An Adams 12 Five Star schools middle school will now notify parents of all guests that come into the classroom after some parents expressed concern over a particular visitor.

Rocky Top Middle School invited Ms. Jessica, a drag queen, to the school’s literacy day last Friday. Jessica said the Thornton school reached out to her after a student asked to invite her.

After concerns from parents, Principal Chelsea Behanna sent a letter to parents Monday taking responsibility for not notifying them a drag queen would be in the middle school. She explained staff was told and apologized for not doing the same for parents. The letter said the school will now inform parents of every guest.

Jessica said it would not be fair if she was the only one who a notice went out for.

“I relate this to an actor or actress. Would you ask any of the other professions for your child to see them?” she asked. “It demeans my career, my job, by making me be the only one that has a permission slip. Everybody should have a permission slip. Or just say here are our speakers and that’s how it is.”

School officials welcomed people from multiple professions to talk about how literacy influenced their careers. Jessica talked about being a drag queen, answered students’ questions, and read a chapter from ‘Horrible Harry.’ She used the book to discuss the damage bullies can do.

Jessica goes by the stage name Jessica L’Whor. She said she did not give out her last name because she did not feel it was right for a school setting.

“Everyone was very excited, very curious,” Jessica said. “Even though I did not release my last name or social media information I had a lot of kids reach out on social media, find me and just say I made their day or I made their week. One person related to what I was talking about, so that was really awesome to hear.”

Rocky Top’s Principal praised Jessica’s visit in the letter to parents. You can read the full letter below:

October 22nd, 2018

Good Afternoon Grizzly Families,

Last Friday, Rocky Top hosted our 2nd Annual Rocky Top READS! event, and it was a great success because of so many people! We put out a call to our families and community members and received an overwhelming response. As a result, we welcomed more than 100 guest readers throughout the day on Friday!

Our volunteer guest readers spent 20 minutes in different classrooms talking about their career and its connection to literacy, reading to the students and then answering questions. In addition to highlighting the connection between literacy and a successful career, this event reflected the diversity of our community. We had a broad range of careers represented--- emergency responders, elected officials, clergy, research assistants, tradespeople, journalists, professional athletes and even a drag queen!

All families in our Grizzly community are receiving this letter because a handful of people have expressed concern over the presence of a drag queen in our middle school. Jessica, the drag queen, began her guest session with an explanation of her career--as did all other guests. She explained that she is a performer who, though a man, portrays a woman for her performances. She detailed her background in the performing arts throughout middle and high school, talked about her dream of being a teacher, then explained how she earned a business degree from Colorado State University. Jessica then read a great chapter from Horrible Harry in Room 2B by Suzy Kline. She used the text to illustrate the damage bullies can do, the need to always put kindness and acceptance at the forefront, and the shortsightedness of judging a book by its cover. Students were completely engaged and asked lots of great questions.

I take responsibility for not notifying families ahead of time and apologize for any stress this has caused you and your child. This year we used the same process as last year, sharing the schedule of speakers with staff so they could prepare students and plan for questions, but realize we cannot make it the students’ responsibility to share that information at home. Moving forward, a prominent step in planning for next year will be to share the guest list for all families prior to the event. Should you feel like any of the sessions are not appropriate for your child, you’ll be welcome to notify us and we’ll make alternate arrangements for your child during that time.

We’re thankful for the many volunteers who made this year’s Rocky Top READS! event a success. The focus of the event was a celebration of literacy and was reflected in the incredibly positive experiences of staff, students and guests throughout the day.

Thank you for your continued support of Rocky Top,

Chelsea Behanna