Community meeting will address Whitehorse Middle School incident

Published: Feb. 22, 2019 at 6:03 PM CST
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Community leaders announced Thursday they would host a meeting following an incident at Whitehorse Middle School. On Wednesday, a teacher allegedly pushed an 11-year-old African American Student down and ripped out three of her braids.

Sabrina Madison, the founder of The Progress Center for Black Women, and Michael Johnson, the president of the Boys and Girls Club of Dane Co., helped organize the meeting. Both said people reached out to them following the incident at Whitehorse.

"When this incident happened it was one of those things where you are like 'here we go again.' So instead of this time reacting by just working with the one individual parent, going to meetings, we sort pool the community members together to say we need some sort of long term response," Madison said.

Madison said the meeting will focus on broad issues facing the community and says her goal is to restore African-American families and provide resources. She said around 100 people will be in attendance, including mothers who have had negative interactions with teachers in schools.

Johnson said the purpose is to come together to problem solve.

"I think part of it, what Sabrina and the progress center is trying to do, is to educate the community, but to also have a conversation around these tough issues. I would say on behalf of someone who advocates for kids, we also want kids to know they feel safe," Johnson said.

Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham sent a letter to parents Thursday writing that she wanted to express deep concerns about the incident.

It said in part: "As a school district, we must be the healers and protectors that our students deserve and ensure that our schools and classrooms are places that value, affirm and uplift our students," Cheatham said.

The Madison Police Department told NBC15 Friday they are close to concluding their investigation and details will be revealed in the near future.

Madison Teachers Inc., the local teachers union, sent NBC15 a statement that said in part that they do not comment on incidents under investigation, but it is important for the public to know allegations must be fully and fairly investigated before conclusions are made and judgement must be withheld until that occurs.

The meeting will be held at the Boys and Girls Club in Fitchburg on Saturday, Feb. 23, from 10:00 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. The media is not permitted inside at this time.

Letter to parents from MMSD Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham:


Dear MMSD Community,

I wanted to reach out about a troubling situation at Whitehorse Middle School that we've all been hearing about this week. The incident involved a staff person responding to a call for assistance in a classroom, which unfortunately resulted in a serious conflict between the staff person and a student.

I want to update you on our response and how we can move forward together.

First, I want to express my deep concern about this incident. Our schools should be places that make all of our students feel safe and protected, nothing less.

As soon as the incident occurred, we responded swiftly and began an investigation. The staff person was sent home while that investigation was carried out. Based on the investigation, the staff person will not return to Whitehorse Middle School and follow up action is being taken. We are also fully cooperating with police as they investigate.

Our focus now is on fully supporting the student and family, as well as the Whitehorse community as a whole.

As a school district, we must be the healers and protectors that our students deserve and ensure that our schools and classrooms are places that value, affirm and uplift our students.  

Our goal is to have strong systems in place that are intended to provide what every student needs.  Whenever these systems fail, or when we face an incident that counters our values, we pause, review our processes and procedures to ensure that something like this can never happen again.


Jennifer Cheatham, MMSD Superintendent