Community leaders are set to discuss Saturday ways to hold the Madison School District accountable after an 11-year-old African-American girl said she was pushed, punched and had her braids pulled out by a Whitehorse Middle School employee last week.
The gathering at the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County will be, according to the event description on Facebook, an “action-oriented meeting to respond to the continued abuses Black children are enduring in school.” It’s scheduled for 10 a.m. at the club’s site at 4619 Jenewein Road.
On Feb. 13, a white staff member allegedly pushed, punched and pulled three braids from the head of the student after the employee was called to a classroom because the girl and another student were spraying too much perfume, the online news site Madison365 reported Wednesday.
Part of the incident was captured on a hallway security camera.
The Madison School District “will no longer be able to hide the truth of their racism,” Brandi Grayson, one of the meeting’s organizers and co-founder of the Young Gifted and Black Coalition, said in a Facebook post Friday. “We will ensure that it’s brought to light and showcased for the world to see.”
Mikiea Price, the mother of the girl, identified the staff person as Robert Mueller-Owens, according to Madison365. The school district would not confirm the staff member’s name but said he has been removed from Whitehorse Middle School and is on personal leave.
“Final steps will be taken when the employee returns from that leave,” district spokeswoman Rachel Strauch-Nelson said Wednesday.
Madison Teachers Inc. would not confirm the identity of the staff member, but said he is a member of the union.
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Doug Keillor, executive director of MTI, said it’s important schools remain safe for all students, and MTI members “invest their working lives to realize those goals.”
“It is also important for the public to know that allegations must be fully and fairly investigated before conclusions of facts are rendered, and we need to withhold judgment until that occurs,” Keillor said. “Committed educators deserve that.”
Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said a police investigation into the allegation is nearing completion and the findings will be released when it wraps up.
The school district’s staff directory lists Mueller-Owens as a positive behavior support coach and an academic and career plan coordinator at Whitehorse Middle School.
Superintendent Jen Cheatham said in an email Thursday to district families that a call for assistance in a classroom “resulted in a serious conflict between the staff person and a student.
“Our focus now is on fully supporting the student and family, as well as the Whitehorse community as a whole,” she said.
In the Facebook post, Grayson said meeting attendees will be asked whether their children have been exposed to racism, bullying or mistreatment by Madison School District staff, what the outcomes of the Whitehorse Middle School incident should be, how the school district can be held accountable in the future and if people would support a “legal campaign” against the district.
The incident follows five separate reported instances of a teacher or substitute teacher in Madison schools using a racial slur in front of a student this school year.