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Superintendent accosted at graduation speaks out: “Baraboo is a great community, but there’s still work to be done.”


Baraboo schools superintendent Dr. Rainey Briggs has spoken publicly for the first time since a parent accosted him during the recent high school graduation ceremony in a moment that has since gone viral.

In an interview for the 365 Amplified podcast, set to be released tomorrow, Briggs said he was fearful for his safety in the moment and throughout the rest of the ceremony, but has received and “outpouring of support” in the wake of the incident, and hopes it doesn’t come to define the Baraboo community.

Video shows Matthew Eddy charging onto the stage at Baraboo High School’s graduation on the night of May 31, just as his daughter was receiving her diploma. He took Briggs by the arm and shoved him out of the handshake line.

In an interview Wednesday, Briggs said at first he thought Eddy was just trying to get a photo, but quickly realized “this isn’t what I thought it was.”

He said Eddy told him, “you’re not touching my (expletive) daughter.” Briggs said he was able to keep Eddy at arm’s length twice before two off-duty police officers – a married couple only there to attend their son’s graduation – stepped between them, but Eddy continued trying to push through them to reach Briggs. Briggs said he believed Eddy could become violent.

The off-duty officers ultimately escorted Eddy from the scene to an office where he was interrogated. Briggs praised all of the law enforcement officers involved.

Briggs said he’s still not sure what motivated Eddy to charge the stage – and wasn’t even aware of Eddy’s identity until June 3. 

In video of a school administrator and police officer interviewing Eddy immediately following the incident obtained by WISN, Eddy claimed Briggs rolled his eyes during a disciplinary hearing. But he also admitted Briggs wasn’t involved in any disciplinary actions regarding his daughter.

In the moment, though, Briggs had no idea of Eddy’s motivation – or whether Eddy was acting alone.

“It you go back and watch that video for that whole evening, you’ll notice that I’m constantly turning around, looking over my shoulder, looking out into the crowd, wondering if something else is going to happen,” Briggs said.  

Briggs did want to continue participating in the ceremony, though, because, he said, “these kids didn’t deserve that.”

Eddy was ultimately charged with disorderly conduct and will appear in court August 14. Briggs also asked a Dane County court for a restraining order; a hearing on that will take place Friday.

“If you would do this in front of 3,000 people, what would you do in front of 5, 10, 15?” Briggs said. “There’s a matter of safety here.”

The moment has gone viral globally via social media, with many assuming a racist motivation. Briggs was the only Black person on the stage, and was the only target of Eddy’s attack.

“(Eddy) is’s the only person that can even come close to explaining to people whether this was a racially motivated situation, just an anger-motivated situation, or what have you,” Briggs said. “It does bring a notice to some of the things that happen around our country, whether it was racially motivated, hatred motivated, anger motivated.”

Briggs said the response to him has been sympathetic and positive.

“I have received housands and thousands and thousands of messages, whether it’s on Facebook Messenger, Instagram, X, emails, phone calls,” he said. “There’s been an outpouring of support from around the world.”

Above all he wants people to know this kind of incident doesn’t define Baraboo.

“Baraboo is not a bad community. You know, I’ve had people asking me over time and also this week like, you know, ‘Why do you go back? Why are you going back?’ And I want to just support the community,” he said. “It’s not a bad community. No different than any other community, there are things that happen, there are people in those communities that sometimes give a community a rough name or a challenging name. And I don’t want that for Baraboo. There’s a lot of great and amazing things that take place in Baraboo, but there’s some work that still needs to be done. We’re not exempt from the things that happen around the world.”

The full interview with Briggs will be available Friday on the 365 Amplified podcast at Madison365.org/Amplified or any podcast app.