All Politics is Local Politics

Clark County Council hears drag queen library program debate

It was expected to be a routine, brief approval of previously allocated funds shortly before a Clark County Council meeting. Instead, councilors on Tuesday were presented drag queen performance photos, Ms. Frizzle from “The Magic School Bus” and a Hillary Clinton quote.

Meeting as two-thirds of the Vancouver Library Capital Facility Area Board, Clark County Councilors Eileen Quiring (the council’s chair) and Temple Lentz were asked to approve tax collection amounts next year for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. The taxes are part of 20-year bonds approved by voters in 2005.

Surprisingly, roughly a dozen people signed up for public comment. Each one touched on an issue that has become more familiar locally in recent weeks: Drag Queen Story Hour.

“What is a Drag Queen Story Hour, you ask?” Gary Wilson said during the public comment session. “A fully dressed drag queen reads gender-confusing books to a target audience of 3-to 8-year-olds.”

Wilson discussed a YouTube video in which a drag queen, acting as Ms. Frizzle, performs sexual acts on a cardboard cutout of the Magic School Bus. After the performance two years ago at the Paris Theatre in Portland (not during a story hour), a drag queen, named Clare Apparently, read at one of the local story hours in February.

“Hillary Clinton once said, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ On this particular issue, she is right,” Wilson said. “It does take a village to raise a child, and we are that village. I guess you could call us the village people.”

Behind Wilson read a sign: “Save Miss Frizzle and the kids on the magic school bus from Pedo Grooming.”

Later, substitute teacher Margo Logan again mentioned the frizzled faculty member. Logan recalled a school day in which three first graders smiled, laughed and pointed at her.

“With big smiles, these three little girls went, ‘You look like Ms. Frizzle,’” Logan said. “Can you imagine those sweet first grade girls coming across (that) video on YouTube?”

After public comment, Quiring explained that the ability to stop the story hour is not within the county’s jurisdiction. But that didn’t stop councilors from weighing in.

Quring, a Republican, said she has received numerous emails from constituents on the subject.

“I do not appreciate the Drag Queen Story Hour. I think it is very age inappropriate,” said Quiring, a Republican. “I’m as upset hearing about all these things as you people here in the audience.”

Responding to the chair, Lentz, a Democrat, mentioned that she supports the right of people on both sides of the issue to express their views.

“However, there are many people in this community, and none of us has the right to decide for those others what they can see, feel, think or read,” Lentz said. “I think that the library is a place for all and that we should not be working to try to exclude voices that we disagree with from any public space.”

Lentz moderated an Oct. 10 panel discussion at the Vancouver Community Library about the story hours, leaving others on the council perturbed.

“It was such a one-sided performance by the library,” Councilor Gary Medvigy said. “You may have attended, but it was not at the behest of this council as a whole.”

Jack Heffernan

Jack Heffernan

Jack Heffernan is a breaking news reporter and covers Clark County government for The Columbian.