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Columbia bookstore supports drag storytimes despite pushback from Republican lawmakers


The most recent in a series of bills in the Missouri legislature related to drag shows and transgender people is one that criminalizes drag shows that are open to minors.

A bill introduced last week by Rep. Bennie Cook (R-Houston) makes it a Class A misdemeanor to host a drag show or event of any kind that is open to minors.

It specifically targets school districts, charter schools or school employees that participate in the planning or execution of these events. Under this bill, schools would lose 25% of their state funding for participation in a drag event on a first offense. The percentage would go up with subsequent offenses.

Columbia-based Skylark Bookshop hosts drag story hours occasionally. Manager Carrie Koepke said performers wear conservative costumes to interact with children.

"It's just performers reading stories," Koepke said. "It's very very different from an adult drag show or anything burlesque or it's just a whole different beast and most of the people who have problems with drag story time have not been to a drag story time"

A Class A misdemeanor is the highest level of charge before a felony. It's punishable with up to one year in jail and a fine of $2,000 or less. Class A misdemeanors include fourth-degree assault, rioting and harassment.

The slew of legislation against drag events seemingly started after Columbia Public Schools took a group of students on a field trip to the annual "Columbia Values Diversity" breakfast, which included a 15-minute drag performance.

The students' presence at the event drew ire from Republican politicians including the governor and attorney general, who said the district might have broken the law. He has taken no legal action against CPS related to the performance.

In a letter, CPS Superintendent Brian Yearwood wrote that the school district's participation in the event is limited to the writing portion honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Yearwood said it is a misconception that the performance was grooming the students in attendance.

"Although CPS was unaware what the performance by NClusion+ would entail, their program was not an 'adult' performance," Yearwood wrote. "This type of misrepresentation is harmful to our students, our staff, and our community."

Missouri is one of several states in which conservative legislators have proposed criminal punishment for some drag performances.

Article Topic Follows: Missouri Politics
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Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.


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