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Wisconsin superintendent obtains restraining order against dad who interrupted graduation

As his daughter was crossing the stage at the Baraboo High School graduation, Matthew Eddy walked onstage and moved Rainey Briggs away, preventing him from shaking hands with the teen.

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 the Baraboo Superintendent Rainey Briggs pending a hearing scheduled for June 14.

In his petition for the order, Briggs says 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 said he then “created space” and told Eddy to get his hands off of him, according to the petition. Briggs says Eddy then began to “push and pry” at him and that he put his hands out to keep Eddy away.

Rainey Briggs, left, is pushed away from the stage by Matthew Eddy.
Baraboo High School superintendent Rainey Briggs, left, is pushed away from the stage by Matthew Eddy during a commencement ceremony on May 31.Max TV – Baraboo via YouTube

As his daughter was crossing the stage at the Baraboo High School graduation Friday evening, Eddy walked up the stairs to the stage and moved Briggs away, 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.”

It is unclear what prompted the altercation. Briggs and Eddy did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday and Thursday.

Baraboo High School Principal Steve Considine was also on the stage with Briggs, as were four school board members, including its president, Kevin Vodak, who is the subject of a recall effort by citizens who say he has mishandled taxpayer money, among other things. 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. That charge was forwarded to the Sauk County District Attorney’s Office, which said the matter is under investigation.

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.

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The Baraboo School Board said in a statement 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 school board also said.

“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,” the school board said, adding that it “condemns such actions and asks the community to take a stand and speak out against this type of behavior that threatens the fabric of our democracy.”

Briggs, 46, a Verona resident, was named superintendent of the Baraboo School District in July 2021 after having worked 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 drew national attention in November 2018 after a photo of about 50 male students appearing to hold up 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, saying 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.

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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 that was 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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