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‘Racism is a problem in our community’: MMSD superintendent promises transparency in open letter

In response to multiple accusations of racism at recent schools, the MMSD superintendent wrote an open letter promising transparency.  

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

In response to ongoing community outrage over recent acts of racism at several local schools, Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham released a public statement Thursday addressing new school policy changes. 

Most recently, on Feb. 13, an 11-year-old black female student was attacked by a male coach and acting principal at Whitehorse Middle School. She was left bloody with her braids ripped out and no call was made to alert her parents. 

Although a criminal investigation has been launched into the incident, the community spoke out against the lack of actions taken against this and other similar racist acts at a recent school board meeting, voicing their frustrations and chanting until board members were forced to leave the room.

Cheatham, who has been MMSD Superintendent since April 2013, penned an open letter to the Madison community addressing these recent events. She acknowledged that racism is an inescapable problem in the Madison community and wrote as a school district they “must be held to the highest standard” to protect the district’s children. 

She also outlined changes being made by MMSD to prevent similar events from occurring in the future. These actions, which she said were already underway, include launching a new program in the spring that would make it easier for staff, students and families to report racist incidents. This new program includes “critical response protocols” to be more transparent and a full review of investigation into any reported incidents. 

Other changes to the district include refreshing the School Improvement Planning process, which ensures race is taken into consideration for important decision making, as well as continued application of the MMSD equity tool to make sure human resources practices are conducted with a racial equity lens. 

Cheatham also outlined plans to hold facilitated meetings in the upcoming months to discuss these changes with the community. 

“I promise this community that we are going to work hard to get it right,” Cheatham wrote. “We will be relentless in our efforts.”

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