Gaylor, Foundation Call for Madison Superintendent to Resign

Group Alleges District Policy Violated

Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation called today for the resignation of Art Rainwater, Superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District, Wis.

The Foundation said Rainwater’s inaction, when he had been made aware that political activity was taking place at a school board meeting, would justify his dismissal, under school district policy.

Rainwater took no immediate action over a crucial period of time to remove a banner and table urging the recall of school board members at an Oct. 15 school board meeting convened to discuss a Pledge of Allegiance controversy. A table urging the recall of several school board members was set up at the site of the board meeting at James Madison Memorial High School.

The recall group also held a news conference on school property that evening in violation of district policy.

According to Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education Policies and Procedures, “no employee shall use District property, sources, facilities … to promote any political candidate, party, or cause.”

The Code of Conduct for employees in violation of school district policy makes them subject to dismissal, including for faulty “exercise of judgment” and for “inaction.”

Gaylor cited her objection to the presence of the “recall” table to Rainwater by 4:30 p.m. at the Oct. 15 gathering. Rainwater told her, “It’s a public forum.” Nearly everyone attending the meeting had to see or pass by the recall table, according to the Foundation.

“It was not a public forum,” Gaylor said.

The district policy places “responsibility for this (recall) table squarely on your shoulders,” the Foundation wrote Rainwater. “To knowingly permit, even for one additional minute, a recall table and other political activity at an official school board function, is beyond reprehensible. . . . It could very well have affected the outcome of the evening’s vote.”

A group has vowed to recall several members of the Madison school board over an October 8 vote instructing Madison schools to play the national anthem rather than recite the Pledge of Allegiance to comply with a controversial new state law. The law requires that schools offer either the Pledge of Allegiance or the national anthem every day. The board voted 3-2 on Oct. 8 to play the national anthem, in order to protect the freedom of conscience of Madison school children. Following the heated eight-hour public hearing on Oct. 15 attended by 1,200 people, the Board rescinded that action by a 6-1 vote and returned to the policy of leaving the choice of the anthem or pledge up to individual principals.

The Foundation also criticized Rainwater for suspending the legal vote of the School Board on Oct. 8. The Foundation called this “apparent insubordination.” Rainwater engaged in further alleged insubordination by directing Madison principals to take part in the Bush Administration’s campaign for a simultaneous recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in the nation’s schools on Oct. 12. This “flies in the face of the original policy to let principals make this decision for themselves.”

The Foundation is calling on the school board chair to fully investigate the circumstances surrounding the illegal presence of the “recall” table and press conference announcing the recall movement on school property.


Freedom From Religion Foundation

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