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Gangs and School Violence Forum Notes

This evening’s Gangs and School Violence Forum was quite interesting. Rafael organized an excellent panel. We’ll post a link to video and audio files when they are complete. Following are links to local articles and commentary on this event:

  • Cristina Daglas:

    Yudice said there has been a “huge development in the area of Latino gangs” in Madison specifically, and Blue noted an increase in girls in gangs.
    “We have seen a great surge in activity,” Yudice said.
    All of the panelists offered ideas to help reduce the problem in Madison’s high schools, including limiting off-campus privileges and continuing consistent enforcement against gang colors and clothing in schools.
    “It’s really easy to slip out a door,” said Madison Memorial High School Principal Bruce Dahmen. “It’s important that we have high expectations for all the children.”

  • Reader Jared Lewis emailed this:

    If you need any assistance regarding information about gangs in Madison or resources for schools to tackle the gang problem, feel free to contact me or visit my website at
    I am a former California police officer and a nationally recognized gang expert. I now reside in Jefferson County and continue to teach law enforcement officers, educators and social service workers about dealing with gang problems nationwide.

  • Natalie Swaby

    Students and parents listened during a Wednesday night meeting and took notes, a move in the right direction according to Officer Moore.
    “Last year they were telling me there was no gang issue in or around any of our schools, I was told that by the administration here,” he says. “So this is something that is really great for me that we are finally acknowledging that we do have gang issues.”
    There are resources for at risk youth in the Madison area, but many on the panel stressed that a unified strategic plan is needed.

    Officer Moore also strongly suggested that the High Schools eliminate their open campus policy.

  • Sandy Cullen:

    Blue and other panelists attributed the increase in gang activity to a growing number of students who feel a disconnection with their school and community, and with adults who care about them.
    “We’re getting a wake-up call that says certain parts of our community are not healthy,” Blue said.

Forum video and audio archive

Presentation on Gangs & School Violence

Gangs and School Violence Presentation
Wednesday, September 21, 2005 7:00p.m. to 8:00p.m.
Organized by volunteers from
McDaniels Auditorium
Doyle Administration Building
545 W. Dayton St.
Madison, WI 53703 Directions
Discussion Topics:
1) Has the gang issue changed over the past 10 years?
2) What have we learned from our initiatives?
3) What partnerships are available to keep gangs away from schools?
4) What procedures are available to individual schools to keep gangs away from schools?
Ed Holmes, Principal of Madison West High School
Mike Meissen, Principal of LaFollette High School
Robert Growney, Principal of Edgewood High School
Lt. Luis Yudice, Office of Justice Assistance
Stephen Blue, MSW Office Manager of Delinquent Services
Hector Alvarez, Centro Hispano
Bruce Dahmen, Principal – Madison Memorial High School
Lester Moore, City of Madison Police Department
For more information, please contact
Rafael Gomez:
Joan Knoebel:
Larry Winkler:
This event will be recorded and published on

What Would Happen If School Choice Loses

Daniel Buck:

Early in the fall, a far-left PAC filed a lawsuit, charging that Wisconsin’s school-choice program somehow violates the state’s constitution — hoping that our state’s supreme court, which flipped to a progressive majority last election, would whack their political lob and smack down vouchers in our state. Thankfully, on December 13 the state supreme court unanimously voted to reject the lawsuit.

School choice survives in Wisconsin, at least for now. But it remains under pressure in other jurisdictions. Last month, Illinois allowed a tuition program serving almost 10,000 students to die. Ohio and South Carolina also have lawsuits in the works seeking to strike down voucher legislation. And such lawsuits have succeeded before in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Nevada. Chicago’s Board of Education approved new district goals that include a movement away from school choice.

Even as choice will continue in Wisconsin, it’s useful to consider the counterfactual. What would have happened if the lawsuit had succeeded? What would it be like from a student’s and teacher’s perspective?

Consider a former student of mine. We’ll call him Zack. Zack’s mother works the late shift to make rent, but never misses a parent–teacher conference. Last year, our school went on lockdown several times, because local gangs threatened violence, and the Autozone across from us had police tape up after a murder the week before school began. Nonetheless, Zack outperformed students in our state’s most affluent districts, earning a place at a premier private high school.

The Stanford Guide to Acceptable Words: Behold the school’s Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative.

Wall Street Journal:

Call yourself an “American”? Please don’t. Better to say “U.S. citizen,” per the bias hunters, lest you slight the rest of the Americas. “Immigrant” is also out, with “person who has immigrated” as the approved alternative. It’s the iron law of academic writing: Why use one word when four will do?

You can’t “master” your subject at Stanford any longer; in case you hadn’t heard, the school instructs that “historically, masters enslaved people.” And don’t dare design a “blind study,” which “unintentionally perpetuates that disability is somehow abnormal or negative, furthering an ableist culture.” Blind studies are good and useful, but never mind; “masked study” is to be preferred. Follow the science. 

“Gangbusters” is banned because the index says it “invokes the notion of police action against ‘gangs’ in a positive light, which may have racial undertones.” Not to beat a dead horse (a phrase that the index says “normalizes violence against animals”), but you used to have to get a graduate degree in the humanities to write something that stupid.

Deeper dive.

K-12 School crimes, Madison and the law

David Blaska:

Wisconsin law is clear. If violence breaks out in school, you call the police and you call them first thing.

Madison’s public schools violated state statue when it did not call in the police after an East high school sophomore was pummeled by two assailants as he sat at his desk. We’re not the only ones to notice. Retired UW Law School prof Ann of Althouse asked, “Why don’t schools call the police when crimes are committed in school?”

We answered her question at our blogge headlined “School discipline plan omits police, rewards analysis paralysis:” Madison WI schools have declared War on Police.

Again we post the flow chart of the school district’s critical response plan. A starving mouse would go dizzy in this bureaucratic maze. See if you can find where it says Call the Police. In fact, the first step reads: “Central Office Notified.”

Gangs and School Violence forum

Madison School discipline plan omits police, rewards analysis paralysis

David Blaska:

The influential Ann of Althouse, retired UW Law school professor and bloggueresse, asks “Why don’t schools call the police when crimes are committed in school?”

The short answer is that Madison WI schools a year ago enlisted in the War on Police.With the connivance of Madison’s woke city government, the school board evicted school resource police officers. Let Ann tell it:

There’s an interview with Tim LeMonds, MMSD Director of Communications. If I understand him correctly …  the school’s policy is not to call the police unless a weapon is involved or police are needed to stop the fight. The message I hear is that there’s a plan never to call the police if attacks are quick and done with bare hands. The video shows a defenseless child getting pummeled at his desk. As LeMonds put it:

“When the attack took place, the teacher reached out for assistance and by the time staff were able to respond the incident was over.” 

Althouse asks: “How is that a reason not to call the police?!” 

The Werkes answers: Student discipline has been sucked into a bureaucratic black hole. Woe to the educator who does call police! We reproduce the critical response incident flowchart. It is contained within the school district’s 111-page MMSD safety plan. One Hundred and Eleven pages! At the very least, one hopes that each and every one of 4,985 school district employees (including the hot lunch ladies) are given a laminated copy like the kind the football coaches carry on the sidelines. Sort of a Chinese restaurant menu.

UPDATE: A reader points out, correctly, that MMSD policies & actions are in clear violation of Wisconsin State Statute 48.981, which mandates the reporting of any assault on a child under the age of 18 to a law enforcement agency or county social services.

Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum.

Fight video of O’Keeffe students called “disturbing” by school principal

Lucas Robinson:

The principal of O’Keeffe Middle School said a video of a fight between two students on a bus is “disturbing” and urged the community to stop sharing the video online. 

The fight that broke out on a bus Wednesday afternoonleft one student with injuries, Principal Tony Dugas said in an email to families. The injured student was evaluated by a local health care provider, and the school is working to determine how to discipline the students involved, Dugas said.

Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum.

Madison School District considers update to restraint and seclusion policy

Scott Girard:

The Madison Metropolitan School District is considering an update to its policy on restraint and seclusion of students after a state law change earlier this year.

Staff presented the proposal to the School Board Monday. Board members had a few questions about training and definitions, but generally supported the changes. They are expected to vote on the policy later this month.

The notification changes require districts to report data to the board and the state Department of Public Instruction, schools to provide a written report to parents, and principals to meet with staff or law enforcement involved in an incident. The new state law also prohibits the use of prone restraints, or those that involve staff taking a child to the floor to restrain them, and using rooms with a lock on the door for seclusion.

Physical restraint, according to the district’s definition in its presentation Monday, “means a restriction that immobilizes or reduces the ability of a student to freely move their torso, arms, legs, or head.” A brief touch or hold of a student’s hand, arm, shoulder or back to comfort or redirect the student does not fit the definition.

Seclusion is “the involuntary confinement of a student, apart from other students, in a room or area from which the student is physically prevented from leaving,” according to the presentation.

MMSD’s policy update would also remove words like “reasonable” to describe some uses of physical restraint, and prohibit restraints that “obstruct the student’s circulation” like those that cause chest compression or place weight on the student’s neck or throat.

2005: Gangs & School Violence Forum.

1995-2006: Police Calls – Madison Schools.

Madison School Board approves members, plans for safety and security committee

Scott Girard:

Two weeks ago, the committee was set to include 14 people and not have the exclusionary practices bullet among its charges. But board member Ali Muldrow asked that the committee include disproportionality in its discussions, and other board members asked that the membership be expanded to ensure all high schools were well-represented.

According to the plan approved Monday, board member Savion Castro and board president Gloria Reyes will co-chair the committee. They will be joined by two students, two staff members and one parent from La Follette; two staff members from each of Memorial and East; and one staff member, one parent and one student from West.

2005: Gangs & School Violence Forum.

1995-2006: Police Calls – Madison Schools.

New report shows arrests, citations at MMSD high schools in 2019-20 remain disproportionate

Scott Girard:

A new report from the Madison Metropolitan School District shows that police interactions with students continued recent trends in 2019-20, with few citations and arrests but Black students making up a disproportionate number of those.

While the data come with caveats — most notably that the in-person school year was three months shorter than normal because of the COVID-19 pandemic — the report outlines statistics for Madison Police Department officers responding to each of the four comprehensive high schools, including interactions with students that resulted in arrests and citations.

The numbers were low compared to the student population, but among those who were arrested or cited, a disproportionate number were once again Black students. The data include incidents involving the school resource officers stationed at each of the four schools as well as officers who responded to a school campus for a call.

The report, which covers Sept. 1, 2019, through March 13, 2020, comes about a month after the School Board voted unanimously to end the more-than-20-year-old SRO program amid a nationwide reckoning with systemic racism, especially in policing. Board member Ali Muldrow cited the ongoing disparities ahead of her vote.

“Over the course of the entire lifespan of this program of policing in schools, a majority of students every year to be arrested in school are African American children,” Muldrow said June 29. “Policing in schools has had an impact in terms of racial profiling within education.”

