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Letter from Interim Co-Superintendents Regarding Deering Student Event - March 15, 2023

Dear Portland Public Schools community,

An upcoming event at Deering High School featuring speakers discussing the "History of Drag and Queer Joy" is drawing a lot of public attention. We want to make clear that the Portland Public Schools values student voice and supports student participation and leadership in a variety of groups and conversations that align with their interests, aspirations and identities – including this March 17 conversation.

This event is sponsored by Deering’s Gender & Sexuality Alliance (GSA) and is student-initiated and student-led, with teacher support. It will take place during Deering’s learning center block. That is a block after regular classes available for students to connect with teachers for extra help, complete assignments, or attend extracurriculars, such as athletic events, clubs or discussions like this one. The event is not taking place during regular class time and student participation is optional.

It is important and appropriate for students have opportunities to discuss the realities of their lives and our world. PPS encourages this type of discourse and supports educators and students having conversations about current events. 

This year, for example, there already have been more than 400 pieces of anti-trans legislation proposed in the United States. These include motions to ban gender-affirming care for youth and adults and to ban drag performances. All of this legislation, even when it doesn’t happen in our state, has a negative and harmful impact on trans people and their families. Students have a right to learn about and discuss these types of events and can have rich and meaningful conversations that help to inform them as they become adults.

The Portland Public Schools proudly affirms and stands with our LGBTQ+ students and staff. PPS student organizations previously have sponsored drag shows, pride events, film showings, and more that relate to understanding and celebrating LGBTQ+ identities. 

Members of the  PPS community (students, parents, educators, administrators) frequently cite the diversity of our district as one of our greatest strengths. Being educated in diverse schools opens students up to the lived experience of others. The Portland Public Schools will continue to support spaces where young people can talk openly about their own identities, support one another, and learn from people in the community.

Aaron Townsend and Melea Nalli
Interim Co-Superintendents