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Superintendent Files Restraining Order Against Dad Who Stormed Stage at Graduation

4 minute read
Updated: | Originally published:

A Wisconsin father was cited for disorderly conduct after he allegedly rushed a Black superintendent at his daughter’s high school graduation last week in a bid to prevent the two from shaking hands—prompting outrage on social media and in the local community.

The incident occurred at the Baraboo High School graduation Friday, when a parent named Matthew Eddy walked up the stairs to the stage, Baraboo Police Department spokesperson Capt. Ryan La Broscian told TIME in an email. Viral video of the incident shows that an unnamed student had been crossing the stage to receive her diploma and started shaking hands with several school district officials when Eddy grabbed district Superintendent Rainey Briggs by his arm and pushed him away.

“That’s my daughter,” Eddy can be heard saying in the video.

“You better get up off me man. Get away from me bro,” Briggs can be heard saying in response in the video. The crowd can be heard shouting and booing.

There has been no official confirmation that the unnamed student crossing the stage is Eddy’s daughter, but the video shows the student looking visibly stunned and upset by Eddy’s actions.

The viral video sparked outrage on social media, with many users on X calling Eddy’s actions racist, including Wisconsin State Rep. Francesca Hong, who said on X that “no one should have to endure this type of gross & racist conduct.”

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A school resource officer who was in the room responded to the incident, along with two off-duty officers who were also present, School District of Baraboo spokesperson Hailey Wagner said in an emailed statement.

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After an investigation, Eddy was issued a criminal citation for disorderly conduct, La Broscian said. The charge was referred to the Sauk County District Attorney’s Office. With a criminal citation issued, Eddy would have to appear in court, La Broscian added.

Briggs filed a restraining order against Eddy, Wagner told TIME. A temporary restraining order against Eddy was granted Monday, according to local court records. A hearing is set for June 14.

Eddy did not respond to TIME’s request for comment.

Wagner said that “the safety and well-being of our students, staff, and community members is a top priority” for the school district.

“The School District of Baraboo is taking this incident very seriously and are working closely with local law enforcement to ensure a thorough investigation,” Wagner said in the statement. “Our primary focus remains on celebrating the achievements of our graduates. We want to ensure that the significance of this milestone and the hard work of our students are not overshadowed by this unfortunate event.”

The School District of Baraboo School Board condemned Eddy’s actions, though the board didn’t name him in its statement.

“We understand that there are many folks who care deeply about the education of students, and who come together with different understandings and ideas about how best to provide that education. We value the civil discourse that allows us to have conversations about those ideas; that’s at the cornerstone of our democracy,” the school board said in a statement. “What we do not condone is engaging in threatening, intimidating, or physically harming behaviors against anyone in our School District community.” 

“No employee of the School District of Baraboo should fear for their physical safety when fulfilling their job duties or at any other time,” the board continued. “That this adult felt emboldened to behave in this way in front of hundreds of students and other adults should deeply trouble us all; this type of behavior will not be tolerated. The School District of Baraboo Board of Education condemns such actions and asks the community to take a stand and speak out against this type of behavior that threatens the fabric of our democracy.”

Baraboo High School has been the site of controversy in the past—in 2018, a parent posted a photo online that showed several current and former students doing the Nazi salute. The superintendent at the time said that the district was “not in a position to punish the students for their actions” because of their First Amendment rights, The New York Times reported.

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