potentially being exposed to different sexual identities, but rather to oversexualization.
“This has nothing to do with LGBT people. It has nothing to do with the GSA club at the school,” Hilt said. “This has to do with adults who were in the high school performing in a sexualized way for children.”
Hempfield School District responded to the backlash by putting one employee on administrative leave. The employee was not identified, but the school’s website identifies the club’s two teacher advisors as French teacher Kelly Tyson and English teacher Carla Vicidomini.
The school district released a statement, saying in part,
“First and foremost, the administration team apologizes to students, parents, and the community on behalf of those involved in this event. We are appalled at what took place and in no way condone this type of activity in our schools. Neither the dress of the invited guests nor the performance was appropriate in our school setting.”
Parents said they wanted the school district to restore their trust.
“I realize that this has put the district in a difficult position. This is a painful time for a lot of people: teachers, students, parents,” Hilt said. “But I think ultimately something good is going to come out of this.”
The incident caught the attention of State Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster), who plans to introduce a bill that would require schools to identify sexually explicit content in school curriculum and notify parents if their child's coursework includes such content.
Aument is still working on a definition of “sexually explicit” for the bill, but it hasn’t yet been finalized.
“Very specific descriptions and visual depictions of sexual acts. That really is the heart of what we're talking about,” he said.
Aument said the drag show would likely meet the bill’s definition of inappropriate, though it’s unclear whether the law would apply to after-school events.
“The images that I've seen certainly to me see to be inappropriate in a school setting and are sexually explicit,” Aument said.
The Hempfield School Board’s next meeting is May 10, when parents on both sides of the issue are already planning to bring up the incident.