Sutton High News

The Student News Site of Sutton High School

Sutton High News

Sutton High News

ConCon 2024: What Happened

What we found about what really happened during the “drag” presentation.
Diva D and another member of Worcester Pride during their presentation at ConCon 2024

It is no secret that our school has worked up quite the debate about this year’s Connections Conference (ConCon). With just the mention of ConCon in this article’s title, readers are all aware of what we will discuss in the following paragraphs.

If you are not aware, there has been heavy controversy regarding one workshop titled “Don’t be a Drag, Just be a Queen.” Most of the conversations–in school, online, and at town meetings–on this topic seem to be very heavily biased and largely opinion.

That is where this article comes into play.

This article is here to give people the cold hard facts about what actually went down and actual accounts from this controversial workshop. Several interviews were conducted with eye-witnesses, as well as key people in charge of the event, about what they saw and how they felt on the matter.

Story continues below advertisement

First, the facts:

After many interviews with eye witnesses from both of the two sessions, we know that part of the workshop (both sessions) included a dance of approximately two minutes to a mash up of songs from Mean Girls: the musical.

The dancer preformed said dance in a Minnie Mouse inspired outfit, including a pink jacket and pink mini-skirt. It also included white undergarments and opaque tights, which seems to be what concerned many people.

We can confirm that there was a cartwheel preformed by the dancer in the first session of the workshop (and not the second). We can also confirm that the performer did get on top of the table for both sessions as a part of the dance. Whether you want to call the dancer’s undergarments dance bloomers or anything else is up to opinion; however, they were fully visible for several parts of the dance.

Another fact is that two students left the room, reportedly looking uncomfortable, for a large portion of the workshop, only to return once the session was over.

It is also our understanding that the first part of the speech consisted of introducing the organization running it as well as their social media accounts. It is after this that the performer danced for about two minutes. The workshop then went on by helping students “release their inner drag” and choose their “drag” name.

Diva D during the presentation at ConCon 2024

(Editor/Advisor’s note: due to the way people have responded to this event, online and in person, I kept the names of the eyewitnesses out of the article)

One attendee said, “I was at the first session with some of my friends. Diva D. began by doing a short performance as Karen from Mean Girls :the musical and then told us about the history of drag and gay pride.”

Another attendee stated, “I never understood drag prior or was interested in it but now I have a better understanding of it and what it is.  My initial feeling was that it was fun. I have social anxiety so being around so many kids that I did not know made me anxious but Diva D. and the man with her made it feel very safe in the room.

“I believe that the show was appropriate for the audience. There were a few PG-13 jokes but it was nothing that anybody there couldn’t handle.”

Yet another audience member shared, “The session was very informative, but since it was something delicate to talk about, the show and some jokes while the session was going on made it feel more like a free and safe place to be.”

One shared a different opinion: “I was in the room and when the dance started it was more than I expected. I noticed two students got up and left. I felt uncomfortable, but I didn’t leave.”

This is when we started to see a pattern in responses. “Seeing it in person, I didn’t at all feel that the performance was inappropriate. I didn’t feel like I was ‘molested’ or ‘sexualized’; however, I think maybe it was a lot of energy and we were kinda surprised.”

It seems this was a common theme in most of the responses we received, a feeling of surprise. Another commented, “I was slightly surprised by some of the parts of the dance, but I was not uncomfortable at all because I chose to attend that workshop.” And another described their thoughts with the same word, “No one was really hating on her for it, but I think people were a little surprised.”

It seems many of these witnesses were not offended, but perhaps startled by the “energy” and  expressiveness of it all. Another participant shared a more neutral opinion than the others. “People were not weirded out. I’m not surprised it became a big deal because I thought it was a little strange.”

Next we talked to the school’s principal, Mr. McCarthy, who started by sharing his idea of what the purpose of the performance was. “So the purpose of the workshop was to talk about how organizations like Worcester Pride promote inclusivity.”

Worcester Pride, whose members ran the discussed workshop, is an organization centered in Worcester aiming towards making their city more inclusive, and more specifically share their pride in their identity. This group did not receive any pay for their participation in this event, nor did any other volunteer group running the workshops.

Worcester Pride got involved after responding to a proposal from Sutton Schools looking for presentations on inclusivity. Mr. McCarthy explained, “So we didn’t contact them, they actually contacted us. Because the way the conference works is we put out a call for proposals for the conferences, and then people from all over say, hey, I want to do a workshop on this”.

Now, here is where some of the controversy comes into play. Many are concerned about the amount of caution the school used when choosing and accepting the responses to their proposal. When asked, Mr. McCarthy talked about the amount of detail they knew about  the speech before the conference. “Depending on the workshop, some of them [proposals] are a little more detailed, some of them are not.” He went on to say that the information they received about the speech before accepting was that the speakers would discuss their organization. No further vetting seemed necessary, and their proposal was accepted by the school. However, Mr. McCarthy did state that they did expect certain things when they accepted the workshop. “We probably thought there’d be some sort of like, performance is probably a loaded world, but like some sort of activity.”

However, based on the discussion had, it seemed that he didn’t disagree with anything that happened during the performance. He stated that the speech was meant to be attention grabbing, “It’s definitely visually more eye catching to see someone dressed in drag than to, like, be working a suicide hotline for LGBTQ+ folks.”  He explained how while, yes, while it may have been more unexpected than a simple speech, he stood behind the organization for aiming to keep the students engaged. 

Then we discussed another part of the debate, which is the performer’s choice of clothing. Mr. McCarty’s response to whether or not he felt the outfit was a violation of the school’s dress code was, “I don’t think that it does.” He explains that if a student chose to come into school with the very same outfit, they would not be in violation of the dress-code (see page 56). Additionally, he wanted to make it known that the school dress code was written in conjunction with students (who took the lead in the process). Now, he did understand that for a teacher to dress this way would be different, but he stood by his stance of it not being a violation in the case of a student. 

An image taken from the school’s website, showing the school’s dress code policy.

Now, this opinion can be taken in many different ways, but whether or not you believe said performer should be following student or teacher rules is up to you.

ConCon 2024 is over, but for now the discussion continues. While some may see ConCon as a success by opening up conversation, others see it as opening our schools to unwanted threats and obstacles for a safe learning environment.  This has exposed divisions in our town that many of us did not know existed. Feel free to share your thoughts with us as a staff.

View Comments (4)
More to Discover

Comments (4)

All Sutton High News Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • J

    J. DelisoMay 8, 2024 at 5:11 pm

    Thank you for the solid reporting. I hope everyone who feels compelled to voice an opinion gets to read it.

  • C

    C. SmithMay 6, 2024 at 7:01 pm

    Excellent write-up. Thank you for sharing. This was needed!

  • M

    Marcos GouveaMay 6, 2024 at 10:28 am

    Been waiting for this story a while. Great job getting important news out Sutton News!

    • M

      Mike DollarMay 18, 2024 at 8:15 pm

      Great job letting everyone know what is going on in your school.