Brandi Grayson

In light of incidents that have transpired in Madison schools – including a physical altercation between a Madison School District and an 11-year-old girl at Whitehorse Middle School in February – community members have talked about the need to have transparent conversations on the policy, training and practices that govern when and how Madison Metropolitan School District staff can make physical contact with school children. Organizers are hoping that the upcoming Community Accountability Forum will be such a place.

“We talk a lot about collaborations and community engagement when it comes to institutions, whether its the police or the school district, but it never really happens in an effective way because it always happens on the school territory,” says Brandi Grayson. “The school district decides what questions to ask and how to ask them and it never comes from the voices of the community. This forum will be an opportunity for the community to control the narrative.”

Urban Triage, First Unitarian Society, the Community Response team and several members of the Building Capacity to Protect Black Children will host this Community Accountability Forum which will take place on April 16, 6-9 p.m. at First Unitarian Society of Madison.

“This event will be an opportunity to give community members – black parents specifically – a chance to ask MMSD and other experts in the area specific questions relating to policy on restraints and IEPs [Individual Education Plans],” Grayson, the executive director of Urban Triage, tells Madison365. “The event is an opportunity to center black voices but to also figure out together as a community, along with MMSD staff, where is the gap in understanding – is it in the policy? Is it in the fact that they align with state and federal requirements as it relates to the law in terms of imminent risk and relates to restraints? If so, then what can we do as a community or what can MMSD do to improve the policy.”

Madison public school families are invited to attend this event for a question and answer session on the policy, training and practice that governs when and how Madison Metropolitan school staff may make physical contact with school children. Some of the questions will tackle the impact of such contact and how school children are issued Individualized Education Programs or IEPs.

Grayson says that the meeting really is a result of the incident with the 11-year-old at Whitehorse Middle School.

“We want to ask the important questions and if there are gaps, I hope that MMSD and the community can come together to think through what we can do differently so there can be actual steps that people can take away from this,” Grayson says.

The panel will be moderated by Grayson and Matt Braunginn, a senior associate with the Mayors Innovation Project at COWS.

Panelists will include Dr. Angie Hicks, principal at James C. Wright Middle School; Dr. Jasmine Zapata; M. Adams, co-executive director at Freedom Inc.; Michael Jones, special education teacher at Blackhawk Middle School; Brian Holmquist, coordinator of intensive support and critical responses for MMSD; and civil rights attorney Jeff Spitzer Resnick.

Grayson says that her job as moderator will be to go deeper with the attendees and get them to participate and share their thoughts.

“The first part of the panel will be a question and answer session.  All of the questions are based on what people want to know – we got some great questions from the public,” Grayson says. “My job as moderator will be to make sure that the audience is part of the conversation so that it’s not just the panel talking. So, I will be asking the audience questions: ‘Does this make sense to you?’ We want to make sure that they are also engaged in this conversation.”

The Community Accountability Forum will leave some time for the panel and the audience to talk about what needs to happen next as a community in creating actionable steps.

“Hopefully, we can take that back to MMSD and it can be part of the conversation and we can talk about where do we go from here,” Grayson says. “What creative approaches can we use as a community and what needs to happen.

“It’s also an opportunity for MMSD to work with the community to figure out what can happen differently and what support from the community from parents that MMSD needs,” she adds. “What is it that we should be doing different as parents or community members? This is an opportunity to really be transparent with each other but also an opportunity to build. That’s my hope and my objective of this event.”

Community Accountability Forum will take place Tuesday, April 16, 6-9 p.m. at First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Dr.