An Ashland family has filed discrimination complaints against the Ashland School District with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
Kelly and Eric Maday believe the district treated their children differently when it came to enforcing COVID-19 protocols in February due to their children being part of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior of Chippewa.
In the complaints, the Maday family claims there is a pattern of discrimination against Native American students and staff in the school district. The complaints include examples of discriminatory treatment, including declarations from the former school nurse, a former school board member and another parent who is part of the same tribe.
The complaints ask the Office of Civil Rights and the Department of Public Instruction to investigate the district’s treatment of Native American students and require the district to “engage in significant training, policy change and monitoring by an independent monitor to end this troubling history.”
Civil rights attorney Jeff Spitzer-Resnick, of Systems Change Consulting, said the school district has yet to respond to any communications from him and the Maday family.
The examples detailed in the complaint stated:
In December 2020, the complaint states, a girl at gymnastics practice at the Bretting Community Center in Ashland tested positive for COVID-19, but the other girls at practice, who allegedly lied about wearing masks, did not have to quarantine.
In January 2021, a hockey player from Hurley, Wisconsin, tested positive, but only the other three boys who drove to Ashland for a game with this player had to quarantine. The rest of the team did not.
In January 2021, an Ashland basketball player tested positive two days after attending a surprise birthday party with over 30 classmates and three days after playing in a basketball game. No one from the party or the basketball team was asked to quarantine.
A signed declaration from former school nurse Jessica Clark is attached to the complaints. Clark served as the district nurse from October 2010 through November 2020. During the pandemic, Clark was responsible for contact tracing and making sure COVID-19 protocols were followed.
According to her declaration, she witnessed multiple instances where the Ashland School District failed to enforce its COVID-19 protocols or inconsistently enforced them on non-Native American students and staff.
At the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, a non-Native American elementary teacher was notified of being a close contact of a confirmed case, but was not instructed by the administration to quarantine until Clark went into the office and reviewed the guidelines with the principals and teacher, the complaint said.
Clark also wrote in her declaration that in early November 2020, a teacher’s assistant tested positive and notified close contacts at the school. The close contacts were initially instructed by the administration to report to work, even though they were known to be in close contact with the confirmed case.
Georgiana Cloud, a member of the Bad River Band, also submitted a written declaration to the Madays’ attorney to attach to the complaint. In her declaration, Cloud said in October 2018 her son had been caught using vaping materials on school property. Cloud was told he would receive a three-day out-of-school suspension for the offense. She then received a letter from Ashland High School stating it would be a five-day out-of-school suspension.
Cloud claims that at the same time, her son’s friend, who is not Native American, was also caught with a vape pen and only received a one-day in-school suspension. Cloud claims that due to the suspension, her son’s future was put in jeopardy and he eventually dropped out of school and never graduated.
Former Ashland School Board member Lynn Bigboy asked the district to provide Native language instruction, but the district adamantly refused to do so, according to Bigboy.
The Maday family is claiming these examples and what the district did to their children shows a history and pattern of discrimination against Native Americans.
The oldest of the Madays' three children was considered a close contact of another child who tested positive in February. The district nurse, Megan Kupczyk, called Kelly Maday to tell her so and asked her if she had any other children in the district. Maday said she did, but none of them had symptoms, so she wanted to keep the other two in school. Maday said Kupczyk told her that wasn’t possible and that all three would have to quarantine.
All three children were pulled from their classrooms and put in the district’s isolation room for 45 minutes until Eric Maday was able to leave work early to pick them up.
Ashland School District Superintendent Erik Olson did not respond to News Tribune's multiple requests for comment in March when the claims of discrimination first arose.
This story was updated at 7:11 p.m. Aug. 2 with a statement from Jeff Spitzer-Resnick. It was originally posted at 5:51 p.m. Aug. 2.