MADISON, Wis. - Parents and leaders are asking for change after a Madison teacher was accused of pushing an 11-year-old girl and pulling out her braids at Whitehorse Middle School.
The incident prompted a community discussion at the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County on Saturday, which was attended by about 150 people, including parents and educators.
"We are trained to de-escalate situations like that, and we just have to do better as a community,” Boys & Girls Club CEO Michael Johnson said.
"We're demanding, we’re asking you to protect our kids,” said Sabrina Madison, founder of the Progress Center for Black Women and one of the organizers of Saturday’s meeting.
Change can start with a conversation.
"It was very collaborative, very emotional. Also, I think folks were sort of fed up,” Madison said.
They’re fed up, she said, not just from the incident at Whitehorse Middle School, which put a teacher on leave while officials investigate the student's claims, but from other stories of black students mistreated at school piling up.
In November, News 3 Now spoke with Ruby Clay after her daughter said a teacher yelled the N-word at her.
"It's still very hard. The wounds are still very fresh,” Clay said after the meeting Saturday. "We're in the healing process, thing are still coming up, feelings are still showing up."
Madison often hears from parents like Clay after incidents at school.
"It doesn't take long time before the next phone call, Facebook message or tag happens,” she said.
That buildup led leaders to organize the packed meeting, where no media was allowed.
"We asked people not to go on Facebook, quote people, not to go on Facebook Live,” Johnson said. “We wanted authentic, honest conversation about how we protect our kids."
Organizers wanted a safe place for parents like Clay to share their stories.
"I felt like, yes, they hear us,” Clay said.
"I gotta tell you, it was heartbreaking to hear the emotion of some of the parents, but I was also thankful to see a bunch of teachers that came and said, ‘Here's some things we can be doing better,’” Johnson said.
Parents and teachers spoke about finding change. Now, leaders hope those words will lead to action.
The Progress Center for Black Women will compile the suggestions from the meeting and make them public.
Johnson would like to send the suggestions to school superintendents in the area. He’s also pushing for more parent-child ambassadors in schools.
The Madison Police Department is still investigating the Whitehorse incident, and video has not yet been released.
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