New York City Mayor Eric Adams defended Thursday sending drag queens to public schools and libraries, saying that inviting flamboyant female impersonators to read to young children promotes “a love of diversity.”
The mayor’s statement came a few days after the New York Post reported that the city had paid $207,000 to Drag Story Hour NYC to read books to students at dozens of elementary schools, middle schools and high schools since 2018.
“At a time when our LGBTQ+ communities are under increased attack across this country, we must use our education system to educate,” Mr. Adams said.
“The goal is not only for our children to be academically smart, but also emotionally intelligent. Drag storytellers, and the libraries and schools that support them, are advancing a love of diversity, personal expression, and literacy that is core to what our city embraces,” he explained.
Those who aren’t fans include city council member Vickie Paladino, who said that any school in her district “participating in ‘drag queen’ degeneracy risks losing their funding.”
“It’s not ‘hate speech’ to say drag queens don’t belong in schools. I make zero apologies for that,” Ms. Paladino said in a Thursday tweet.
“Protecting children is my priority. Period. This is what I was elected for. And I will continue to be the most transparent, effective council member this district has ever had,” she said.
The storytellers include Harmonica Sunbeam, who “read books, sang songs and colored pages from The Dragtivity Book” in April with students in grades K-3 at the STAR Academy in Manhattan, the group said on Instagram.
“The Dragtivity Book,” a coloring book with “fun and educational activities,” encourages children to “find your own drag name” and “circle your pronouns.”
The books on the non-profit’s reading list include children’s classics such as “Where the Wild Things Are” as well as drag-themed books like “The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish.”
“Our programs are made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature,” said the Drag Story Hour NYC website. “Our programs are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.”
This year alone, the group said it has produced “49 Drag Story Hour programs for 34 individual public schools and special needs schools in English, Spanish, and Cantonese.”
“In May, we launched Reading with Royalty, our new middle grade and YA book discussion program for middle and high school students, with discussion questions on five of our favorite queer middle grade and [young adult] books,” said the organization.
Among those supporting the program was Democratic state Sen. Jabari Brisport, who responded to Ms. Paladino on Twitter.
“Not during Pride Month, ma’am,” Mr. Brisport said. “Retweet if you support Critical Drag Race Theory in our schools.”