School board candidate David Blaska compared the 11-year-old girl who was allegedly assaulted by an acting administrator at Whitehorse Middle School to Jussie Smollett, the actor who has been accused of staging a racist and homophobic attack against himself in Chicago.
As we reported earlier this week, a sixth-grader was allegedly assaulted at Whitehorse on February 13 after she and a friend were spraying perfume or body spray in the classroom. The classroom teacher called on Dean of Students Rob Mueller-Owens, who removed the girl from the classroom, but in the process charged her, pushed her to the ground and pulled three braids from her head. Her mother, Mikiea Price, said the girl also alleged he tried to punch her. Surveillance video shows a portion of the incident.
Madison365 reached out to all those running for school board for comment on the allegation.
“I am hearing that the press has reported half the story,” Blaska wrote in an email to Madison365. “I encourage the news media to not do another Jussie Smollett.”
When asked to clarify whether he meant that he didn’t believe the girl’s story, he wrote back, “My statement stands as issued.” He did not clarify where he was hearing that media has only reported half of the story.
“My opponent is irresponsible and hurtful,” said Ali Muldrow, who is running against Blaska for School Board Seat 4, in a Facebook message to Madison365. “He has no idea what he is talking about and lacks the integrity to find out and take it seriously.
“I am deeply concerned for the child who was attacked and harmed. I want to respect her and her family during what I can only imagine is an incredibly painful time,” she wrote.
Muldrow and Blaska both came through Tuesday’s primary election, with Muldrow taking 55.7 percent of the vote to Blaska’s 23.1 percent.
Seat 3 candidates Kaleem Caire and Cris Carussi both expressed concern for the child and for systemic issues.
“What happened to this young lady is wrong and the Dean of Students should not be able to work another day with children,” said Caire in a Facebook message to Madison365. “It doesn’t matter what this middle school child may have said to the school’s Dean. Physically abusing a child is NEVER acceptable. We need to have a deeper conversation in our community about what’s going on in our schools and how we as a community are going to ensure that our schools serve as the beacons of excellence, opportunity and SAFETY among all of our children.”
“Violence in our schools is unacceptable. The community deserves a thorough and fair investigation. Justice must be served,” Carussi wrote in an email to Madison365. “The MMSD school board and administration must listen to and work with the people directly impacted—families and students of color, and staff—to support restorative justice and ensure all children in our school community are loved, valued and respected. I plan to seek out, listen to, and elevate the voices of people from underrepresented communities so that we can come together as a community and ensure that school is a safe place where all children thrive.”
Ananda Mirilli, who is challenging incumbent TJ Mertz for Seat 5, also expressed concern over systemic issues.
“I’m just disheartened by what the family must be experiencing. What I hear is people trying to figure out what happened with Rob (Muller-Owens),” she said in a phone interview. “He snapped, or whatever. To me there is no justification, no situation where this is ok. How are we going to gain the trust of the family and the many Black families in our community? I think we have seen incidents before, with the n-word, as isolated incidents. There’s been a lot of incidents. They don’t feel like isolated incidents. They are part of systemically what’s happening to our black and brown students. It’s more than just disciplining one teacher or pushing out one teacher. It’s about what we are doing systemically.”
Since November 1, six MMSD staff have been terminated or resigned over for using racial slurs.
Mertz, as a current school board member, is prohibited from commenting on the case as long as the investigation is ongoing.
“I can say that I am pleased with the efforts by the district to give aid and support to both the student and the school community, and disturbed and upset by the pain and suffering,” Mertz said in an email to Madison365.
A Madison police spokesman said Friday that officers were still interviewing witnesses.
The school board general election is April 2.