The mother of an 11-year-old student who was allegedly pushed and had her braids pulled out by a staff member at Whitehorse Middle School said the investigation process has been unfair since it began on Feb. 13.
"When I arrived at school, the school did not even call the police. They never called child protective services, they didn't even notify me," Mikiea Price said at a news conference Tuesday morning alongside Pastor Marcus Allen of Mt. Zion Baptist Church and other faith leaders. "When I did get in contact with police, we had a child that stated she was abused, a teacher witnessing my child being abused, and we also had video showing abuse. And this man still hasn't been arrested."
Rob Mueller-Owens, the staff member accused of the assault, has been on administrative leave since the incident last month and will not return to Whitehorse, according to the Madison Metropolitan School District. The Madison Police Department wrapped up its investigation and passed the case along to Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne's office. Price and Allen have called on Ozanne to quickly reach a decision to arrest Mueller-Owens.
"Ms. Price, she has been calm, respectful and patient throughout this entire process," Allen said. "However, this process has not been fair to her nor her child. I want to advise the DA to please not take weeks to make a decision. This family has had to deal with enough waiting ... now that he has the case, I ask that he do right by this family and amend the failures that have happened throughout this process and arrest this man."
The district attorney's office is expected to hold a news conference at 1 p.m. on Tuesday.
Allen said he has seen a security video that shows part of the incident unfolding.
"What I see is a man bull-rushing a child from out of the classroom and into the hallway and down to the floor," Allen said.
Price said her daughter has returned to school since the incident. Price emphasized that her daughter is taking things one day at a time and is traumatized by the incident. She said her daughter and Mueller-Owens had no previous run-ins before Feb. 13.
Price blasted the investigation process, saying that she keeps being told by various agencies that her child was failed in many ways but no decision on Mueller-Owens' future has been made still.
"Yesterday in an interview I learned that the DA is reviewing the process, he is interviewing me and he is investigating me as if I'm the perpetrator. He wants to know have I ever been in CPS, have I abused my kid," Price said. "The whole system is super stressful and super hurtful. It makes me feel like my and my kid don't even deserve a chance. (There's) all of this evidence that shows this man has abused my daughter and nothing is even being done."
Community outrage over the incident has risen in the weeks since it surfaced in media reports. A community meeting was held at the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County where parents aired their concerns about MMSD. The Madison School Board's monthly meeting on Feb. 25 was dominated by speakers criticizing the district's response to the incident and to the several reported incidents of staff members using racial slurs in the classroom. Disruptions at that meeting ultimately forced the School Board to finish its meeting in a closed room.
MMSD Superintendent Jen Cheatham penned an open letter last week calling the incident at Whitehorse "especially horrific" and said there was a failure on the part of the district regardless of what comes out of the police investigation. Cheatham said the district is exploring launching a hotline later this spring for students, family and staff to report incidents of racism and discrimination.
Brandi Grayson, a community activist and founder of the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition, said in a response that Cheatham's letter amounted to gaslighting.
Another open letter in response to Cheatham has circulated in recent days saying that MMSD devalues the opinions and engagement of students of color and their families.