2005: Gangs & School Violence Forum.

1995-2006: Police Calls – Madison Schools.

Analysis: Madison school district’s lenient discipline policy is a dismal failure

Dave Daley:

In 2013, the Madison school district had a zero-tolerance policy for misbehavior. Suspension was almost automatic for most violations. When Cheatham became superintendent that year, she was determined to bring down suspension and expulsion rates that she felt unfairly affected black students.

Black students made up 62% of expulsions for the previous four years compared to only 19% for white kids in a district where black students were just under 20% of the population. “Racial equity” became Cheatham’s mantra. 

She was convinced the district’s zero-tolerance approach was partly to blame — it did not give a troubled student the opportunity to learn from misbehavior or for the school to learn what was behind the bad conduct and find ways to help. 

So in 2014, Cheatham, who is white, implemented her Behavior Education Plan (BEP) geared to helping students learn positive behavior to keep them in the classroom. The district would use options such as an in-class suspension or mediation with a “restorative justice” circle to try to talk through the bad conduct with the student and the students’ peers and teachers. 

The BEP also would be “culturally responsive” — that is, take into consideration the fact that poor, black kids in challenging circumstances can behave differently than their white peers.

Mueller-Owens believed in and fervently promoted Cheatham’s discipline agenda.

“The dominant culture lacks an understanding of how other cultures interact with each other,” he told a Madison Commons writer in 2018, explaining why black students were suspended at higher rates than white kids. “The BEP comes from a heart of justice.”

Others disagreed. Some teachers and observers felt the BEP made it difficult to keep order in the classroom, gave the upper hand to students disinterested in learning and even put teachers in danger. 

Worse, some argued, the classroom disruptions were hurting black students the most — a group already struggling to close the achievement gap with white students.

One of the policy’s sharpest critics is Peter Anderson, a highly regarded Madison liberal who is leading a campaign to toughen classroom discipline. 

“The way that Dr. Cheatham chose to implement the Behavior Education Plan had the effect of undermining teachers, the end result of which — if nothing changes — will be a failed Madison school system, in which it is the at-risk students who will be trapped,” Anderson wrote in an email to the Badger Institute.

“White guilt and black rage are a toxic mix that helps nobody,” he continued, adding that with biracial grandchildren in the Madison schools, he’s “very concerned for what these policies mean both for the disadvantaged kids these efforts are supposedly intended to protect and for the future of public schools in racially diverse metropolitan areas.”

“Continuing Cheathamism cheats the black kids it purports to champion,” Anderson, founder of Wisconsin’s Environmental Decade (now Clean Wisconsin), concluded in a January blog post.

2005: Gangs & School Violence forum audio / video.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration

Madison School Board to vote on Police Presence, layoffs and budget

Scott Girard:

If the vote goes as expected, the 2020-21 school year will be the first in more than two decades without a police officer stationed in each of the district’s comprehensive high schools.

Employee Handbook changes

Madison Teachers Inc. is organizing opposition to a set of proposed Employee Handbook changes that would change the rules around layoffs and surplus staff.

District administrators have asked the board to approve language that would eliminate seniority as the mechanism for layoffs and forced moves to other sites, instead using other to-be-determined standards evaluating performance. The changes would also allow for 30-day notice of layoffs instead of the annual May 15 layoff notices.

With the district considering a November operations referendum and the state still uncertain on its revenue losses from the pandemic, MMSD chief financial officer Kelly Ruppel told the board earlier this month she’s trying to create as much flexibility as possible for the months ahead.

That included an $8 million cut from last year already. Earlier this month board members agreed that cutting an additional $8.4 million to protect against the possibility of state cuts was a good idea. Doing so meant cutting the planned base wage increase for staff.

Ruppel said that means hitting pause on “any new spending, in order to maintain the most flexibility until we know more.” 

The other option she offered to board members was cutting up to 92 staff positions. If the referendum is on the ballot and approved or if state cuts don’t happen, the district could add wage increases back in mid-year. Hiring for eliminated positions would be a bigger challenge.

2011: A majority of the taxpayer supported Madison School Board aborted the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration

2005: Gangs & School Violence audio / video.

Ex-CPS principal who tamed tough Fenger High explains why cops don’t belong in schools

Mark Brown:

A school principal will always need a good working relationship with the local district commander, but police are asked to intervene in too many situations, Dozier believes.

“We put too much on them,” she says. “It doesn’t necessarily warrant a police response.”

The problem with getting police involved is that it sucks students into a situation from which they might never recover.

“Once a kid touches the criminal justice system, it just steamrolls,” Dozier says.

It’s not enough for CPS to give a school the option of getting rid of its police officers if no resources are offered to take their place.

In Chicago’s resource-poor schools, it’s hardly a surprise that school communities would choose to hang on to what little they have, no matter how imperfect.

Dozier agrees with those who say the $33 million that CPS spends on its police contract should be reinvested in alternative resources.

“You have to give the schools what they need,” she says. “You can’t just take [police] out and say, ‘Good luck.’ ”

Maybe that can’t be accomplished by the beginning of this school year. But it ought to be the stated goal of the Chicago Public Schools.

2011: A majority of the taxpayer supported Madison School Board aborted the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration

2005: Gangs & School Violence audio / video.

Commentary on Two 2020 taxpayer supported Madison School District Superintendent Candidates

Scott Girard:

Madison School Board president Gloria Reyes said in the release the district is “very fortunate to have an impressive pool of highly qualified candidates participate in this process.”

“With a focus on how candidates aligned with the Leadership Profile, the Board was able to select two phenomenal finalists, both with deep roots in education and instruction, and today we are excited to introduce them to our community,” Reyes said.

MMSD had 26,842 students in the 2019-20 school year, with demographics of 41.7% white, 22.3% Hispanic, 17.8% Black, 8.5% Asian, 9.3% Two or more and less than 1% each of Pacific Isle and American Indian, according to state data.

In its earlier search, the district had three finalists. In addition to Gutierrez, Georgia education official Eric Thomas and College of Saint Rose professor Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard also visited the district for an interview and public Q and A. Consultant BWP and Associates conducted both searches.

Jane Belmore has served as the interim superintendent since last August, when Jennifer Cheatham left for a position at Harvard after six years in MMSD

Logan Wroge:

The finalists, Carol Kelley and Carlton Jenkins, will proceed with interviews next week.

Jenkins is in his fifth year as superintendent of the Robbinsdale School District in New Hope, Minnesota. He’s held educational leadership positions — including chief academic officer, principal, assistant principal and health teacher — in Michigan, Ohio, Beloit and Madison, and received his PhD from UW-Madison.

Kelley, an educator with 25 years of experience, is also in her fifth year as superintendent of Oak Park Elementary School District 97 in Illinois, the district said in an announcement. She also served for three years as superintendent of Branch Township School District in New Jersey and has a background as an elementary and middle school principal and a classroom teacher.

In these challenging times, our local businesses need your support. Find out how to get food, goods, services and more from those remaining open.

Kelley holds a doctorate of education from the University of Pennsylvania, the district said.

In addition to the next round of interviews, Jenkins and Kelley will participate in online engagement sessions with district staff and students during a “Virtual Day in the District.” The sessions will include an opportunity to ask questions of the candidates and provide feedback.

Notes and links on the 2020 Superintendent pageant, round 2.

2011: A majority of the taxpayer supported Madison School Board aborted the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration

2005: Gangs & School Violence audio / video.

2018 committee report could help guide upcoming Madison school resource officer decisions

Scott Girard:

Most members who spoke with the Cap Times said they favored removing officers, but didn’t think doing so immediately would solve the problem at the heart of the issue: feeling safe at school.

And some of the committee members wonder what happened to their months of work and why Reyes is calling for another subcommittee to investigate how to transition to having no SROs in schools. Under the contract with the Madison Police Department, a decision needs to be made by Sept. 15 to be effective June 2021.

“I just hope that the work that the ERO Ad Hoc did is not completely disregarded,” said former School Board member Anna Moffit. “People took a lot of time to put that report together and we did spend a lot of time in our schools talking to staff, talking to students, looking at research.

“I would hate to see a new committee be created and doing the same thing over again.”

2011: A majority of the taxpayer supported Madison School Board aborted the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration

2005: Gangs & School Violence audio / video.

Madison teachers union backs removal of police from high schools

Logan Wroge:

Madison’s teachers union is shifting its stance on school-based police officers and is now advocating they be taken out of the city’s main high schools — but only if 33 additional support staff are hired.

In a statement Sunday, Madison Teachers Inc. said it backs the removal of school resource officers, or SROs, stationed inside each of the Madison School District’s four main high schools — a move local activists have demanded of the district for years.

“We see the systematic racism that exists in our current structures and join the voices of our students and our community in calling for dramatic change in how we educate and interact with all of our students, especially those most marginalized in our schools and society,” MTI president Andy Waity said in the statement.

The major caveat, though, is MTI will only support the removal if certain positions at the four main high schools are staffed at recommended levels by the American Civil Liberties Union.

According to MTI, achieving those levels at each high school based on the ACLU’s “metric of equitable staffing” would require additional hires of:

One counselor, one nurse, one psychologist and four social workers for East.

One counselor, one nurse, one psychologist and five social workers for La Follette.

Two counselors, one nurse, one psychologist and five social workers for Memorial.

One counselor, one nurse and seven social workers for West.

“If we remove police officers from our schools, but do not adequately staff those same schools with social workers, nurses, counselors, and psychologists, we are perpetuating harm upon our most vulnerable young people,” the statement said.

2005: Gangs & School Violence Forum audio / video.


Act 10

Four Senators for $1.57M

An emphasis on adult employment“.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration

Madison School District behavior plan updates would push for more alternatives to suspension

Scott Girard:

After a larger overhaul a year ago, proposed updates to the Madison Metropolitan School District’s Behavior Education Plan for this fall would focus on “tweaks” to language and creating more alternatives to suspensions.

The updates, presented to the School Board Monday night at its Instruction Work Group meeting, would add new language related to drugs, physical contact and inappropriate language.

“This is a narrow proposal that we have in front of you,” said MMSD coordinator of progressive discipline Bryn Martyna. “We also want to make sure that the written policy is still up to date and current with what the board wants and what the board intended when you all passed the last version of it.”

The smaller-scale changes are a continuation of the annual updating process. The BEP outlines various behaviors and the responses, which vary from level 1 — classroom managed, not recorded in Infinite Campus — to level 5 — long-term removal from school, including potential expulsion.

The plan has been controversial since it was created in 2014 under former Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham. Some blame the BEP for a lack of discipline among students, and others say they support the plan’s ideals but question whether the district has done enough to help teachers implement it.

The latest proposal, which the board is expected to vote on at its May 18 meeting, would add using an electronic smoking device to the list of behaviors for which the district offers alternatives to suspension like restorative circles. The BEP lists other specific behaviors that schools are required or encouraged to develop alternatives to suspension for, but the update would add language encouraging such alternatives to be explored for “any other behaviors” that are not specifically listed.

