A Madison School Board member is apologizing for remarks she made over the weekend that compared local police to Nazis and Dane County’s juvenile jail to concentration camps.
Ali Muldrow said in an interview she recognizes the seriousness of the Holocaust, calling it “one of the most profound atrocities to ever occur in history.”
“I am deeply sorry for any harm that my statement caused,” Muldrow said. “I think that we need as much solidarity as possible in this moment, and I think that means that all people who experience oppression need to be good to one another and considerate of one another.”
Muldrow said she was grateful to those who reached out to her and challenged her to broaden her perspective.
“I have learned a tremendous amount from people’s willingness to tell me what about my statement made them uncomfortable or bothered them,” Muldrow said.
On Saturday, Muldrow said on Facebook, “I think that (it’s) important to talk about what it is like for the students who are arrested at school and end up in the Dane County Jail. We would not talk about the role of the Nazis and act as if the experiences people had in concentration camps is a separate issue.”
The comments drew sharp condemnation from Madison’s police chief, the Dane County sheriff and others in law enforcement.
Muldrow said she did not mean to insult or disrespect law enforcement officers or people who work in the Dane County Jail.
“I think that the people who serve as first responders, the people who work to keep our communities safe, deserve an incredible amount of respect,” Muldrow said.
Muldrow said her aim was to point out that “incarceration is a developmentally inappropriate thing to expose children to.”
Alan Klugman, interim executive director of the Jewish Federation of Madison, said he is “very sympathetic to the plight of students who are incarcerated” but had “difficulty equating what they go through with Nazi Germany.”
Muldrow was elected to her first term on the School Board in April. She has long questioned the need to lock up juvenile offenders and criticized racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
She was one of three board members to vote against a contract in June that continues to place one police officer, known as a school resource officer, or SRO, in each of the Madison School District’s four main high schools. The contract passed 4-3.
Muldrow said she plans to continue fighting against youth incarceration and racial disparities seen in the criminal justice system.
“Calling out brutality or corruption or phenomenons of racial disparities is not the same as being anti-police,” she said. “I think great police officers are also uninterested in perpetuating those phenomenons. They’re not people who want folks to turn the blind eye to police brutality or racial disparities.
“They want our community to challenge their profession to become better in the same way I believe that’s true for great teachers or great activists,” Muldrow said. “I think that’s part of what I experienced today is people saying, ‘Hey, we expect you to be better.’”