Due to administrative concerns about demonstrators, the Pride festival planned for this Friday at Atkinson Elementary School in Southeast Portland was canceled.
“Given the fact that the event’s guiding purpose has been overshadowed by manufactured controversy and anti-Queer bias, the event is canceled,” wrote the school’s interim principal, Beth Essex, in a May 5 email to parents.
“Inaccurate rumors about this event have been shared on social media, leading to sensationalized media inquiries and shameful, hate-infused vitriol aimed at some of the most vulnerable members of our community.”
In a letter issued earlier this week, Atkinson’s parents asked Portland Public Schools’ administration how it planned to keep an eye out for potential disrupters who might still show up on campus despite the event being canceled.
Backlash causes Portland elementary to cancel Pride Fest; Aaron Mesh tweets about it.
A Southeast Portland elementary school cancelled a Pride festival scheduled for Friday after several conservative social media sites circulated word of the event, sparking administrative concerns about protesters. @sophiegreenleaf reports. https://t.co/0vMcrAHGqS
— Aaron Mesh (@AaronMesh) May 19, 2023
As of Thursday morning, wweek.com claims that the letter’s authors reported hearing nothing back from the district. “The school’s phone line was clogged with hateful calls. On the same day that a local right-wing radio host spread misinformation on his live talk show, a school window was broken,” the open letter reads.
“This Friday, we will not be spending the afternoon celebrating with our queer and trans kids, allies, families, and community. Instead, we are on edge. We are scared that transphobic and homophobic adult agitators may descend on Atkinson to further intimidate our community.”
The superintendent of schools for the district, John Franco, released a statement to parents on Thursday afternoon.
Franco expressed his regret and disappointment at the circumstances that led to the cancellation of tomorrow’s event. I want to tell you that tomorrow will be a normal, safe school day.
“I am sincerely sorry that tomorrow’s event had to be canceled, and sincerely dismayed by the circumstances leading to that outcome,” Franco said. “I want to reassure you of the district’s commitment to a safe, typical school day tomorrow.”
The district worked with Portland police to “monitor the situation,” Franco said, and “at this time, they are not concerned about possible disruption or violence.”
Earlier this month, the Atkinson incident was discussed on social media by both liberal and conservative individuals, including KXL talk show host Lars Larson.
“Elementary school counselor in [PPS] is holding a drag show for students in school,” Libs of TikTok posted on May 2 on Twitter. “The counselor advertises that the event will feature BIPOC drag queens and be ‘centered around the exploration of gender.’”
The event and the school counselor who planned it were widely criticized in the thousands of comments and retweet that the original post received. People were encouraged to show up and disrupt the event in the comments section.
Larson tells WW that Atkinson’s parents contacted him. “The parents didn’t feel it was age-appropriate,” he says. “By canceling the event, the school has admitted as much.”
Kate Rubick is the chapter leader for parents of transgender children in Portland, Oregon, and the parent of a transgender child in the Riverdale School District. Rubick claims the school system did not take transgender students’ safety seriously despite a national upsurge in anti-trans laws.
The following is the most recent schedule of upcoming Portland events:
- Portland’s New Safe Rest Village Disturbs Neighbors.
- Homeless Portlander Becomes Homeless Again After Apartment Fire.
- Deputy Loses Finger Tip: Portland Jail on High Alert
“I am very surprised that the school district chose to delay messaging parents around this issue in a more timely manner because it involved the safety of kids,” Rubick says. “And if there’s an issue of safety and children at a Portland public school, the district should be communicating about that.”
“I think it can be easy sometimes to think about what’s going on in places like Texas and Florida and think Portland must be a safer place to be a trans person. But, of course, that’s not true. It might be safer, but it’s not safe.”
Keep up with the local news? Join us on Twitter to keep up with their lives.