Empower Wisconsin | April 12, 2022
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Last week’s Middleton High School’s Fine Arts Week culminated with a song and dance performance by French teacher Matthew Kashdan — in drag.
Kashdan strutted onto the auditorium stage in a high-cut, blue sequinned dress, red boots and blond wig, lip-syncing and dancing to “Rain on Me” by pop divas Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande. It was all a surprise to the assembled students.
The performance was captured on video and sent to conservative talk show host Vicki McKenna.
Kashdan’s act is not sitting well with parents who believe public schools aren’t the place for drag queen cotillions.
“I send my children to school and entrust them to teachers that I have to believe are professionals who won’t destroy their innocence for their own pleasure,” a Middleton-Cross Plains Area Schools parent wrote in an email alerting McKenna. “If MATTHEW KASHDAN makes a decision to perform his drag show at school, what else does he do in his classroom with a roomful of children? What kind of educators thought this was appropriate? Drag shows are “fine arts”? If a teacher is a pole dancer or stripper, can they also perform for my children?”
“I don’t care what MATTHEW KASHDAN does outside of school. I DO CARE what he does at Middleton High School,” the parent added.
Shannon Valladolid, the district’s director of Information and Public Relations, said Fine Arts Week is an annual event at Middleton High School that allows students and staff to showcase their talents in music, art, dance, and theater.
“The week is full of performances that are enjoyed by students and staff alike. Performances range from music to dance to martial arts, culinary arts, visual arts, language arts, and other arts that fit our extensive definition of The Arts,” Valladolid wrote in an email response to Empower Wisconsin’s questions.
She said parent permission to attend the events has never been required since the event’s inception many years ago.
Each year, the week concludes with a staff talent show “that historically has been a very popular part of the week.” Valladolid said staff performances are vetted by MHS teaching faculty.
As of Tuesday morning, the school had received one parent complaint about the performance, the district spokeswoman said.
“The school is reviewing protocols and processes going forward to make sure all perspectives are considered,” Valladolid said.
According to Kashdan’s LinkedIn page, the French teacher is “ looking to shift away from K-12 public education and into higher education study abroad programming and advising.”
This isn’t the first time Middleton High School made the news for drag dress.
In 2014, some students defied a request from school officials not to cross-dress during a senior dress-up day. The superintendent warned that cross-dressing, a tradition on dress-up day for years, could be hurtful to gay, lesbian and transgender students in the school.
The latest flap comes as the school district mulls another referendum, including money for teachers raises to keep up with soaring inflation.