LANSDOWNE, Pa. — Unbeknownst to local residents, a “Gay-Straight Alliance” at a high school in Pennsylvania presented a drag show on Wednesday during school hours as part of a day-long event entitled “Coming Home: A Place for Everyone to Feel Safe.”
An anonymous tipster alerted The College Fix about the event at Penn Wood High School in Lansdowne, and provided photographs of a promotional flyer posted in various locations at the taxpayer-funded educational institution.
Morning sessions held at the school library centered on “Being an Ally,” “Navigating the World: College and Beyond” and “LGBTQ+ Health Issues.” In the afternoon, students could attend “singing and runway performances” in the auditorium, as well as a video on the Stonewall riots and a presentation on “the history of drag.”
Students reportedly could choose to go to class or attend one or more of the events. The drag show included three male students who dressed as females and danced to songs such as “Killing Me Softly” and “Level Up.”
“At first I was [like], I don’t know if I should do it. It’s a little weird,” one 18-year-old performer, who had participated in the school’s production of “Rent” earlier this year, said of the show. “[But] it was fun. It’s just dressing up.”
An alumni of the school who is now a vogue dancer, Kemar Jewel, also delivered a performance and “pep talk” to the students. Jewel’s YouTube page includes a music video entitled “G.A.Y. (God Accepts You).”
The show ended with an all-on-stage sing-along to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”
The advisor for the Alliance is school nurse Tracy Boyle, “a 13 year certified school nurse and educational specialist,” according to information on the school’s website.
“We’re not saying, ‘Oh, everybody be gay,’” she told the Philadelphia Enquirer. “We have straight kids who are in the show and beautiful young people [who] haven’t told us what their sexuality is, and it’s none of our business. They all want to have a fun day.”
Boyle remarked that the few who complained about the Alliance programs are “kind of still in the Dark Ages.” The events were stated to be in commemoration of Pride Month, Harvey Milk Day and the 50th year since the Stonewall riots in New York.
An overview of the group from the headquarters of the Gay-Straight Alliance Network outlines,”In addition to support, some GSAs work on educating themselves and the broader school community about sexual orientation and gender identity issues.”
“They may bring in outside speakers to cover a particular topic such as LGBTQ history. They may organize a ‘Pride Week’ or ‘LGBTQ Awareness Events’ and offer a series of educational workshops, panels, and pride celebrations.”
The concerned individual who contacted The College Fix opined that there has seemingly been an “LGBT explosion” following the retirement of Superintendent Joe Bruni.
“Bruni seemed to keep the more egregious LGBT genies in the bottle. He did not allow drag shows. He also turned down the drama director when she originally proposed ‘RENT’ as a school musical,” they stated.
“Since Mr. Bruni’s retirement years ago, … the high school has offered special scholarships for LGBT students [and] there has never been any significant pushback against the LGBT agenda in this school. Trans and gay kids are [now] quite open in their expression at the school.”
Current superintendent, Jane Ann Harbert, defended the offering, stating that some students may not have supportive homes and she wants the school environment to be a “safe place.”
“I am happy that our students are able to be free in their thoughts and the ways they want to live their lives,” she told the Philadelphia Enquirer. “Many of our children come from homes or cultures that may not be as supportive, and we want to make sure our school is a safe place for these students.”
However, the informant advised that there are “many religious people” in Lansdowne, and that “[m]ost of them have pulled their kids out of Penn Wood High School and sent them to parochial or Christian schools, but they still pay taxes to the school district. There are also many African Christians, who would be alarmed [at this program].”
Christian News Network spoke with some of the students at the school, and found that there were varying opinions about the event. Some supported the programs, while others said that they chose not to attend.
One local Christian distributed gospel literature outside of the school on Thursday and explained to students why God created male and female, which stirred discussion during the after-school outreach.
Lansdowne, a borough just outside of Philadelphia, is known for its “progressive” leadership and mindset. In 2002, it was marked as a “No Place for Hate” community by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). In 2005, Kevin Lee became the first open homosexual on the borough council.
However, as previously reported, William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania and the namesake of the William Penn School District that oversees the Penn Wood High School, was a street preacher and was once put on trial for causing a “tumultuous assembly” with his preaching.
He was also the author of such books as “No Cross, No Crown: A Discourse Showing the Nature and Discipline of the Holy Cross of Christ.”
“If men loved the cross of Christ, His precepts and doctrine, they would cross their own wills, which lead them to break Christ’s holy will and lose their own souls in doing the devil’s,” he wrote in the publication. “Had Adam minded that holy light in Paradise more than the serpent’s bait and stayed his mind on his Creator, the rewarder of fidelity, he [would have] seen the snare of the enemy and resisted him.”
“Did Christ submit His will to His Father’s, and for the joy that was set before Him, endure the cross and despise the shame of a new and untrodden way to glory? Thou must also submit thy will to Christ’s holy law and light in thy heart, and for the reward He sets before thee, to wit, eternal life, endure His cross …”
Editor’s Note: Those wishing to express their concerns about the event may contact Superintendent Jane Ann Harbert at 610-284-8005.
11:54 p.m. This article has been updated to include information reported by the Philadelphia Enquirer.