Video of superintendent shove at Baraboo graduation sparks controversy – USA TODAY

A video from a Wisconsin high school graduation shows a man pushing the school district superintendent away before he can shake hands with his daughter has sparked intense commentary, with some describing it as racist.
The incident happened at Baraboo High School’s graduation on May 31. In the video, a high school graduate is seen smiling as she receives her diploma and shakes the hands of school officials. As she approaches the end of the line, a man, who the district identified as the graduate’s father, is seen pushing Superintendent Rainey Briggs out of the line.
The graduate is seen pausing with a confused look for several moments before she moves her tassel to the other side of her graduation cap and leaves the stage. Other officials watch as others walk onstage and appear to begin to assist in managing the incident.
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A citation from the Baraboo Police Department shows that the father was charged with disorderly conduct and is required to make an August appearance in the Sauk County Circuit Court, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, part of the USA TODAY Network. A judge has also ordered the man to have no contact with Briggs after a temporary restraining order was filed; a hearing is set for June 14.
It’s not clear what motivated the incident, but it has prompted accusations of racism, as the father is white, and Briggs is Black.
State Rep. Francesca Hong, D-Madison, posted on X that “no one should have to endure this type of gross & racist conduct.”
In an interview with the Journal Sentinel, Hong, who does not represent the district but has met the superintendent, said she weighed in on the incident because it was “a very racist attack on a superintendent.”
“Unless there was another deliberate reason to why he would do that, there was nobody else he pushed out of the way,” Hong said.
There has been controversy in the school district in recent months. School board president Kevin Vodak is facing a recall effort, with organizers saying he’s misused taxpayer dollars by increasing salaries for Briggs and another district administrator.
Vodak was also onstage for Friday’s graduation. The man who interrupted the ceremony did not prevent his daughter from shaking Vodak’s hand.
In a June 4 statement, the Baraboo Board of Education said it does not condone “engaging in threatening, intimidating, or physically harming behaviors against anyone in our school district community.”
“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 statement reads. “As we prepare our students to engage as citizens and community members, the adults in their lives should provide models of how to engage in productive civil dialogue.”
The statement continued, addressing the father’s behavior directly.
“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.”
Baraboo is a city of about 12,500 people near Wisconsin Dells, and the county seat of Sauk County.
In the restraining order against the man, Briggs wrote that the man told Briggs he was “not going to touch my (expletive) daughter.”
In a statement, the School District of Baraboo said there was an active investigation into the incident and couldn’t comment on specific details.
In the statement, a district spokesperson confirmed that the man in the video was the father of a graduate; that he interrupted the ceremony by “charging the stage” and that a school resource officer, with two off-duty police officers, assisted in “managing the situation to ensure the safety of everyone present.”
The statement also said the man was escorted out of the venue.
“Our primary focus remains on celebrating the achievements of our graduates,” the statement said. “We want to ensure that the significance of this milestone and the hard work of our students are not overshadowed by this unfortunate event.”

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