Much more on the Madison School District’s behavior education plan, here.

2005: Gangs and School Violence Forum: audio and video:

Complaint: Gun found at Madison West High School last week followed armed robbery on Saturday

Scott Girard:

Williams then provided the backpack to Creech, and told one of the other officers there was a gun inside. The complaint states Creech found a semi-automatic firearm in the laptop compartment of the backpack. The magazine was loaded but no rounds were housed within the chamber when the gun was found.

Williams faces two counts each of armed robbery with threat of force, felony intimidation of a victim and false imprisonment and one count of possession of a firearm on grounds of a school.

Williams was scheduled for an initial appearance in court Monday afternoon.

2005: Gangs and school violence forum: audio and video.

2017: West High Teacher on our disastrous reading results:

“Here’s my data from this year and this is why I’m here: 

Of the 65 students plus or minus it kind of changes this year 24 of them are regular ed students. 

Another way to say they don’t have an IEP so there is no excuse for that reading intervention in (that group). 

12 of those 24 have been enrolled in Madison School since Pre-K kindergarten or kindergarden. 12 students have been in Madison Schools.”

Madison Memorial student arrested after trying to bring knife into school

Scott Girard:

A Memorial High School student was arrested Thursday morning while allegedly trying to bring a “long fix-bladed kitchen knife” into the school, according to the Madison Police Department.

An incident report states a plow driver called 911 after seeing the student walking near the school with the knife around 9:21 a.m.

“The witness said the suspect attempted to conceal the weapon up a sleeve after realizing he was being watched by the plow driver,” the report states.

2005: Gangs and school violence forum: audio and video.

2017: West High Teacher on our disastrous reading results:

“Here’s my data from this year and this is why I’m here: 

Of the 65 students plus or minus it kind of changes this year 24 of them are regular ed students. 

Another way to say they don’t have an IEP so there is no excuse for that reading intervention in (that group). 

12 of those 24 have been enrolled in Madison School since Pre-K kindergarten or kindergarden. 12 students have been in Madison Schools.”

Madison West High School student found with loaded handgun in school, police say

Logan Wroge:

West High School student was arrested Tuesday after he brought a loaded handgun to the Near West Side school, Madison police said.

Tyrese T. Williams, 18, was arrested on a tentative felony charge of possession of a firearm in a school zone, Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said.

West High’s school resource officer received information Tuesday morning about a student possibly having a gun in the building, DeSpain said. The handgun was found in Williams’ backpack when it was searched, DeSpain said.

Principal Karen Boran said in an email to parents that “response protocols” were put in place when school staff learned about the potential of a firearm.

2005: Gangs and school violence forum: audio and video.

2017: West High Teacher on our disastrous reading results:

“Here’s my data from this year and this is why I’m here: 

Of the 65 students plus or minus it kind of changes this year 24 of them are regular ed students. 

Another way to say they don’t have an IEP so there is no excuse for that reading intervention in (that group). 

12 of those 24 have been enrolled in Madison School since Pre-K kindergarten or kindergarden. 12 students have been in Madison Schools.”

More, here.

NBC 15 coverage:

Police department spokesman Joel DeSpain said a school resource officer was notified Tuesday morning that a student may have a gun in the building.

DeSpain said the gun was found in Tyrese T. Williams’ backpack. The 18-year-old was arrested for possessing a firearm in a school zone.

According to Tim Lemonds, the school district spokesperson, in an interview with NBC15 News: “The way the principal and her team and especially our educational resource officer – the way they were able to respond quickly and isolate this student and make that area safe for other students, to address the issue, was exactly the way we train.”

A letter was sent to parents by Madison West High School principal Karen Boran.

Madison School Board moves to closed room after middle school incident sparks outrage

Logan Wroge:

Throughout the public comment period, board members faced accusations of racism and white supremacy for not doing enough to improve the school environment for students of color.

Brandi Grayson, co-founder of the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition, said black children act out in school because they are “dehumanized every day, all day.”

“Because it’s under your watch, you are accountable,” Grayson said of the Whitehorse incident.

Several people connected the Feb. 13 incident at the East Side middle school to the contentious issue of school-based police officers at Madison’s four comprehensive high schools, saying both are based on systems of institutional racism.

“We demand that you dismantle school policing systems,” said Zon Moua, a staff member of social justice organization Freedom Inc. “We demand that you divest from law enforcement and school militarization.”

Madison School Board Takes Cover:

… Blaska was speaking heresy to the apostles of the Cult of Victimhood who have indicted an entire school district, its elected school board and its teaching staff of racism most foul here in liberal-progressive-socialist Madison….

Blaska agreed with the idea of accountability and ran with it when it was his three minutes to address the school board. He further suggested that parents and students should also be held accountable. This drew loud opprobrium from the masses behind me, to the effect that such a sentiment evinced white supremacism.

Blaska should have stated that teachers can teach all they want but children will not learn unless they are so disposed. The fact (insofar as we know the facts) is that the 11-year-old ignored and/or resisted the classroom teacher’s instruction. Now, is it so very antediluvian to suggest that a student ought to obey a teacher’s command? Or should the teacher respond, “Well, if you really don’t want to, never mind”?


Related: 2019 Madison School Board election.

Gangs and school violence forum.

Yet: “The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”.

Madison Police Chief: Scale of ‘school-to-prison pipeline’ has been ‘vastly exaggerated’

Logan Wroge:

Over the past three years at Madison high schools, while arrests have dropped and the number of citations has fluctuated, African-Americans continue to predominantly be those most cited or arrested, according to Madison Police Department data.

As the fate of a contract that stations police officers in high schools remains uncertain, Police Chief Mike Koval took to his blog Thursday to back the school-based officers and argue that the department’s data do not support a “school-to-prison pipeline” narrative that opponents say results in minority students being disproportionately put into the criminal justice system.

“While the numbers are at a point where we should still be doing a deeper drill to see how we can continue to improve and mitigate those numbers, the extent to which the ‘problem’ has been described, I think has been vastly exaggerated,” Koval said in an interview.

Koval attached to his blog post a report the Madison Police Department complied using data from the past three school years on the citations issued and arrests made at the district’s four main high schools — East, La Follette, Memorial and West — where a uniformed and armed police officer, known as a school resource officer, or SRO, is stationed during school hours.

“There is no question that the combination of school disciplinary practices and juvenile justice practices, working in interaction, have unnecessarily, disproportionately placed young people in the juvenile justice system,” said School Board member TJ Mertz.

Related: Gangs & School Violence forum

Unsatisfied with progress, Madison schools look to revamp behavior plan

Chris Rickert:

For years now there’s been a split between city of Madison residents generally and the children who attend its public schools.

Madison’s population is 78.7 percent white, according to Census Bureau figures, and only 18.6 percent of residents live in poverty. By contrast, only 42.7 percent of Madison School District students identified as white last school year, according to district figures reported to the state Department of Public Instruction, and 46 percent were classified as economically disadvantaged.

Four years after the BEP’s launch, there’s little sign that schools with poorer, more racially diverse student populations necessarily have more behavior problems — contradicting some of the common assumptions about urban schools.

Among elementary schools, for example, the school with the most documented “behavior events,” Orchard Ridge, was demographically similar to the school with the least, Sandburg.

Sandburg, on the Far East Side had a school population last year that was 61.3 percent low-income and 75.3 percent nonwhite, but only 0.28 events per student last year.

Orchard Ridge, on the Southwest Side, had a student population that was 56 percent low-income and 67.2 nonwhite, but nearly 12 events per student.

The district’s 12 main middle schools had between just more than two events per student and just fewer then five, with no obvious correlations between poorer, more diverse populations and more behavior problems.

A correlation between more racial diversity and poverty and worse behavior, however, was evident once students reached high school.

The district’s most ethnically diverse and poorest high schools in 2017-18, East and La Follette, saw the most behavior problems that year of the district’s five major high schools.

Related: Gangs and school violence forum.

Seeing the Forest: Unpacking the Relationship Between Madison School District (WI) Graduation Rates and Student Achievement.

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

Madison schools committee scraps concept of police liaison program

Logan Wroge:

A Madison School Board committee on Wednesday scrapped the concept of replacing school-based police officers with a liaison program, while it continued to draft recommendations on the future of the school district’s relationship with the Madison Police Department.

A draft report from the committee studying armed and uniformed officers stationed in the Madison School District’s main high schools — La Follette, Memorial, East and West — who are known as educational resource officers, or EROs, included the idea of a liaison program in which officers would be in regular contact with schools and receive special training but not be embedded in the school buildings.

Several committee members said the liaison concept was not vetted well enough over their 16 months of meeting, and they did not feel it would be appropriate to provide such a recommendation to the School Board.

Gangs and school violence forum.

Madison’s K-12 Governance Non Diversity: Police in Schools Meeting

Logan Wroge:

Throughout the public comment period, several people said the presence of police officers inside school can negatively affect students of color and feeds into the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

“Ain’t no amount of training, ain’t no amount of special certificates is going to matter when it comes to black and brown kids, because (police officers) see us as thugs and criminals,” said Bianca Gomez, a member of Freedom Inc., an activist organization focused on issues that affect minority populations.

As Blaska attempted to capture the public comment on his cellphone, others took issue with juvenile speakers being recorded and attempted to block his view by either standing in front of him or putting objects in front of his phone, alleging he runs a racist blog where the youths’ photos would be posted.

Blaska moved about the meeting room, which was held in the McDaniels Auditorium in the district’s Doyle Administration Building, and others continued to follow along and block his phone.

The emotions culminated in a heated face-to-face argument between a woman who had earlier spoke in support of EROs and some people wishing to remove EROs.

Steven Elbow:

A public hearing on a proposal to redefine the Madison School District’s relationship with police descended into chaos Wednesday when factions confronted each other with invective, insults and physical altercations.

The proposal would remove armed educational resource officers from the district’s four main high schools and replace them with at least 20 specially trained school liaison officers that would develop relationships with all district schools and respond to incidents when needed.

The proposal drew no support from 20 people who registered to speak, many of them members of Freedom Inc., a grassroots social justice group that sees the move as an increase in policing efforts. But a small minority of speakers blasted the committee in charge of drafting the new policy for proposing to remove armed officers at East, West, La Follette and Memorial high schools.

“Think of that potential school shooter out there,” said Patrick O’Loughlin, an accountant who teaches business math at a local private high school. “Experience tells us that they think about it for quite some time before acting. What is he going to think when you kick the armed officers off campus?”

O’Loughlin suggested that the draft proposal was intentionally light on statistics supporting the elimination of EROs. He went on to list the kinds of statistics the proposal should have included.

“You can take your statistics and shove them,” said Mahnker Dahnweih of Freedom Inc.


Gangs and School Violence Forum

Police Calls: Madison Schools 1996-2006

Why did Cops Out of Schools committee ignore its own safety expert?

NBC 15 meeting report.

Free speech and the Madison School Board. Former President Obama on “shutdown culture“.

