With five pro-establishment Columbia Public School (CPS) board candidates beside him, pro-change candidate John Potter stood out at the Columbia Board of Realtors Mark Farnen candidate forum January 24.
So did Potter's hard-hitting answers to a question about the drag show portion of a student field trip to the annual Columbia Values Diversity breakfast a week earlier. District administrators and school board officials have taken statewide heat for failing to notify parents about the show on their children's permission slips, then doubling down over the higher moral ground (inclusiveness and diversity) they say the drag presentation represented.
"What happened here is part of a CPS pattern I've been pointing out for two and a half years," Potter told the forum audience, citing his experience as a pro-parent advocate and minority voice on issues such as transparency and accountability.
"Speaking as someone who has dealt with a lot of transparency issues in the school district, this is something the district has done before, with opt-out forms and permission forms not being transparent," Potter explained.
The example he cited was a doozy.
"The district did this with a 4th grade puberty lesson, where the lesson showed illustrations of a homosexual fantasy that might give a child a wet dream," Potter said. "But the [parental] opt-out form did not describe that."
Potter cited the drag show as one among many national trends that eventually show up in Columbia.
"A lot of things happen around our country before they come to CPS. Examples include SRG (standards-referenced grading). We should take into consideration things that happen around the country so we can prepare for them here," Potter said.
"School shootings are a good example. We don't ignore school shootings. We don't stop thinking about what we can do just because it's a national issue. It's only a matter of time before some of these national issues come to Columbia."
Grade school-sanctioned drag shows are less tame nationally than the diversity breakfast performance, Potter explained. "Drag shows that feature men wearing G strings in front of children -- there has been a lot of that around the country," he said.
"It's important for our local political leaders to be transparent on where they stand on grown men wearing G-strings dancing in front of children. We also need to know where our district stands with regard to drag story hour. I've seen that around nationally as well.
"It's important that we address these issues now, and not wait for them to appear in our district, leaving us to clean up a mess afterward."
The school board election is April 4.