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Wisconsin Superintendent Secures Restraining Order Against Father Who Disrupted Graduation

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A school superintendent in Wisconsin was granted a restraining order against a parent who rushed the stage during a recent high school graduation and blocked the administrator from shaking hands with his daughter.

In a temporary order filed Monday, a Dane County Circuit Court commissioner ordered Matthew Eddy to have no contact with Baraboo Superintendent Rainey Briggs pending a hearing scheduled for June 14.

In his petition for the order, Briggs stated that Eddy “approached the stage quickly and put both of his hands on me to push me out of the way stating ‘you are not going to touch my f—— daughter.’” Briggs then “created space” and told Eddy to get his hands off him, according to the petition. Briggs said Eddy began to “push and pry” at him, prompting Briggs to put his hands out to keep Eddy away.

As his daughter was crossing the stage at the Baraboo High School graduation on Friday evening, Eddy walked up the stairs to the stage and moved Briggs aside, preventing him from shaking hands with his daughter, video of the incident shows. Briggs can be heard telling Eddy: “You better get up off me, man. Get away from me, bro,” while another person says, “I don’t want her touching him.”

The reason for the altercation remains unclear. Both Briggs and Eddy did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday and Thursday.

Baraboo High School Principal Steve Considine was also on stage with Briggs, along with four school board members, including its president, Kevin Vodak, who is the subject of a recall effort by citizens who allege he mishandled taxpayer money. Eddy, 49, of North Freedom, confronted only Briggs.

A Baraboo police officer working as the school resource officer, along with two off-duty officers, jumped onstage and escorted Eddy out of the gymnasium. The school resource officer completed an investigation, and Eddy was issued a citation for disorderly conduct. Police said the charge was forwarded to the Sauk County District Attorney’s Office, which is investigating the matter.

Hailey Wagner, a spokesperson for the school district, said it is taking the “unfortunate event” seriously and working closely with local law enforcement to ensure a thorough investigation.

The Baraboo School Board stated that it does not condone “engaging in threatening, intimidating, or physically harming behaviors against anyone in our School District community.” District employees should not fear for their physical safety when fulfilling their job duties or at any other time, the board added.

Briggs, 46, a Verona resident, was named superintendent of the Baraboo School District in July 2021 after serving as a director of elementary education in another district. He has also worked as a cultural liaison, teacher, and principal, according to his bio.

Baraboo High School gained national attention in November 2018 after a photo of about 50 male students appearing to give a Nazi salute went viral. The group, most of whom appeared to be white, were seen smiling with their right arms extended straight in the air, reminiscent of the infamous “Sieg heil” salute.

The district superintendent at the time condemned the photo, stating in a letter sent to parents, “If the gesture is what it appears to be, the District will pursue any and all available and appropriate actions, including legal, to address the issue.”

At the conclusion of an investigation that included local police, the school district announced that the students would not be punished.

Then-Superintendent Lori Mueller wrote in a letter to parents that the district was “not in a position to punish the students for their actions” because of their First Amendment rights, according to a letter obtained by the Baraboo News Republic. Mueller also said the district would focus on working with students to use “restorative practices” to repair damage to relationships caused by the photo, the outlet reported.

According to the most recent census data, the city of Baraboo has a population of less than 13,000. About 90.4% of its population is white.

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