Late in the evening of Nov. 22, this blog reported on a Nov. 18 call to Vicki McKenna’s Madison (WIBA) afternoon show by a caller who identified himself as Matt. Matt complained that the Marshall, WI, school district had banned his six-year-old son from bringing a “Rush Revere” book to class, on the basis that such material was “inappropriate.”
This blogger reported on the call only after waiting four days, and only after first checking with Vicki to determine that there was no update to the story.
On Wednesday morning, Nov. 23, the blog post was covered by Jim Hoft on Gateway Pundit. Jim’s post came to the attention of Rush Limbaugh, who discussed the matter later that day. Transcript here; Rush’s FB post & his fans’ comments here; video excerpts here:
Even though Marshall school district officials had known about Matt’s call since Nov. 18, only after Rush’s broadcast did they bother to communicate with Vicki McKenna, or anyone else interested in Matt’s complaint, any rebuttal concerning Matt’s complaint. They did so via this comment on this blog (posted at 1:16 p.m. Central time on Nov. 23), asserting that they had investigated the matter and had concluded that Matt had made a “false report.” The district also posted its statement on various Facebook pages (here, here, and here).
Within an hour, this blogger posted five questions regarding the statement, making clear in a followup e-mail that a reply need not be rushed, given the upcoming Thanksgiving school break.
The district has now responded, via an e-mail received about an hour ago, at 9:30 a.m. today. Its response reprinted below in full, complete with the referenced attachments. In it, the school officials state that they “have no direct evidence that would lead us to conclude that the caller was a parent of a child enrolled in first grade,” and that
it is the position of the Marshall Public Schools in Marshall, Wisconsin, that no teacher, principal, administrator, or member of the Board of Education engaged in any discussion regarding a Rush Revere book with a parent of a child enrolled in the first grade at the Marshall Early Learning Center, which would be the school that a six year old first grader would attend in our district.
Date: Mon, Nov 28, 2016 at 10:30 AM
Subject: Responses to the 5 questions re: Marshall Public Schools
I have provided the responses to the 5 questions that you posed last week. I appreciated the courtesy of allowing for a response following the holiday weekend.
Barbara J. Sramek, Ph.D.
Marshall Public Schools
1. Who specifically “investigated the parent’s claim,” and what did the investigation involve?
Because I received an email from a member of the Marshall community late in the afternoon of Friday, November 18th, I investigated the parent’s claim. The parent who phoned the show placed the principal at the center of the issue regarding the book and indicated that it was the principal who denied the student the opportunity to read a book from the Rush Revere series at school; therefore, I interviewed the principal regarding the community member’s communication and the parent’s statements on the show.
The district adheres to the policies and procedures that provide guidance to district operations. Two policies are relevant here. First, if a parent has a concern or complaint, s/he is encouraged to follow a process outlined in Board policy 872 Public Complaints. Essentially, the policy outlines a chain of command regarding a concern or complaint. I have attached the policies I am referencing for your convenience. [Attachments: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.]
In the instant case, the parent never had a conversation with a first grade teacher employed by the Marshall Public Schools at the Marshall Early Learning Center (ELC) regarding a book in the Rush Revere series. The principal has repeatedly indicated that no parent has ever spoken to him about a book in the Rush Revere series. Additionally, I have not been contacted by a parent of a first grader who attends school in our district regarding a concern about any reading material.
(It is noteworthy to mention that the principal of Marshall Elementary School fielded many calls and emails, including one from Vicki McKenna, on November 23rd. The principal had no comment because a student in the first grade in the Marshall Public Schools attends the ELC, not the elementary building. The elementary school serves students in grades three (3) through six (6). It seems that listeners assumed that a first grader would attend our elementary school; however, that is not the case.)
While not relevant in this case, as Board policy 871 – Public Complaints About Instructional Materials, along with the associated administrative rule, outlines the procedure enacted when a parent objects to curriculum materials utilized in the district.
Neither a teacher, nor a principal, nor the Director of Instruction, nor the superintendent has the authority to ban a book in the Marshall Public Schools. That authority rests with locally elected public officials, the Marshall Public Schools Board of Education. If the Board wanted to discuss a book and make a decision as to whether or not it met an instructional purpose, under Wisconsin open meetings laws, the Board would be required to discuss the book at a publicly posted meeting and vote on the matter. In my 12 years of service as the superintendent, the Board has never had such a discussion regarding a book in the Rush Revere series.
2. By what date and time did the district conclude that there was “no factual basis for the parent’s statement”?
This matter is fact specific. I completed my inquiry by the close of business on Monday, November 21.
3. As soon as the district concluded that there was “no factual basis for the parent’s statement,” did anyone at the district promptly inform anyone at the Vicki McKenna Show of that conclusion? FYI, before making my blog post, I allowed four days to pass, and took care to check with Ms. McKenna late last night, before posting, to make sure there was no update to the story.
Beyond a direct communication from a Marshall community member on Friday, the district received no other communication, comment or inquiry regarding the comments attributed to a parent of a Marshall first grader. No one from the Vicki McKenna Show reached out to the district until Wednesday, November 23rd, after the district was referenced on Mr. Limbaugh’s nationally syndicated program.
The district does not make a practice of responding to the content of talk-radio programs unless there is a cause to do so and, as noted above, there was no interest in the parent’s call to the Vicki McKenna Show until Wednesday.
4. Does the district admit that the person who called Vicki McKenna’s show is an actual parent of a first-grade student?
Because no parent of a Marshall first grader has reached out to a teacher, principal, district leader or board member regarding this matter, we have no direct evidence that would lead us to conclude that the caller was a parent of a child enrolled in first grade at Marshall Early Learning Center. We can neither confirm nor deny the parent’s identity at this point because the parent has not made himself known to us.
5. If so, is it the district’s position that the parent lied in stating that he had ANY DISCUSSION AT ALL with someone at the school regarding a “Rush Revere” book?
As it relates to a caller to the Vicki McKenna Show on Friday, November 18, 2016, it is the position of the Marshall Public Schools in Marshall, Wisconsin, that no teacher, principal, administrator, or member of the Board of Education engaged in any discussion regarding a Rush Revere book with a parent of a child enrolled in the first grade at the Marshall Early Learning Center, which would be the school that a six year old first grader would attend in our district.