This story has been updated with additional response from Middleton High School Principal Peg Shoemaker.
Middleton High School Principal Peg Shoemaker and dozens of other educators were made aware of a plan to segregate students by race to take a standardized test in October, but raised no objections, according to documents obtained by Madison365.
The administrator responsible for scheduling the exam was placed on leave and later resigned, but there do not appear to have been any consequences for anyone else in the district.
Middleton Cross Plains Area School District officials say only a small number of students of color were intended to be tested separately with support staff, and the support staff were “shocked” when the staff member responsible for scheduling the tests segregated all students of color instead.
But emails sent to those support staffers and others, including Shoemaker, clearly outline a plan to segregate “all” African American, Latino and mixed-race students for the test.
On October 17, 2019, some Middleton High School parents received an email from Shoemaker and District Superintendent Dana Monogue that said the day before, October 16, “a decision was made by a staff member to bring students, based on their ethnicity or race, into the library to complete the STAR literacy or math test.”
The email said that segregation was “wholly unacceptable” and Shoemaker and Monogue “sincerely apologize.” The email said the staff member was placed on leave “while a full investigation is underway.”
“These actions are intolerable and do not represent our beliefs or who we want to be as a school or as a district,” the email said.
Two days later, Monogue released a video message to reiterate her apology and speak more generally about racially-motivated bullying and harassment.
The staff member responsible for scheduling the exams ultimately resigned in February.
But emails obtained by Madison365 through an open records request show that dozens of members of the Middleton High School staff were made aware of the plan to segregate students by race on Monday, October 14, two days before the testing. Another email message shows that Shoemaker was made aware of the plan on Tuesday, October 15, and was told that two members of the student services staff had requested the segregation.
Madison365 has chosen not to publicly reveal the identity of the staff member who scheduled the exams.
In an email to Madison365, Middleton Cross Plains Area School District Communications Director Perry Hibner said the plan was to bring in the 12 to 20 students of color who had not yet taken the STAR test during advisory period. He said Shoemaker had multiple conversations with Student and Family Engagement Specialists Antonio Hoye and Alejandra Vazquez prior to testing, and had one specific conversation with the staff member responsible for scheduling the testing.
In October, Hibner said the intent was for a few students who were habitually absent during advisory period to be tested separately, with support, to ensure that they had the opportunity to take the test.
“What happened is not what was ever talked about,’’ Hibner said. “Antonio and Alejandra were shocked when about 60 students of color showed up in the library-media center.’’
But an email sent to about 50 support staff and administrators — including Hoye — at 9:54 am on Monday, October 14 lays out some logistical details about the STAR testing, including descriptions of some students who would be taking the tests outside their homerooms.
“AA, Latino and multiracial students will be testing with Antonio and Ale,” the email says.
Neither Hoye nor Vasquez responded to emails from Madison365 seeking comment.
There is no indication that any of the approximately 50 people made aware of the segregation plan voiced any objection, though several replied with questions on other issues.
At 6:05 am the next day, Tuesday, October 15, the staff member responsible for scheduling the exams wrote an email to Shoemaker directly. In part, it reads, “Finally, after discussion with Antonio and Ale, they decided that they would test all Latino and AA students.”
It does not appear that Shoemaker replied to that email.
It remains unclear what the ensuing investigation consisted of or who conducted it. Documents indicate that the email that had been sent to the support staff was forwarded to Shoemaker on Thursday, October 17.
In their public statements and apologies at the time, neither Shoemaker nor Monogue acknowledged that Shoemaker nor anyone else had received emails detailing the segregation plan, nor did they explain that the segregation was the result of a misunderstanding, as Hibner has now explained.
In a statement sent to Madison365 Friday afternoon, Shoemaker acknowledged that someone should have caught the intent to segregate students before it happened.
“The original idea and plan was an attempt to support a small number of students who weren’t showing up to advisory when the assessment was being offered. The intentions were good, but the execution was not,” she said. “Changes to the plan were never approved by administration. However, somebody should have noticed the change and interceded after the emails were sent but before the segregated testing took place. That’s why we changed our protocols going forward. We will continue to review and evaluate everything we do. We can’t allow something like this to happen again. We have caused harm and hurt by not catching this and everyone involved is deeply sorry. This is also about supporting our students and families all of the time. This is our life’s work. This is how we make a difference.’’
In an email to Madison365, Hibner said that protocol change means “going forward, a team of staff members, including administrators, will be involved in making decisions about how we administer the assessment for students. We can say with 100-percent certainty going forward that students will not be grouped by race, gender, or socio-economic status to take the STAR or any grade-level or school-wide assessment.”
School board members declined to comment or did not respond to an email seeking comment.
“I’m absolutely appalled,” said a parent whose child was one of those segregated during the test. “What were they thinking? And how will they fix this? If that many people knew and didn’t object, they all need to go. The students deserve better.”