Teacher Simply Acknowledging Black Lives Matter in Lesson Prompts Prolonged, Racist Outrage in Wisconsin Town

In case you, like me, didn’t know there was a Burlington in Wisconsin.
In case you, like me, didn’t know there was a Burlington in Wisconsin.
Photo: SevenMaps (Shutterstock)

White people have continually proven that their response to being asked to not be racist is to simply be more racist. A small town in Wisconsin has been a perfect example of this, as multiple racist incidents have occurred after a teacher mentioned Black Lives Matter in a lesson about racism.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that the incidents began in August, shortly after Jacob Blake was shot by police in the nearby town of Kenosha. Melissa Statz, an elementary school teacher in the Burlington Area School District, told the Journal-Sentinel that her students were talking about the shooting.

“Coming into the school year, I knew I wanted to talk about racism and social justice with the current climate in our country,” Statz told the news outlet. “I didn’t expect it to be the first week of school. But it was right after Jacob Blake was shot, and the kids were talking about it. They’d seen the boarded-up buildings. ... They were asking questions.”

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Statz said her fourth grade class was receptive to the lesson and had “such wonderful perspectives about what’s right and wrong.” It was the parents who decided to have a temper tantrum after seeing Black Lives Matter was mentioned on a worksheet assigned in relation to the lesson.

From the Journal-Sentinel:

Within a few hours, Statz said, someone had posted one of her worksheets on a local buy-sell-trade Facebook page with the word “No” across it and suggested she was “indoctrinating” students. It quickly morphed into its own private page called “Parents Against Rogue Teachers,” where people called for her to be fired, she said.

“It blew up immediately. By the time I saw it, there were 500 comments already. And there were a lot of nasty things,” she said. “I read for a few minutes and I had to get off. It was discouraging to see people in the community saying these things.”

In online posts and private messages, Statz was called “human garbage” and a “thug,” according to screen captures.

One person included a photo of her with her children.

School board member Taylor Wishau called Statz a “rogue” teacher and said she would be “dealt with” by the district. Wishau later wore a mask bearing the “thin blue line” flag — a reference to police that has increasingly been used to signal opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement — to the contentious Nov. 9 meeting.

So yeah, just normal behavior by a group of well-adjusted adults who are in no way racist.

The behavior of the parents was so abhorrent that Statz and her husband had to install motion sensors and a door alarm in their home. “When they posted a picture of my kids ... that was a little scary to see,” she told the Journal-Sentinel. “There were a few weeks there when we were very nervous.”

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In September, the racist outrage bled into the real world when a group of students charred the N-word on to some wood chips in the playground, and again two weeks later on the floor of a school building under construction.

For Darnisha Garbade, a Black woman whose daughter previously attended school in the district, these incidents are unsurprising. In 2017, her then 9-year-old daughter was suspended for allegedly bringing a BB gun to school. It turned out to be a clear, orange airsoft gun brought for show and tell, but that didn’t stop the school principal from sending a misleading email out to parents about the incident and attempting to coerce the child into admitting she wanted to shoot up the school.

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Unfortunately, this was only the start to a series of racist incidents Garbade said her daughter has had to endure.

From the Journal Sentinel:

Over the years, she said, her daughter has routinely been called the N-word in school and on the bus, threatened with death by a student who said he had access to guns, spit on and had her tooth knocked out. She said students have commented on her daughter’s hair and skin, and that she was told that Black people are good at sports but they don’t work hard.

The district, she said, has done little or nothing to address the problems, in some cases defending the aggressors and making her daughter feel as if she were the problem.

Garbade filed a formal complaint in March. An investigation by the district called for some changes, including additional training for staff, but found that her daughter was not discriminated against.

The ACLU filed an appeal on her behalf with the state Department of Public Instruction arguing that the investigation was too narrowly focused on the actions of staff and was “inadequate to remedy the atmosphere of pervasive racial harassment” the child experienced at school.

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Is it any wonder that Wisconsin was deemed the worst state to raise Black children?

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Garbade is president of the Burlington Coalition For Dismantling Racism, which has been working towards getting the district to take a harder stance against systemic racism in its schools.

According to CBS 58, the BCDR staged a protest on Monday as the school board convened to discuss a new policy handbook for the district. While there is language in the handbook that addresses the issue of systemic racism, the BCDR doesn’t think it goes far enough.

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“They have two pages on sexual harassment and eight sentences or less on racism. And we don’t find out until it’s too late to have a voice,” Garbade told the Journal-Sentinel. “And it’s all white people doing this. To truly be truly equitable, you need to include people of color, otherwise, you’re just perpetuating the same thing over and over.”

The BCDR wants the district to collaborate with them on constructing effective anti-racism policies, denounce any racist incident that occurs, and provide stricter punishments for those found responsible for racist incidents.

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Garbade hoped that when she moved to Burlington five years ago with her husband and kids, they would be able to enjoy a quiet, peaceful life in a small town. Instead, she’s pulled her daughter out of the school, stopped going to church, and the couple has put their house on the market.

“This has made me face the reality of what it’s like to be a Black person in America. It’s horrible to be treated this way in our own country,” she said.

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“I don’t think the American dream is true for everybody.”

Jr Staff Writer @TheRoot. Watcher of wrestling, player of video games. Mr. Steal Your Disney+ Password.

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DISCUSSION

Follow up story from the school board meeting last night:

https://www.wisn.com/article/burlington-school-board-adopts-anti-racism-policy-parents-say-it-isnt-enough/34827851

And the money quote, as far as I’m concerned: Nicholas Koenig, a father of two in the BASD school district, stood on the corner while holding a Trump 2020 flag in one hand and his 6-year-old daughter’s hand in the other.

“I think that they shouldn’t push the agenda in the classrooms. I think that’s something a parent needs to do,” Koenig said. “I’ve grown up here my whole life. As for the racism, I’ve never seen it personally.”

So this parent was outside with a Trump 2020 flag. Why might that be?