Madison should kick police officers out of its public high schools, a school board committee is poised to recommend. Instead, they would be replaced by 20 more so “liaison” officers who would be called into the schools only as needed.

A majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter school.

“They’re all rich white kids and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”: 1995-1999 (!)

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

The Madison school district spends far more than most: budget details.

What’s different, this time (2013)?

Additional commentary here, and here.

One citizen speaks for keeping cops in schools, gets race-baited by school board member; Part #1

David Blaska:

Bad Language + Bad Manners = Bad Policyat the Madison school board’s ad hoc committee on educational resource officers Monday afternoon

Who, exactly, is demanding cops out of schools? I noted that the crowd seated in Room 103 were pretty much the same mob who shouted down the Dane County Board of Supervisors when that ultra-liberal body discussed building a smaller and more humane county jail, one that would treat mental illness and address substance abuse.

Apologizing to the disrupters

It was at this point that the hullaballoo reached a deafening crescendo. One board member, T.J. Mertz, bugged out entirely. Committee chairman Dean Loumos (whom I was seated behind) shouted into my ear (to be heard above the cacophony) if I would be willing to stop right there. Given the pandemonium, I did so. Still had 17 seconds left of the allotted three minutes, but Blaska is public spirited.

Then Dean Loumos did the unforgivable. He apologized to the disrupters! Dean Loumos said he did not know Blaska would use “coded language.”

What coded language? The protestors were black, white, hispanic, and east Asian. Very few are parents. All but a handful are very young, very loud, and very obnoxious. I intend for Dean Loumos to explain or apologize. (We have video at Part #2.)

Related: Gangs and School Violence Forum (2005).

Police calls, Madison Schools 1996-2006.

Fear of being seen as ‘racist’ may work against good behavior in Madison schools

Karen Rivedal:

A tendency by staff to let the small stuff slide — perhaps due to fears of appearing racist — is only contributing to bigger disciplinary problems down the line in Madison public high schools, Superintendent Jen Cheatham said.

As the Madison School District grapples with a rise in suspensions, fights and classroom disruption that officials say is caused disproportionately by minority students, this “failure to warn,” she said, can be the first step on a slippery slope of escalating bad behavior that ultimately harms misbehaving students as much as anyone else.

“We’ve got this issue of students being able to kind of get away with some of the small things and then all of a sudden they escalate into things that will result in suspendable behaviors,” Cheatham said. “I hear everyone (citing concerns about) the bigger behaviors, the students who desperately need our intervention. But we also have to figure out how to address the smaller behaviors.”


Gangs and school violence forum.

Madison spends more than most, now nearly $20,000 per student.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Thousands of Madison-area students walk out for gun control, school safety

Karen Rivedal:

While staff chose to hold some sort of commemoration, the walkout was planned by a small committee of students over the past two days, eighth grade social studies teacher Tracy Hamm Warnecke said.

“Middle schools are very aware of what’s going on in the world around them, especially eighth graders,” Hamm Warnecke said. “They’re already terrified about entering high school and that transition, and to think about that school shootings happen in this humongous building that there about to enter — they’re scared.”

More here and here.

Related: Gangs and school violence forum and Police calls, Madison Schools 1996-2006.

MS-13 is ‘taking over the school,’ one teen warned before she was killed

Michael Miller:

The old minivan appeared near the school on a Tuesday morning, its Illinois plates the only thing out of place in the blue-collar suburbs of central Long Island. But as backpack-toting teenagers passed by on their way to Brentwood High, the van’s doors suddenly swung open.

Out sprang members of the violent street gang MS-13, armed with baseball bats.

They attacked three 16-year-old students they suspected of being rivals before driving off. When police spotted the van in the same neighborhood the following afternoon and surrounded it at gunpoint, the MS-13 members were in the midst of trying to abduct a fourth.


Gangs and School Violence Forum

Police calls, Madison Schools:1996-2006.

Data show suspensions up in Madison schools for first semester

Amber Walker:

Out-of-school suspensions are up in the Madison Metropolitan School District at this point in the school year compared to last year.

On Monday, the Madison School Board received its midyear update on the Behavior Education Plan. District data shows 1,122 suspensions across the district so far this school year, compared to 892 at the same point last year, an increase of 230.

MMSD officials said the uptick in suspensions is isolated to four high schools and one middle school. The schools were not named, but represent half of all in-school and out-of-school suspensions. Freshman and sophomores account for 75 percent of all incidents at the high school level.

Realated: Gangs and school violence forum audio / video.

Police calls: Madison Schools 1996-2006.

Security upgrades, behavior fixes pledged by Madison School District

Karen Rivedal:

Police also were sent to West on Feb. 19, when a small group of students “engaged in a loud verbal altercation” in front of the school library, Boran said, even as the “vast majority” of students acted appropriately.

Disturbances like that happen dozens of times a year across the four high schools, according to Madison police call records, but the pattern isn’t very clear. Totals ranged from 68 in 2013 to 54 in 2017, topping out at 94 in 2014, and with 15 so far in 2018.

Fights leading to police calls, however, have shown a steady annual rise, from one in 2013 to 18 in 2017, with six so far this year, for about 12 annually on average.


Gangs and school violence forum.

Police calls to Madison Schools: 1996-2006

Madison La Follette parents urge Madison School Board to act on school safety

Amber Walker:

Several dozen parents, students and community members from La Follette High School showed up to Monday evening’s Madison School Board meeting to address mounting concerns about safety at the school.

The outcry follows the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, earlier this month. In the last two weeks, Madison Police have responded to high profile incidents at La Follette, including disarming a student who brought a handgun to campus.

Parents like Jose Pacheco urged the School Board to do more to make students feel safe at school.


Gangs and school violence forum.

Police calls to Madison Schools: 1996-2006

Wisconsin Association of School Boards: Conversation about arming teachers should start at local level

Lisa Speckhard Pasque:

In an often passionate debate that can become a battle between extremes, Robert Butler, associate executive director of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, doesn’t think there’s a top-down, one-size-fits-all solution. On an episode of the Sunday political talk show “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” Butler suggested asking local police, liability carriers and teachers for input at a local level to make plans for stronger school security.

“Each of our members has unique facilities, a unique location, and what may not be a prudent course of action for a district that has law enforcement nearby, may be a strategy and a tactic that a rural school district with law enforcement available contemplates,” Butler said.


Gangs and School Violence Forum.

Police Calls, Madison Schools 1996-2006.

Parent hands cardboard with ‘gun’ written on it to teacher at Madison school, police say

Logan Wroge:

A Madison man has been arrested and banned from Shorewood Hills Elementary School after he handed a piece of cardboard with “gun” written on it to a teacher Thursday morning.

Police said there was no danger to the school and didn’t speculate on what the parent’s motive was.

Shorewood Hills Police Chief Aaron Chapin said Jonathan M. Fitzgerald, 35, activated a front door buzzer at the school, 1105 Shorewood Blvd., around 10 a.m., requesting access to the building. When he was allowed in, he walked past the school office where visitors are required to check in, Chapin said.

Related: Police calls, Madison Schools 1996-2006 and

Gangs and School violence forum.

School board knew of Parkland shooter’s obsession with guns and violence, documents show

Bob Norman:

The education plan shows that, even as Cruz was making progress at the Cross Creek School for emotionally and behaviorally disabled students in late 2015, but that he was known by administrators to have an obsession with guns and violence. Here are some passages from the plan:

“Nikolas at times, will be distracted by inappropriate conversations of his peers if the topic is about guns, people being killed or the armed forces,” wrote Cross Creek educators.
“He is fascinated by the use of guns and often speaks of weapons and the importance of ‘having weapons to remain safe in this world.'”
“He becomes preoccupied with things such as current events regarding wars and terrorist [sic].”
Provenzano said that in 42 years of dealing with exceptional students she never saw a document with such obvious signs that a student might resort to violence.

“These are significant red flags that this is a very troubled young man,” she said.

The plan also noted that Cruz had been involved in two serious incidents, recent at the time: “He is very easily influenced and was coerced to jump off the back of the school bus by a peer. Nikolas has difficulty with wanting to have friends and engaging in following the negative behaviors of those peers.

Related: Police calls, Madison Schools 1996-2006 and

Gangs and School violence forum.

Three Madison high schools erupt in chaos Monday noon

David Blaska:

From what we can determine, the misbehaving students were not peacefully protesting for gun control, social justice, or better cafeteria food. They were just fighting.

Let’s start with Chief Koval’s bare bones police blotter:

MIDTOWN: Disturbance – 12:12 p.m. MPD Educational Resource Officer (ERO) requested back-up to assist with a large disturbance in the cafeteria of Madison Memorial High School. Multiple officers responded to de-escalate the situation. Investigation continuing.

MIDTOWN: Disturbance – 12:27 p.m. MPD Educational Resource Officer’s (ERO) radio alarm was activated during a large disturbance at West High School. Additional officers responded to assist with the situation. Investigation continuing.

NORTH: Disturbance – 12:38 p.m. MPD Educational Resource Officer (ERO) requested multiple officers respond to East High School regarding a disturbance and an attempt to apprehend a couple of subjects. A juvenile (15 year old AAF) arrived at school (she was suspended) with two other subjects (20 year old AAF and 15 year old AAF) and started a disturbance. The 20 year old AAF was arrested and conveyed to the jail for trespassing and disorderly conduct. Investigation continuing with respect to the juveniles.

We have a little bit more on the situation at West H.S.. First, the notice to parents from the principal, Karen Boran:

Related: Police calls, Madison Schools 1996-2006 and

Gangs and School violence forum.

La Follette High School student found with handgun at school, principal says

Logan Wroge:

A La Follette High School student brought a handgun to school on Wednesday, Principal Sean Storch said in an email to parents.

Storch said officials received a report that a student was possibly in possession of a weapon. La Follette’s educational resource officer, a Madison police officer assigned to the school, made contact with the student, who initially resisted being taken into custody, Storch said.

Related: Gangs and school violence forum.

Madison School Board member Kate Toews wants interior locks on every MMSD classroom doorway

Amber Walker:

Madison School Board member Kate Toews had a suggestion for the district at Monday night’s board meeting: an interior lock on every classroom door.

Toews’ idea came towards the end of a board discussion about the 2018-2019 school district budget. Toews said the Madison Metropolitan School District should install locks on all classrooms that teachers can secure from the inside of their rooms as a safety tool in case an emergency occurs on campus.

“I don’t want to derail the meeting, but I do feel the need to address (what happened) last week in Florida. I think families have a right to expect when they send their kids to schools here, we’ve done everything we possibly can to keep their kids safe,” Toews said.

Related: Police calls, Madison Schools 1996-2006 and

Gangs and School violence forum.

La Follette High parents discuss school security, fights with Madison Superintendent Jen Cheatham

Karen Rivedal:

More than 150 people — most of them parents, many of them worried and frustrated — filled the cafeteria at La Follette High School Tuesday night to share their concerns about school safety, security, students fighting and the student behavior code with Madison School District Superintendent Jen Cheatham and Principal Sean Storch.

