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Missouri Attorney General won't back off legal threats against school district over a drag show

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Andrew Bailey, newly appointed Missouri Attorney General, gives remarks after being sworn in on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023, at the Missouri Supreme Court in Jefferson City.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Andrew Bailey, the newly appointed Missouri Attorney General, says he'll continue to seek the resignation or termination of Columbia Public Schools officials.

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey says "all legal options are on the table" to punish Columbia Public Schools for a drag show that around 30 students also attended. The school district and the drag performance group Nclusion Plus have repeatedly rebutted the Attorney General's claims, explaining that the show was "G-rated" and not sexual in nature.

Earlier this month, drag performers from the groupNclusion Plusput on a musical show at the annual Columbia Values Diversity Breakfast. About 30 middle school students from Columbia Public Schools were among the 1,000 attendees.

Missouri Attorney General Baileysubsequently sent letters to Columbia Public Schoolsarguing that the district had violated Missouri state laws that make it a crime to share "sexually explicit" material with young students.

But, Nclusion Plus director of marketing Brandon Banks recently told the Missouri Independent that the performance was a "G-rated" experience, and there was no explicit material in the performance.

“The approach we took to songs, when we told the entertainers, was to offer something positive, uplifting, a song fit for a general family audience,” Banks said.

Nclusion Plus hosts regular drag shows in Columbia, Kansas City and St. Louis, and advertises that it "provides a safe and valuable place for members to feel at home and be connected to fellow members of the LGBTQIA+ community."

Bailey doubled down on his attack against the drag performance on KCUR's Up To Date on Tuesday.

"It doesn't matter if it was G-rated, PG-13, R or X. The drag show itself is an outward expression of a desired inward sexuality," Bailey claimed. "And it emphasizes sexual characteristics that appeal to the prurient interest. It is inherently sexual. It teaches human sexuality."

Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Brian Yearwood echoed the response of Nclusion Plus in a letter to Gov. Mike Parson last week, calling out "an unfortunate amount of misinformation being shared outside our community" regarding the performance.

"Any characterization of the 'Columbia Values Diversity' Breakfast as 'child endangerment' or having a 'sexual nature' or violating state law is categorically false," the letter read. "Although CPS was unaware what the performance by NClusion+ would entail, their program was not an 'adult' performance. This type of misrepresentation is harmful to our students, our staff, and our community."

Despite the pushback, Bailey says "all legal options are on the table."

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
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