Community divided over Willis High School drag queen event

Conroe ISD trustee Dale Inman criticized Willis ISD at its Nov. 11 meeting. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)
Conroe ISD trustee Dale Inman criticized Willis ISD at its Nov. 11 meeting. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)

Conroe ISD trustee Dale Inman criticized Willis ISD at its Nov. 11 meeting. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)

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The Willis ISD board of trustees heard public comments for more than 30 minutes. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Stephanie Hodgins, the principal of Willis High School, said, "Great things are happening and will continue to happen at Willis High School." (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)
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An attendee at the meeting wore a shirt that reads "Teach Love, Not Hate." (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Jason Rocha, the president and CEO of The Woodlands Pride, spoke at the meeting and said 40% of LGBT teenagers attempt suicide because "they didn't feel loved." (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)

Amidst applause, boos and shouts, Willis ISD residents debated the issue of a drag queen makeup class at the Nov. 11 board of trustees meeting.

The board heard public comments for more than 30 minutes, almost all focused on an Oct. 18 event when Houston-based drag queen Lynn Adonis-Deveaux spoke in front of a Willis High School cosmetology class. Following the event, Conroe ISD trustee Dale Inman took to social media to criticize the event, the school and the district.

Inman spoke at the WISD meeting, criticizing the trustees for “flipping this story on its ear” and attacking him “personally as the whistleblower.”

“Who’s responsible for authorizing this adult entertainer who works in the sexually oriented business industry to enter the Willis High School and lay hands on our children?” Inman said.

Willis High School Principal Stephanie Hodgins was booed as she introduced herself. She said her staff is working on a model to improve student learning and student growth.

“We make decisions always keeping in mind these questions: Is this what’s best for kids? Is this going to help us grow academically?” Hodgins said. “If the answer to these questions is no, then we move on. But if the answer if yes, then we are moving in the right direction.”

Several teachers spoke in support of the event and asked for more support for the LGBT community and the students in the district. Anthony Lane, a Willis High School English teacher and parent, said he regularly hears homophobic slurs in the hallways.

“I think as a district we need to make an initiative to teach our kids to be tolerant and respectful,” Lane said.

Other parents and residents supported Inman’s comments and criticized the district for allowing the event to happen. David Riley, a pastor at Grace Family Fellowship church, said it was the “character” of Adonis-Deveaux that mattered.

“My question is this: Who examined the character of the person who stood before our kids?” Riley asked.

In a statement sent to parents, WISD said the trustees “have examined our process on guest speakers and have made some adjustments in regard to communication to better serve the Willis ISD Community.”

Many parents asked to know who was responsible for allowing the event happen in the first place and what changes to the policy have been made.

“Other than hearing the word ‘It won’t happen again,’ I have heard and seen nothing,” resident Gary Buckaloo said.

The meeting also brought out non-WISD residents, including Jason Rocha, the president and CEO of The Woodlands Pride. The board of trustees did not respond to comments at the meeting.

The next WISD meeting is Dec. 9 at 5:30 p.m. at 204 W. Rogers Road, Willis.

By Andy Li
Originally from Boone, North Carolina, Andy Li is a graduate of East Carolina University with degrees in Communication with a concentration in Journalism and Political Science. While in school, he worked as a performing arts reporter, news, arts and copy editor and a columnist at the campus newspaper, The East Carolinian. He also had the privilege to work with NPR’s Next Generation Radio, a project for student journalists exploring radio news. Moving to Houston in May 2019, he now works as the reporter for the Conroe/Montgomery edition of Community Impact Newspaper.


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