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Dane County DA: No Criminal Charges In Teacher Altercation With Student

Staff Member Accused Of Pushing, Pulling Braids Of 11-Year-Old

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne. Bridgit Bowden/WPR

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne announced Tuesday he will not bring criminal charges against a Madison teacher accused of physically confronting one of his students.

Last month, Whitehorse Middle School staff member Rob Mueller-Owens, who is white, allegedly pushed an 11-year-old African-American student and pulled braids out of her hair.

Ozanne decided not to charge the teacher after reviewing the Madison Police Department’s investigation, which did not find probable cause to make an arrest. He also interviewed the child’s mother, grandmother and pastor.

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The event at Whitehorse sparked community outrage.

More than 150 people attended a meeting to discuss racism in Madison’s schools at the Boys and Girls Club in Fitchburg held in response to the incident. Hundreds of community members also gathered at a scheduled school board meeting to discuss the incident and demand change. The Madison Metropolitan School District’s superintendent released an open letter on racism last week, in response to this and several other recent events involving racism in schools.

Ozanne said as a person of color, he understands first-hand that many racial inequalities exist in Madison.

“These daily challenges are exhausting and traumatizing, therefore it is completely understandable that some people have reached conclusions about what occurred at Whitehorse Middle School,” he said. “However, in this instance, some of those conclusions were premature and not accurate.”

Despite this outrage, Ozanne said he believes no crime was committed at Whitehorse.

Mikiea Price, the child’s mother, spoke to reporters in the hallway outside the room where Ozanne made the announcement. She’s been disappointed in the investigation process from the beginning, she said, and she expects her daughter will be disappointed as well.

“It’s sad, but it also teaches her a lesson that white people are privileged,” she said. “She’s learning that at an early age, white people are privileged just by the color of their skin.”

Ozanne said his decision was only about whether or not a crime occurred and not about violation of any workplace policies. That, he said, will be up to the school district.