Under pressure from the state, Orlando school cancels drag talk with Momma Rose
Jason DeShazo, a man from Lakeland, Fla. who plays Momma Ashley Rose, expected to visit an Orlando high school on Thursday to talk about his gay-straight alliance.
Instead, DeShazo learned the day before the event that the Florida Department of Education forced the cancellation of “Drag and Donuts” as part of a statewide crackdown. by Governor Ron DeSantis and state lawmakers on drag activities around minors.
Both DeShazo and the principal of Boone High School stressed that the voluntary after-school event was not a drag show. DeShazo said he plans to speak to members of the school’s Queer and Ally Alliance about life as a gay man and answer any questions students have.
He said he spoke to such clubs several times at extracurricular events, including at least three in Polk County. It would have been his third or fourth time talking to Boone, he said. He asks clubs if they prefer him to appear as himself or in drag, and he says students almost invariably ask for “Momma”.
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Charity raises funds for LGBT youth
DeShazo, 43, runs the Momma Rose Dynasty, a charitable foundation that raises money to support LGBTQ youth.
The cancellation apparently followed criticism from Alicia Farrant, an Orange County school board member who is a member of Moms for Liberty, a conservative group. Farrant posted on Facebook saying schools shouldn’t “invite drag queens to eat donuts with our kids,” the Orlando Sentinel reported.
DeShazo said he woke up Wednesday to emails and screenshots of Farrant’s message. He said he quickly spoke to a Boone High administrator, who confirmed the event would continue. A school official later called after consulting with an attorney and gave DeShazo a list of activities that would not be permitted, he said.
He emphasized that he did not wear skimpy outfits, use foul or foul language, or perform in a risque manner. He describes his drag persona as a Southern matron and calls himself “the Disney drag chain”.
But later Wednesday, DeShazo said, Boone’s manager, Hector Maestre, called to tell him the meeting with the students had been canceled. He said that Maestre “was very upset that he had to cancel. It was because the Ministry of Education was threatening the administration with, I guess, stripping them of their license and losing their jobs, if they agreed to this. .
DeShazo said he learned that school employees had received death threats after news of the club’s planned event broke.
County under pressure from Florida authorities
Orange County Public Schools released a statement:
“One of the after-school student clubs has invited a guest speaker to attend their regular meeting. The Donuts & Drag event was not a drag show, but an opportunity for students to hear a positive message of acceptance and love. This was to be the third year the speaker had addressed this club.
“Following an appeal from the Florida Department of Education, the event has been cancelled. The department questioned whether the event was age and developmentally appropriate and advised that any administrator, teacher or member of staff present could be the subject of an investigation and jeopardize their professional career. License.”
The Department of Education did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent Thursday morning.
DeShazo said a monthly event he hosts at a Lake Wales restaurant has also been canceled indefinitely in response to threats and loss of business.
“Churches and all these people were sharing hateful things about the events,” he said. “So it’s literally been like back-to-back stuff this week. It’s not just Boone. It’s stuff happening in our own city.
Gary White can be reached at email@example.com or 863-802-7518. Follow on Twitter @garywhite13.