“It’s not being addressed quickly enough,” said Scott Schmidt, to loud applause, about increasing trouble at the school, noting many La Follette parents like him have children who were now worried about coming to class because of a small group of sometimes violent troublemakers causing problems for everyone else. “It’s kind of like a hurricane has hit. We need triage.”

Cheatham and Storch acknowledged the problems and promised some quick remedies, including posting more staff to supervise school exits and entrances and coming up with more alternative, project-based work to better engage the estimated 6 percent of students that Storch said were responsible for a rise in disciplinary problems.

Related: Gangs and School Violence forum audio and video.

Review of Madison Police Department includes recommendations on school-based officers

Abigail Becker:

On Tuesday, the Madison School Board and the City Council both voted to sign a contract approving the continued use of educational resource officers in the city’s four high schools.

The authorization approves a three-year contract for EROs, with a provision to opt-out after two years. Tuesday’s decision follows last week’s stalemate between the Board of Estimates and the Madison School Board over the length of the opt-out clause. The Madison School Board initially voted to approve an option to opt-out of the contract after 18 months, with the city preferring the two-year option.

School Board Treasurer TJ Mertz viewed the decision as a necessary compromise between the city and the School Board.

Related: Gangs and School Violence Forum.

Educators, disability-rights advocates say Teacher Protection Act will widen school-to-prison pipeline

Annysa Johnson:

The bill’s author, Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac), defended the measure, saying he was open to amendments but that something has to be done about the rise in assaults and threats against teachers. He blamed what he described as the “social justice agenda” in some schools, saying it does not hold students accountable for their negative behavior.

“It’s an unfortunate reality that negative behavior without consequences promotes more negative behavior,” Thiesfeldt said. “What truly grows the school to prison pipeline is the current trend toward minimizing serious negative behavior and the coddling of children with no serious consequences,”

Thiesfeldt’s wide-ranging bill would, among other things:

Related: Gangs and school violence Forum.

Why are some D.C. schools underreporting student suspensions?

Washington Post Editorial (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns the Post):

AFTER POST reporters raised questions about the accuracy of suspension rates in some D.C. public schools, a warning went out to principals. “Inappropriate, unprofessional and fraudulent” was how the system’s instructional superintendent described failure to accurately record students barred from classes. It’s good that such practices were soundly denounced, but more needs to be done to determine the extent of the problem as well as possible solutions.

D.C. schools, like a growing number of districts across the country, have recognized that more harm than good is done in suspending students from school. There are situations in which a student’s conduct is so egregious or dangerous that the only option is removal from school. But suspending students for minor misbehavior such as running in the hallways, being late for class and using profanity is counterproductive, often worsening behavior problems and leading to academic failure. The question that emerges from The Post’s investigation is whether the push to reduce suspensions caused some officials to camouflage students who had been excluded from instruction.

Related: Police calls near Madison Schools: 1996-2006.

Background and a gangs/school violence forum.

Threats prompt extra safety precautions at West High School, officials say

Sandy Cullen:

Madison police and school district officials are taking extra safety precautions following what the principal of West High School described as messages “threatening violence against our school.”

In an email sent to families Tuesday evening, West Principal Beth Thompson said, “We plan to continue our safety precautions tomorrow, including a full search of our building before school begins and additional security personnel and police presence at school throughout the day.”

Madison police Lt. Kelly Donahue said extra officers were at the school Tuesday and will be again on Wednesday.

Related: Police calls to area schools, including data.

Gangs and school violence forum.

Two Madison West High students arrested, one with BB gun outside school, police say

Brianna Reilly:

Two West High School students were arrested Thursday afternoon after an officer stationed at the school took a BB gun from one of them, Madison police said.

The students, both 14-year-old boys, were outside the school on Regent Street at 1:25 p.m. when the officer took the gun away from them, Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said.

After the officer took the gun, the students ran to the high school and tried to get in, but the door was locked, police said. One student broke a window after punching it while trying to get in.

Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum audio/video.

Madison West Principal Beth Thompson, via a kind reader email:

Dear West HS Families:

I’m writing to let you know that this afternoon, we briefly directed students to remain in their classrooms while we investigated a safety concern that originated outside our school. Shortly after 1:30 pm, our ERO was talking to a student near the Regent Street Market when he noticed the student had a gun. The officer was able to obtain the gun safely, which turned out to be a BB gun. The student and a companion then ran toward the school and attempted to gain entry into the building. In the process of forcibly knocking on the door, a window was shattered. Both students were taken into custody by the police.

Please know that the safety of our students is a top priority in our school and that we communicate closely with the police to ensure the safety of our students. I want to reassure you that school safety was not compromised and staff responded quickly and appropriately to help manage the incident and to re-direct students.

We make every effort to keep our families informed about incidents that occur in our school.

Please contact me if you have any questions,


Beth Thompson, Principal
West High School

A Look At Police Calls To Madison Schools

Doug Erickson:

Also, incidents occurring anywhere on or adjacent to a high school campus or across the street from the campus were captured in the data. So in a handful of cases, district officials said, the person arrested may have been an adult or a juvenile not currently enrolled in the district.

Black individuals were more likely to be arrested and cited than non-black individuals, the district said. However, “there has been a consistent decrease in arrest incidents and arrest charges for African-American individuals over the last three years,” the report said.

In a separate data category unrelated to arrests, the district said the number of citations issued for truancy fell 19 percent, from 134 to 108, between the comparison years.

Related: Gangs and school violence forum and police calls: 1996-2006.

Madison high school student arrested for having a loaded gun at Lapham Elementary

Jason Joyce:

“Students in the alternative program have their classes on the third floor, separate from the elementary students,” said Rachel Strauch Nelson in an email. “I would note that we have already been considering other possible locations for these programs as our district works to strengthen our alternative program options.”

Strauch Nelson added that “interaction with the elementary students is very limited.”

At 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham sent an email to all district parents under the subject “Safe Schools.” The complete email reads:

Dear MMSD community,

As we read about disturbing events of violence across the country, we recognize that there can be cause for concern about day to day safety. I want to reassure you that safety is a top priority in our district.

At each of our schools, we have strong safety protocols in place, we continuously train our staff and review these procedures, and we work very closely with the Madison police to keep our school communities safe. We also continuously strive to have good communication between staff, parents and students and community members.

I say this, in part, because you may have heard about an incident in which a high school age student brought a firearm to a school today. Unlike other incidents we have seen around the country, the student made no threats and indicated that he did not intend any harm to anyone at school. Our district staff and police responded immediately, recovered the firearm and took the student into custody.

While this situation is very different than incidents we’ve heard about throughout the country, it is a good example of why we have strong safety protocols in place. Our staff followed those protocols very well to ensure the safety of our students and staff.

Whenever there are safety incidents in our schools, we work hard to communicate with you quickly and ensure that you have up to date information.

That is important because we also recognize that parents have the most important role in providing comfort and reassurance to their children when they express concern about events around the country. As parents, our role is to remain calm, explore with them what they know, and what they are worried about, and to provide reassurance and routine. This is also the role of our educators in schools. If your child is having difficulty or needs support, please seek support from your school’s student services staff or principal.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me or your school principal.


Jennifer Cheatham


Related: Gangs and School Violence Forum, and

Police calls to Madison Hogh Schools Schools: 1996-2006

Deja Vu on School Police Calls: School crime stats would be included in state report cards under GOP bill

Molly Beck:

The number and type of crimes committed at high schools, at their events and on school buses would be printed on the state’s school report cards under a bill being circulated this week.

Any public high school, public charter high school or private voucher high school would be required to track reports of criminal activity beginning in the 2017-18 school year and submit the data to the state Department of Public Instruction annually under the bill authored by Rep. John Jagler, R-Watertown.

Jagler said the idea of the bill was triggered by a large fight in September at Milwaukee’s Barack Obama School of Career and Technical Education. He said he subsequently learned from police department employees that Milwaukee police are often called to the school, but Jagler could not find related data from the state Department of Justice or DPI.

“I was kind of surprised that the information wasn’t there, or wasn’t easily available — and I was kind of surprised the data wasn’t being tracked,” he said. “To me, I don’t know how anybody can think this information shouldn’t be available to parents.”

Round and round we go.

Obtaining police call data required a rather involved effort several years ago. SIS August 4, 2008:

The absence of local safety data spurred several SIS contributors to obtain and publish the police call data displayed below. Attorney and parent Chan Stroman provided pro bono public records assistance. Chan’s work on this matter extended to the Wisconsin Attorney General’s office. A few important notes on this data:

13% of the records could not be geocoded and therefore are not included in the summary information. The downloadable 1996-2006 police call data .zip file is comprehensive, however.

Clicking on the numbers below takes the reader to a detail page. This page includes all matching police calls and a downloadable .csv file of same. The csv file can be opened in Excel, Numbers and many data management tools.

This summary is rather brief, I hope others download the data and have a look.

Gangs & School Violence forum.

Madison Schools’ Discipline Policies

Pat Schneider:

“Usually the first quarter is a honeymoon period when students are excited to be in school and behaviors are good. So when things were already deteriorating rapidly, it was a sign to me that this was not going in a good direction,” said Bush, 50, who has taught at Jefferson Middle School on Madison’s west side her whole career.

It wasn’t a specific incident, but the piling on of several serious incidents so early in the school year that troubled her.

“I’m seeing behaviors on a regular basis that I haven’t seen in 20 years of teaching,” Bush said. Some of this alarming conduct included students swearing at teachers, kicking trash cans, walking out of class, and kids wandering the hallways and in and out of classrooms, she said.

The behavior policy, implemented at the start of this school year, requires teachers to ask for outside help if they can’t control a misbehaving student. But Bush says such calls for help often go unanswered by overwhelmed support staff, who are supposed to walk an out-of-control student out of the classroom and “intervene” to get a sense of the causes of the misbehavior.


Madison’s disastrous long term reading results.

Deja vu: 2005: Gangs and school violence audio/video. More, here.

Police calls: 1996-2006.

Commentary from David Blaska

Madison schools look to make discipline about growth, not punishment

Pat Schneider:

But statistics showing African-American students in the district were eight times more likely to get an out-of-school suspension than white students last year raises questions about whether the discipline code works against efforts to close the achievement gap.
Among big school districts reconsidering such measures is Broward County in Florida, where a zero-tolerance policy led to arrests for such infractions as possessing marijuana or spraying graffiti, the New York Times reports. That district, which had more than 1,000 arrests in the 2011 school year, entered into an agreement last month with community organizations to overhaul its policies to de-emphasize punishment. School districts in Los Angeles, Baltimore, Chicago and Denver are undertaking similar reviews of get-tough policies.
“Everybody knows that suspensions don’t always achieve a change in behavior,” says Tim Ritchie, dean of students at Madison Memorial High School. “When we send some kids out of school (on suspension) they don’t have anywhere appropriate to go — their homes can be very chaotic environments.”

Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum.

Madison Schools’ Behavior Report: 2012-2013

Madison School District PDF:

1. Both out-of-school and in-school suspensions were less common in 2012-13 than in 2011-12. In particular, the reduction in out-of-school suspensions led to nearly 600 fewer days of instruction lost to suspensions.
2. Large disproportionalities exist between suspensions and demographics in MMSD. For example, African- American students make up 19% of MMSD’s population but received 60% of out-of-school suspensions. Low- income students make up 48% of MMSD but received 85% of suspensions.
3. There are large disparities in discipline practices between schools. For example, among elementary schools, out-of-school suspensions ranged between 0 and 98, and behavior referrals ranged between 25 and 2,319.

Related: Madison School Board discipline presentation (PDF) and a Wisconsin DPI FAQ (PDF).
Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum (2005) audio & video and Police calls to and near Madison schools: 1996-2006.

Arrests, citations reach lowest level in 10 years at Madison high schools

Matthew DeFour:

The number of arrests and citations for incidents at Madison’s four main high schools dropped last year to the lowest level in more than a decade, according to police data.
But arrests and citations at West and Memorial were twice the number at East and La Follette — a reversal of the situation 10 years earlier when there were more than twice as many at the city’s East Side high schools.
West was the only school with an increase from the previous year.
The Wisconsin State Journal obtained the data from the Madison Police Department amid a debate over whether the Madison School District should use drug-sniffing police dogs in random sweeps of high schools. The School Board was to consider the issue Monday but delayed a vote until late September — in part to review the arrest and citation data.
District officials say an increase in drug-related disciplinary referrals in recent years, and the use of drug dogs in area school districts, support the use of police dogs. Community surveys also have showed strong support.
Luis Yudice, the School District’s security coordinator, who introduced the drug-sniffing dog proposal with the support of Madison police, is concerned drugs in schools can lead to more gang activity, fights and weapons in schools as students arm themselves in self-defense. He views the police dog policy as a possible deterrent that could prevent a crisis.

Related: Madison police calls near local high schools: 1996-2006.
Gangs & School Violence Forum Audio/Video.

Study Questions School Discipline Effectiveness

Alan Schwarz::

Raising new questions about the effectiveness of school discipline, a report scheduled for release on Tuesday found that 31 percent of Texas students were suspended off campus or expelled at least once during their years in middle and high school — at an average of almost four times apiece.
When also considering less serious infractions punished by in-school suspensions, the rate climbed to nearly 60 percent, according to the study by the Council of State Governments, with one in seven students facing such disciplinary measures at least 11 times.

The study linked these disciplinary actions to lower rates of graduation and higher rates of later criminal activity and found that minority students were more likely than whites to face the more severe punishments.

Morgan Smith & Ari Auber:

Almost 55 percent of recent Texas public school students — a disproportionate number of them African-American or with learning disabilities — were suspended at least once between their seventh and 12th grade years, according to a statewide report released today.

The Council of State Governments Justice Center, in partnership with the Public Policy Research Institute of Texas A&M University, analyzed the individual school records of all Texas seventh grade public school students during the years 2000, 2001 and 2002. They tracked the records of nearly 1 million students for at least six years of their secondary school education.

A few local links including a gangs and school violence forum.
Download the report here

Crimes Rattle Madison Schools

Susan Troller, via a kind reader’s email:

It’s been a rough week in Madison schools, with the first degree sexual assault of a student in a stairwell at East High School and an alleged mugging at Jefferson Middle School.
The sexual assault occurred on Thursday afternoon, according to police reports. The 15-year-old victim knew the alleged assailant, also 15, and he was arrested and charged at school.
On Wednesday, two 13-year-old students at Jefferson allegedly mugged another student at his locker, grabbing him from behind and using force to try to steal his wallet. The police report noted that all three students fell to the floor. According to a letter sent to Jefferson parents on Friday, “the student yelled loudly, resisted the attempt and went immediately to report the incident. The students involved in the attempted theft were immediately identified and detained in the office.”
The mugging was not reported to police until Thursday morning and Jefferson parents did not learn about the incident until two days after the incident. When police arrived at school on Thursday, they arrested two students in the attempted theft.
Parents at East were notified Thursday of the sexual assault.
Luis Yudice, Madison public schools safety chief, said it was unusual for police not to be notified as soon as the alleged strong arm robbery was reported to school officials.

Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum Audio & Video and police calls near Madison high schools 1996-2006.

Teen Accused Of Sexual Assault At Madison’s East High School

Channel3000, via a kind reader’s email:

A Madison East High School student has been arrested and charged on suspicion of sexually assaulting another student on school grounds this week.
Madison police said the 15-year-old boy was arrested on a charge of first-degree sexual assault on Thursday after a 15-year-old girl reported the incident.
Dan Nerad, superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District, said while these cases are rare, they happen and it forces district officials to take a step back and look how this could have been prevented. Officials sent a letter home to parents to explain the incident and the district’s next steps.
“We’re going to work real hard to deal with it, we’re going to work real hard to learn from it. We’re going to work real hard to make any necessary changes after we have a change to review what all of these facts and circumstances are,” Nerad said.
Nerad said that while there are things the district can do to prevent such incidents, he believes much more help is needed from the community. He said the fact that this type of activity has entered the school door should be a wake up call to society.

Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum Audio & Video and police calls near Madison high schools 1996-2006.

As the Madison school year starts, a pair of predicaments

Paul Fanlund, via a kind reader:

In fact, the changing face of Madison’s school population comes up consistently in other interviews with public officials.
Police Chief Noble Wray commented recently that gang influences touch even some elementary schools, and Mayor Dave Cieslewicz expressed serious concern last week that the young families essential to the health and vitality of Madison are too often choosing to live outside the city based on perceptions of the city’s schools.
Nerad says he saw the mayor’s remarks, and agrees the challenge is real. While numbers for this fall will not be available for weeks, the number of students who live in Madison but leave the district for some alternative through “open enrollment” will likely continue to grow.
“For every one child that comes in there are two or three going out,” Nerad says, a pattern he says he sees in other urban districts. “That is the challenge of quality urban districts touched geographically by quality suburban districts.”
The number of “leavers” grew from 90 students as recently as 2000-01 to 613 last year, though the increase might be at least partly attributed to a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that greatly curtailed the ability of school districts to use race when deciding where students will go to school. In February 2008, the Madison School Board ended its long-standing practice of denying open enrollment requests if they would create a racial imbalance.
Two key reasons parents cited in a survey last year for moving children were the desire for better opportunities for gifted students and concerns about bullying and school safety. School Board member Lucy Mathiak told me last week that board members continue to hear those two concerns most often.
Nerad hears them too, and he says that while some Madison schools serve gifted students effectively, there needs to be more consistency across the district. On safety, he points to a recent district policy on bullying as evidence of focus on the problem, including emphasis on what he calls the “bystander” issue, in which witnesses need to report bullying in a way that has not happened often enough.
For all the vexing issues, though, Nerad says much is good about city schools and that perceptions are important. “Let’s be careful not to stereotype the urban school district,” he says. “There is a lot at stake here.”

Related: the growth in outbound open enrollment from the Madison School District and ongoing budget issues, including a 10% hike in property taxes this year and questions over 2005 maintenance referendum spending.
The significant property tax hike and ongoing budget issues may be fodder for the upcoming April, 2011 school board election, where seats currently occupied by Ed Hughes and Marj Passman will be on the ballot.
Superintendent Nerad’s statement on “ensuring that we have a stable middle class” is an important factor when considering K-12 tax and spending initiatives, particularly in the current “Great Recession” where housing values are flat or declining and the property tax appetite is increasing (The Tax Foundation, via TaxProf:

The Case-Shiller index, a popular measure of residential home values, shows a drop of almost 16% in home values across the country between 2007 and 2008. As property values fell, one might expect property tax collections to have fallen commensurately, but in most cases they did not.
Data on state and local taxes from the U.S. Census Bureau show that most states’ property owners paid more in FY 2008 (July 1, 2007, through June 30, 2008) than they had the year before (see Table 1). Nationwide, property tax collections increased by more than 4%. In only four states were FY 2008’s collections lower than in FY 2007: Michigan, South Carolina, Texas and Vermont. And in three states–Florida, Indiana and New Mexico–property tax collections rose more than 10%.

It will be interesting to see what the Madison school District’s final 2010-2011 budget looks like. Spending and receipts generally increase throughout the year. This year, in particular, with additional borrowed federal tax dollars on the way, the District will have funds to grow spending, address the property tax increase or perhaps as is now increasingly common, spend more on adult to adult professional development.
Madison’s K-12 environment is ripe for change. Perhaps the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy charter school will ignite the community.

School Is Turned Around, but Cost Gives Pause

Sam Dillon:

As recently as 2008, Locke High School here was one of the nation’s worst failing schools, and drew national attention for its hallway beatings, bathroom rapes and rooftop parties held by gangs. For every student who graduated, four others dropped out.
Now, two years after a charter school group took over, gang violence is sharply down, fewer students are dropping out, and test scores have inched upward. Newly planted olive trees in Locke’s central plaza have helped transform the school’s concrete quadrangle into a place where students congregate and do homework.
“It’s changed a lot,” said Leslie Maya, a senior. “Before, kids were ditching school, you’d see constant fights, the lunches were nasty, the garden looked disgusting. Now there’s security, the garden looks prettier, the teachers help us more.”

Verona Schools Message on School Safety

Following is a message from the Superintendent and VAHS Administration. Please address any inquiries to VAHS Administration or Dr. Gorrell.
Through our contacts with the Dane County Gang Task Force we have recieved information that indicates in the coming days the VAHS campus or Verona Hometown Days are possible locations for an altercation between two rival gangs. These gangs are the Clanton 14 gang and the Carnales gang. These are the two gangs alleged to have connections with the murder of Antonio Perez last month.
Given this information the following security measures will be put in place immediately:
Tomorrow and Friday we will have an additional VPD Officer stationed on campus working with Officer Truscott. Also, regular VPD patrol officers will be in the area patrolling both the VAHS campus and the neighboring residential area in their squad cars.
Members of the administrative team will also be out patrolling the interior and exterior of the buildings throughout the day. Special attention will be paid to monitoring the two designated K-Wing and two designated main building entrances. All other entrances are to be kept closed and locked. This too will be monitored by the VPD and HS administration.
Given current information the Administrative team, in consultation with our partners in law enforcement, believes that these are prudent preventative steps. If additional information becomes available we will alter this plan accordingly. We ask all staff members to do their usual stellar job of remaining vigilant and reporting anything of concern to the Administrative Team at once.
Keeping staff informed is a priority and more information will be provided if and when it becomes available.
Thank You,
Dr. Gorrell
Ms. Hammen
Ms. Williams
Mr. Murphy
Mr. Boehm

Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum Audio / Video.

