‘His Actions Spoke Loud and Clear!’: Black Wisconsin Superintendent Won’t Accept Apology from Father Who Shoved Him During Graduation, Questions Why Cops Didn’t Charge the Man with Assault

The Baraboo School Superintendent, who was at the center of national attention after a parent shoved him during a high school graduation ceremony in Wisconsin, recently spoke out about the incident.

A viral video clip of the Baraboo High School graduation ceremony showed one of the graduate’s parents, Matthew Eddy, storming the stage and pushing Superintendent Dr. Rainey Briggs to prevent Briggs from shaking his daughter’s hand. He had to be escorted off stage by police officers and school faculty.

Briggs spoke to Atlanta Black Star and recounted what he felt the moment Eddy approached him and made physical contact.

White Father Storms Stage During High School Graduation
Father runs on stage during Baraboo High School graduation and pushes the superintendent. (Photo: X video screenshot/TheTVAddicted)

“When he said, ‘You’re not touching my f***ing daughter,’ I knew something that wasn’t right. At that point, I’m thinking safety. I’m thinking what do I need to do different to make sure that I’m safe and everyone else in this space is safe. It wasn’t clear whether he had a weapon or if he had something that would have caused harm,” Briggs said.

Local authorities charged Eddy with disorderly conduct, and Briggs took out a restraining order against him.

In the fallout of the event, many speculated that race was a motive for Eddy’s actions, especially since Briggs was the only Black individual seen on stage in the video and Eddy is white.

When Eddy spoke to police directly about why he shoved Dr. Briggs, he never mentioned race. Rather, he cited “past issues” with Briggs and the district over a situation involving his daughter, but details were hazy on what exactly his grievances entailed.

WISN 12 News obtained footage from Eddy’s police interview in which he claimed that Briggs touched him first, even though the clip of the encounter shows otherwise.

“I didn’t touch him until he touched me,” Eddy told detectives.

Briggs rejected the claim, calling it false.

“I think it’s pretty clear that he did put his hands on me first. He’s the one who moved me out of the spot in which I was standing, shaking students’ hands. From that perspective, you see, that was a lie,” Briggs told Atlanta Black Star.

Briggs sided with others online who raised questions about why law enforcement did not charge Eddy with assault. Baraboo Police told the Atlanta Black Star that Wisconsin law doesn’t have formal assault charges, only battery.

According to Wisconsin State Code 940.19, battery is defined as causing bodily harm to a person.

Baraboo Police Capt. Ryan La Broscian with Baraboo Police said that police referred Eddy’s case to the Sauk County District Attorney’s Office for misdemeanor disorderly conduct. From there, the district attorney reviewed it to decide whether to tack on additional charges. Ultimately, the office deemed disorderly conduct was the only appropriate charge.

In his interview with police, Eddy never expressed remorse to Briggs but said he regretted his conduct for his daughter’s sake. Briggs said he doesn’t seek an apology from Eddy but noted that the impact and outcome of his actions matter.

“An apology doesn’t mean a whole lot to me right now from Mr. Eddy because his actions spoke loud and clear. He has a daughter that he truly embarrassed. He has 250 other kids that he damaged or disrupted their graduation moment,” Briggs stated.

Briggs also said he wasn’t sure if race was a factor in Eddy’s behavior but expressed that “the optics don’t look good” and that Eddy must account for that.

“Eddy’s the only person who knows whether his actions were motivated by hate or racism, but his actions don’t define the entire school district or the community of Baraboo,” Briggs said.

Briggs is the first Black superintendent of Baraboo Schools, a district with a predominantly white population. While he’s unsure if the encounter with Eddy had racist motives, he has been subjected to discriminatory behavior in the past in his role.

“I’ve received messages on Facebook from people trying to call me racist. I’ve never had anyone call me a racially motivated name since I’ve been in this district, but I feel like there have been times that things have been done intentionally to make things harder for me as a person leading this district,” Briggs explained.

Briggs addressed the current recall effort underway to remove the school board president, Kevin Vodak, who has served as Baraboo’s board of education leader for 23 years. Several residents allege that his administration has mismanaged taxpayer dollars and shown favoritism to certain district officials. Briggs’ salary has been scrutinized in that regard.

Briggs was appointed superintendent in 2021. He said he’s only one of six superintendents of color in a state that serves 421 school districts.

His appointment to Baraboo Schools came shortly after the school district settled a racial discrimination lawsuit with a former Black student. The district was also the subject of national attention in 2018 after a photo showing a group of white Baraboo students making a Nazi salute circulated on social media.

Briggs said that as the first Black superintendent at Baraboo schools, he wants to continue to foster a supportive school community and implement the proper systems that benefit all of his students, including minority students.

He pointed to Dr. Martin Luther King’s Six Steps of Nonviolent Social Change as inspiration for his personal philosophy as a district and community leader. Those steps are information-gathering, education, personal commitment, negotiation, direct action, and reconciliation.

“We have to educate ourselves about each other. We have to make a commitment to be supportive, loving, caring about each other,” Briggs said. “The beloved community is key to the success of everybody in it, not just a certain group that’s in it. I think that’s really important.”

Back to top