Brandi Grayson Response to Jen Cheatham’s Open Letter

Phone: (608) 618-0942

What follows is an op-ed by Brandi Grayson, responding to Jen Cheatham’s open letter to the community more than a week after the incident at Whitehorse Middle School where an 11 year old black girl was physically attacked by a school administrator.

The superintendent of Madison Metropolitan School District, Jennifer Cheatham. wrote a letter to the Madison Community on 2/28/19, acknowledging the failure of MMSD to protect Black children. She acknowledged that MMSD should be held to a higher standard. She acknowledged that incidents are increasing with time. The problem with her letter is, and was, that she gaslit the hell out of us via wordsmithing.

Before I explain how she did it let me first define gaslighting and wordsmithing. Both are used in abusive relationships. Gaslighting is a term coined to describe a series of manipulative behavior resulting in emotional and mental abuse which causes the targeted individual(s) to begin questioning their feelings and emotions. One way Jennifer Cheatham did this is by downplaying incidents of racism and physical abuse. She often responds to concerns and demands from the Black community as overreactive, over-dramatized, or unnecessary, but never directly uses those words. That’s where wordsmithing comes in. Wordsmithing is defined as a person skillfully using words to convey a certain message or thought indirectly. It’s used by abusers to redirect, reframe, oppose, and downplay.

On 2/13/18, an eleven year old Black girl was brutalized at Whitehorse elementary school by an administrator. The school district didn’t respond to the incident until 9 days later. Jennifer Cheatham did not send out a letter to the community expressing her discontent following the incident, nor did she acknowledge the incident had occurred. An eleven year old Black girl was brutalized in front of her class. The principal for the day, Rob Mueller-Owens, 52, threw her to the ground, pulled her hair out, and then preceded to punch an 11 year old Black girl in the face….

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