Madison Police Department expands gang unit: 40 Gangs in Madison

Sandy Cullen:

Police estimate there are now more than 1,100 confirmed gang members in Madison and about 40 gangs, about 12 of which are the main Latino gangs.
The Dane County Enhanced Youth Gang Prevention Task Force recommended in August 2007 that a countywide gang coordinator’s position be considered. That group’s co-chairman, former Madison police Capt. Luis Yudice, who’s also security coordinator for the Madison School District, first called for a “comprehensive strategy so we can all work in unison” to address gang violence in September 2005.
Since then, Yudice said, staff in Madison schools are recognizing more issues involving gangs among students, which he attributes in part to greater awareness and training.
“We have gang-involved kids in probably most of our high schools and middle schools and some of our elementary schools,” he said. Staff do a good job of keeping gang activity out of the schools, he said, and work closely with students, families, police and social workers in an effort to keep students out of gangs.
Locally, the gang issue is not unique to Madison schools. “We’re seeing more gang activity in the suburban school districts,” Yudice said, as well as the emergence of hate groups targeting blacks and Latinos in Madison, Deerfield, Cottage Grove and DeForest.

Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum audio, video & links.

Student arrested for allegedly bringing gun into Madison West High School

Bill Novak:

A West High School student was arrested Monday afternoon after allegedly having a .22 caliber revolver in the waistband of his pants inside the school.
The incident is considered the first time in at least a decade that a student has been discovered with a firearm inside a Madison Metropolitan School District facility, said Luis Yudice, coordinator of school safety for the district.
The 16-year-old student, a sophomore at West, was tentatively charged with possession of a firearm in a school zone.
The incident was reported at about 3:30 p.m. at the school, 30 Ash St.
Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said the revolver was missing its cylinder (which holds the bullets) and the student had no ammunition.
“He didn’t threaten anyone with the firearm,” DeSpain said. “He told the officer he was simply holding onto the gun for someone else.”

Related: Police Calls near Madison high schools 1996-2006 and the 2005 Gangs & School Violence Forum.

Focus in Chicago: Students at Risk of Violence

Susan Saulny:

The new chief officer of the public schools here, Ron Huberman, a former police officer and transit executive with a passion for data analysis, has a plan to stop the killings of the city’s public school students. And it does not have to do with guns or security guards. It has to do with statistics and probability.
The plan comes too late for Derrion Albert, the 16-year-old who was beaten to death recently with wood planks after getting caught on his way home between two rival South Side gangs, neither of which he was a member, the police said.
The killing, captured on cellphone video and broadcast on YouTube, among other places, has once again caused widespread grief over a seemingly intractable problem here. Derrion, a football player on the honor roll, was the third youth to die violently this academic year — and the 67th since the beginning of the 2007-8 school year. And hundreds of others have survived shootings or severe beatings on their way to and from school.

A Partial Look (School Climate) at the Outbound Madison School District Parent Survey

Samara Kalk Derby:

Madison school district parents dissatisfied with local schools got a boost after a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision which trumped state law and made it easier for students living in the district to attend schools in other districts, a practice known as open enrollment.
The case was brought by Seattle parents who challenged the use of race in assigning students to schools, arguing it violated the Constitution’s right of equal protection. The ruling was celebrated by those who favor color-blind policies, but criticized by civil rights groups as a further erosion of Brown vs. Board of Education, the landmark 1954 case that outlawed school segregation.
Last year it became easier in Madison, and in school districts across the country, for white students to transfer even if it meant increasing the district’s racial imbalance.
After a flood of local students left the district last year, Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad decided to investigate why.
“We had an interest in knowing ideas from people that had made the decision for open enrollment,” Nerad says. “We are attempting to learn from those experiences to see if there are some things as a school district that we can constructively do to address those concerns.”
To that end, the district surveyed households of district residents who left Madison schools and transferred to another district for the 2008-09 school year to find out why the families left. The majority of parents who took their kids out of the Madison school district last year under open enrollment said they did so for what the district classifies as “environmental reasons”: violence, gangs, drugs and negative peer pressure. Other reasons were all over the map. Many cited crowded classrooms and curriculum that wasn’t challenging enough.
Only a few responses pointed directly to white flight.

The Private/Parochial, Open Enrollment Leave, Open Enrollment Enter, Home Based Parent Survey, including School Board discussion, can be found here. David Blask comments.

Madison police chief: Time to gang up on gangs

Steven Verburg:

Madison police chief Noble Wray wants to send more officers after gang members, and he plans to talk to the mayor next week about an initiative to make that possible.
A recent assessment by the police department’s two-officer Gang Unit indicated more than 900 confirmed Madison gang members and another 500 people considered associates of gang members.
“It is clear the number of young people connected to gangs is on the rise, and we need to respond to that growth,” Wray said in a press release issued Friday.
Many gang members and their associates commit burglaries, robberies, assaults, shootings, and they deal drugs, he said. Wray wants to form a new “Gang/Crime Prevention Unit.”
The unit would work closely with neighborhood officers, community policing teams, detectives and others by tapping the expertise of staffers who analyze crime data.

Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum.

Bullying, Thefts Persist Despite Drop in Violence

Valerie Strauss:

Even though spasms of intense violence erupt on campuses occasionally and linger in the social consciousness, violence at schools across the country has been decreasing for a number of years.
That doesn’t necessarily mean schools are safe havens. Consider:
— Eighty-six percent of public schools in 2005-06 reported that one or more violent incidents, thefts of items valued at $10 or greater or other crimes had occurred — a rate of 46 crimes per 1,000 enrolled students.
— Almost a third of students ages 12 to 18 reported being bullied inside school.
— Nearly a quarter of teenagers reported the presence of gangs at their schools.

Indicators of School Crime and Safety.

Dane County schools tighten security measures

Andy Hall:

The Verona School District is planning to become the first in Dane County to lock all doors at some schools and require visitors to appear on camera to receive permission to enter, and the first to require that high school students display identification badges at all times. Many students support the moves, even as others question whether they’re really needed in the community that calls itself “Hometown, USA.”
In Middleton, educators are deep into discussions that could lead to asking taxpayers for $3.5 million for cameras, other equipment and remodeling projects to tighten security at their 10 schools. Madison school officials have begun a major review of security measures that by spring could lead to proposals to control the public’s access to that district’s 48 schools.
These are signs that despite tight budgets, Wisconsin educators are pushing ahead in their efforts to keep schools safe — efforts that took on added urgency with the 2006 slaying of Weston High School principal John Klang by a student, and other tragedies across the nation.

Related: Gangs & School Violence forum and police calls near Madison high schools: 1996-2006.

Gangs in Dane County? Yes, they’re everywhere, detective says

Karyn Saemann:

Gangs are everywhere in Dane County, from the largest Madison high schools to the smallest rural hamlets.
In the latest of a series of informational meetings led by a Dane County detective who monitors local gang activity, Sun Prairie parents were told their help is needed.
Detective Joel Wagner estimated that 3 to 4 percent of Dane County youths are involved in a gang. Recruiting begins in the fourth grade, he said; gang members can be of any race and socioeconomic status, but are primarily kids who have fallen away from school and family and are looking for a group to belong to.
“The best thing is prevention,” Wagner said. “We need to get back to eyes and ears.”
“Know your children’s friends. Know them well,” he said. “Know your children’s friends’ parents. Know them better.”
Wednesday night’s meeting at Sun Prairie High School stretched more than two hours and included disturbing video of gang fights and other violence from Dane County and across the nation as well as online photos of gang members who identify themselves as being from Sun Prairie and other Dane County communities.
Particularly disturbing was video — not from Dane County — of a gang initiation in which a teen’s head was smashed into a cement curb and into a florescent light tube. In another video, a teen was beaten in a bathroom as part of an initiation.


Bullying, Brawling and Bringing Weapons; Maryland Students Discuss Realities of School Life

Nelson Hernandez:

As about 200 students from across Maryland took their seats at a summit to discuss the problem of school violence, the stereo played an instrumental version of a song familiar, questionable and yet somehow appropriate: “Gangsta’s Paradise.”
Coolio’s elegy to gang violence (sample lyric: “You better watch how you talking, and where you walking/Or you and your homies might be lined in chalk”) perhaps didn’t speak to the experience of the students from rural Garrett County in western Maryland, but the causes and tragic outcomes of school violence haven’t changed much since the hit song was released in 1995.
Gossip, rumors, dirty looks exchanged in the hallway. Neighborhood beefs or quarrels over a girlfriend or boyfriend. The temptation to bully somebody defenseless or different. All could kick off a fight back then, and to listen to the students who spoke at the summit last week in Greenbelt, they still do.
A girl from Parkville High School in Baltimore County rattled off a list of the things she sees at her school: “Gang violence. Student-teacher violence. Sexual harassment. Bullying.”

Madison’s Memorial High School Closes Early Today Amid Safety Concerns


Students at James Madison Memorial High School in Madison were let out early on Friday amid ongoing safety concerns, according to a Madison Metropolitan School District spokesman.
There was increased police presence at the school and officials postponed an early lunch on Friday, according to Ken Syke.
The students were released at 12:55 p.m. Officials said that buses will be there to pick up students.
They said that all of the schools extracurricular activities are scheduled, but there will be an extra police presence at each event.
Syke said that no incidents occurred at the school on Friday, but that officials are concerned about safety after a fight broke out at the school earlier this week. The fight apparently involving two groups of students on Thursday and seven students were ultimately arrested.

Sandy Cullen has more along with WKOW-TV and NBC-15. Madison School District statement.
Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum Audio & Video and police calls near Madison high schools 1996-2006.

Safety Climate: A look at Police Calls to Madison High Schools

Doug Erickson:

Total police calls to Madison’s four main high schools declined 38 percent from the fall semester of 2006 to last spring. But those figures tell only a partial story, and not a very meaningful one.
That’s because the numbers include all police calls, including ones for 911 disconnects, parking lot crashes and stranded baby ducks. (It happened at La Follette last May.)
The State Journal then looked at police calls in eight categories closely related to safety — aggravated batteries, batteries, weapons offenses, fights, bomb threats, disturbances, robberies and sexual assaults. Those calls are down 46 percent from fall 2006 to spring 2008.
The schools varied little last spring in the eight categories. Memorial and West each had 13 such calls, La Follette 14 and East 16.
School officials are relieved by the downward trend but careful not to read too much into the figures.
“We know there’s almost a cyclical nature to crime statistics and even to individual behavior,” said Luis Yudice, who is beginning his third year as district security coordinator.
Art Camosy, a veteran science teacher at Memorial, said he thinks the climate is improving at his school. Yet he views the police figures skeptically, in part because the numbers are “blips in time” but also because he wonders if the district’s central office is behind the drop.
“Are our building administrators being pressured not to call police as often?” he asks.
John Matthews, the longtime executive director of Madison Teachers Inc. (MTI), the district’s teachers union, contends that the district’s leadership has indeed done this from time to time, directing building administrators to hold off on calling police so often.
Yudice, a former Madison police captain, said there was a time years ago when the district was extremely sensitive about appearing to have a large police presence at its schools. He rejects that notion now.
“It’s just the opposite,” he said. “We are more openly acknowledging that we have issues that need to be dealt with by the police. Since I’ve been working here, there has never been a directive to me or the school principals to minimize the involvement of police.”

