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Catching Up: Staffer in Middleton High School testing flap remains on leave

Catching Up: Staffer in Middleton High School testing flap remains on leave

Middleton High School

Middleton High School.

Three months after a Middleton High School staffer allegedly used race to segregate students for a district-required test, the employee remains on paid leave and the district has yet to complete its investigation into the incident.

The district was quick to respond last fall after about 60 ninth- and 10th-grade students of color were segregated from the rest of the student body on Oct. 16 to take the STAR math and literacy test.

The staff member involved was placed on leave the next day and in a videotaped statement the day after that, Superintendent Dana Monogue called the incident a “mistake” and “wrong,” twice said it caused “harm,” and added “we sincerely apologize.”

“Our administrative team will work with students and staff to deepen and intensify our efforts to tackle issues of racism, antisemitism, hate speech and other forms of injustice in our schools,” she said in the nearly four-minute statement.

District spokesman Perry Hibner said in October that the STAR test is taken annually in students’ advisory classes and this school year was scheduled for Oct. 14-25 for about 1,100 students.

He said staff had been discussing how to get about 10 to 15 students who “have been habitually missing advisory to take the test,” and they decided to have them come to the library on the afternoon of Oct. 16, using the high school’s computerized scheduling system to make the invitation.

“Instead of scheduling just those students to come and take the test it appears a message was sent to about 60 students who are African-American, Latino and mixed race to come to the library,” he said then. “I don’t know if the message said to come for an important meeting or to come and take the STAR test.”

In early December, Hibner said possible resolutions to the case include allowing the staff member to return to work, reprimanding but continuing to employ the staff member, firing the staff member or the staff member choosing to resign.

The Middleton-Cross Plains School District has not had a state-certified teachers union since around 2015, or four years after state law was changed to severely restrict the power of public-sector unions.

But the district’s employee handbook still lays out a grievance process for employees and requires that employees can only be fired “for cause.”

Last school year, about 75 percent of Middleton High School’s 2,200 students were white. In her videotaped statement, Monogue said training and professional development efforts this school year are focused on understanding bias and identity, “the history of marginalization in schools” and ways to create “culturally and linguistically welcoming” learning environments.

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