All four Madison high schools feature an open campus. It appears that Erickson only reviewed calls to the High Schools, not those nearby. 1996-2006 police calls near Madison High Schools is worth a look along with the Gangs & School violence forum.
Finally, I hope that the Madison Police Department will begin publishing all police calls online, daily, so that the public can review and evaluate the information.

Madison police calls near local high schools: 1996-2006

Madison School District Safety Coordinator Luis Yudice (Luis is a retired Police Officer and a East High Grad) at a recent West High School neighborhood crime discussion (10/18/2007):

“Big picture perspective:
Our community really has changed a lot within the past five years. I sense a great deal of stress within the police department.
Citywide issues
Increasing violence involving girls. He has looked at a lot of data with the District Attorney’s office. Girls are extremely angry.
Angry parents are coming into the schools.
Increasing issues in the neighborhood that end up in the schools. Mentioned South Transfer Point beating and that Principal Ed Holmes mediated the situation at an early stage.
Growing gang violence issue particularly in the east side schools. We do have gang activity at Memorial and West but most of the issues are at Lafollete and East. Dealing with this via training and building relationships
What the school are experiencing is a reflection of what is going on in the community.”

Madison Police Chief Noble Wray, via Bill Lueders @ Isthmus (7/30/2008):

He (Wray) began by talking about perceptions of crime, and especially the notion that it’s getting worse in Madison. He stressed that it wasn’t just the media and public who felt this way: “If I would ask the average beat cop, I think they would say it’s gotten worse.” But, he added, “Worse compared to what?”

The absence of local safety data spurred several SIS contributors to obtain and publish the police call data displayed below. Attorney and parent Chan Stroman provided pro bono public records assistance. Chan’s work on this matter extended to the Wisconsin Attorney General’s office.
A few important notes on this data:

  • 13% of the records could not be geocoded and therefore are not included in the summary information. The downloadable 1996-2006 police call data .zip file is comprehensive, however.
  • Clicking on the numbers below takes the reader to a detail page. This page includes all matching police calls and a downloadable .csv file of same. The csv file can be opened in Excel, Numbers and many data management tools.
  • This summary is rather brief, I hope others download the data and have a look.

Police Calls within .25 miles of:
Madison East Area Edgewood Area LaFollette Area Memorial Area West Area
1996 1285 392 324 869 728
1997 1351 455 403 896 750
1998 1340 343 488 875 703
1999 1281 352 477 969 772
2000 1391 300 528 888 933
2001 1476 305 480 769 1034
2002 1470 363 491 886 1019
2003 1362 349 403 865 921
2004 1455 346 449 989 1012
2005 1311 325 465 994 917
2006 1221 330 389 1105 838
Weapons Incident / Offense
Madison East Area Edgewood Area LaFollette Area Memorial Area West Area
1996 5 0 3 4 6
1997 5 0 3 4 0
1998 10 0 5 2 1
1999 10 0 5 4 0
2000 4 0 6 2 5
2001 3 0 3 0 0
2002 11 0 3 5 5
2003 4 1 1 4 5
2004 4 0 9 7 4
2005 9 0 6 6 2
2006 10 1 5 7 3
Drug Incident
Madison East Area Edgewood Area LaFollette Area Memorial Area West Area
1996 10 0 10 9 7
1997 16 0 7 6 4
1998 12 1 8 10 6
1999 18 0 7 18 4
2000 16 2 13 17 12
2001 18 0 10 20 12
2002 22 0 14 16 12
2003 23 2 18 15 8
2004 26 0 20 17 7
2005 19 0 17 20 12
2006 24 2 11 15 8
Arrested Juvenile
Madison East Area Edgewood Area LaFollette Area Memorial Area West Area
1996 59 1 35 28 38
1997 72 0 83 52 29
1998 21 0 34 17 14
1999 16 0 29 24 7
2000 42 0 76 14 15
2001 52 0 66 19 15
2002 51 0 69 13 12
2003 9 0 9 9 3
2004 8 0 8 9 4
2005 11 0 10 7 3
2006 6 0 21 11 4
Bomb Threat
Madison East Area Edgewood Area LaFollette Area Memorial Area West Area
1996 1 0 0 0 1
1997 1 0 1 0 0
1998 4 2 0 0 1
1999 7 0 15 0 1
2000 4 0 17 2 1
2001 1 0 8 10 11
2002 2 0 9 0 4
2003 1 0 2 1 11
2004 6 0 4 0 6
2005 1 0 4 0 0
2006 3 0 0 0 4

Related links:

Taking Aim at Youth Gun Violence

Rodrigo Zamith:

A new initiative for Minneapolis and Hennepin County will increase penalties for juveniles caught with firearms, both replica and real.
Minneapolis and Hennepin County officials hope to reduce juvenile gun crime this summer by stiffening penalties for youths caught with BB guns, real guns or replicas.
The new Juvenile Gun Offender Initiative was announced Tuesday by Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman and others. It will also increase enforcement of youth curfew laws, replica firearms ordinances and supervision of juveniles on probation for gun offenses.
The new rules apply to offenders between 10 and 17 years old. First-time offenders with a real gun will be given probation, four to six weeks of out-of-home placement and 40 hours of education on the dangers and effects of guns. If the requirements aren’t met, youths will be given four to six months of out-of-home placement.

Gangs & School Violence Forum.

Prevention called cure for school violence

Liz Bowie:

Communities and schools should take a preventive approach to school violence rather than focus solely on punishing students who have behavior problems, experts said yesterday at a summit on school violence.
Students are looking for structure, high academic expectations, and teachers who understand and can communicate with them, said Ivan J. Juzang, a consultant who gave the keynote address at the daylong meeting at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Providing those basics will make schools safer, he said.
The summit was organized by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings and State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick after several high-profile incidents of violence in schools this year, including the beating of a Baltimore teacher that became nationwide news after it was recorded on a student’s cell phone and posted on the Internet.
The summit was called to find solutions to the problems of school violence, but the conversation among participants and speakers focused more broadly on the need to intervene in the lives of troubled children as early as elementary school. The participants included legislators, teachers, school board members, community leaders, parents and students from across the state.


Educating the Community on Gangs in Madison

Rose Johnson-Brown:

Many times people hide their heads in the sand when there is an accusation of behavior in Madison that might put the community at risk. “Not in my neighborhood” seems to be the response from many citizens in denial when the community is tainted with the reality of the growth of gang activity in Madison.
On this note, a group of University of Wisconsin-Madison social work students wanted to raise awareness in Madison of the prevalent increase in gang activity in Dane County communities. As a group project, they have researched the existence of gangs, their history, their trends and movement that could put children at risk.
On April 23 at Leopold Elementary School, Erin Wearing, Corrina Flannery, Amanda Galaviz, Teresa Rhiel, and Yer Lee, students of Professor Sandy Magana’s Advanced Macro Practice Social Work class, coordinated a community outreach event and informational session. It was presented for parents and educators in the Madison and surrounding communities by the Dane County Youth Gang Prevention Task Force.
Madison Police Detective George Chavez and Officer Lester Moore, along with Frank Rodriquez of the DARK Progam shed some light on the growing activity surrounding gang involvement in this area.

Gangs & School Violence Forum audio and video.

Is Urban Violence a Virus?

Alex Kotlowitz:

THE STUBBORN CORE of violence in American cities is troubling and perplexing. Even as homicide rates have declined across the country — in some places, like New York, by a remarkable amount — gunplay continues to plague economically struggling minority communities. For 25 years, murder has been the leading cause of death among African-American men between the ages of 15 and 34, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has analyzed data up to 2005. And the past few years have seen an uptick in homicides in many cities. Since 2004, for instance, they are up 19 percent in Philadelphia and Milwaukee, 29 percent in Houston and 54 percent in Oakland. Just two weekends ago in Chicago, with the first warm weather, 36 people were shot, 7 of them fatally. The Chicago Sun-Times called it the “weekend of rage.” Many killings are attributed to gang conflicts and are confined to particular neighborhoods. In Chicago, where on average five people were shot each day last year, 83 percent of the assaults were concentrated in half the police districts. So for people living outside those neighborhoods, the frequent outbursts of unrestrained anger have been easy to ignore. But each shooting, each murder, leaves a devastating legacy, and a growing school of thought suggests that there’s little we can do about the entrenched urban poverty if the relentless pattern of street violence isn’t somehow broken.
The traditional response has been more focused policing and longer prison sentences, but law enforcement does little to disrupt a street code that allows, if not encourages, the settling of squabbles with deadly force. Zale Hoddenbach, who works for an organization called CeaseFire, is part of an unusual effort to apply the principles of public health to the brutality of the streets. CeaseFire tries to deal with these quarrels on the front end. Hoddenbach’s job is to suss out smoldering disputes and to intervene before matters get out of hand. His job title is violence interrupter, a term that while not artful seems bluntly self-explanatory. Newspaper accounts usually refer to the organization as a gang-intervention program, and Hoddenbach and most of his colleagues are indeed former gang leaders. But CeaseFire doesn’t necessarily aim to get people out of gangs — nor interrupt the drug trade. It’s almost blindly focused on one thing: preventing shootings.

Schools embracing powers for police
New law allows districts to authorize officers, set policies and obtain law enforcement training

Andy Gammill:

Half a dozen Indiana school boards are considering whether to take on the new responsibility of authorizing police officers.
The move could create a minefield of issues from issuing badges to setting policies. So far, Pike Township Schools may be the only district to use a new law that allows school boards to appoint officers.
Previously, school districts could not grant police powers, although several have long said they have “police departments” that derive authority from a local sheriff or police chief.
In districts that convert, students will see little difference. A badge or uniform may change, but few officers will change duties.
The change affects school boards, which will have greater responsibility for making police policy regarding training, firearms use, police chases and various protocols.
Any school police policy entrusted to mayors and sheriffs would rest with school boards, too.
Pike Township Schools became the first school district to launch its own police department in July. Brownsburg, Center Grove and Indianapolis Public Schools are among those considering the change.

Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum audio / video.

1/8/2008 Madison Event on K-12 School Models

Rafael Gomez is hosting a discussion of school models (traditional, charter, magnet) with Madison School District Superintendent Art Rainwater.
When: 6:30p.m. Tuesday January 8, 2008.
Covenant Presbyterian Church
318 South Segoe Rd
Madison, WI 53705 [Map]
Many communities offer a growing number of K-12 educational options. Learn about Madison’s current offerings and the climate for future charter/magnet initiatives.
Question and Answer
Rafael has hosted a number of previous forums, including those that address:

Madison School District School Security Discussion

Madison School Board: Monday evening, November 12, 2007: 40MB mp3 audio file. Participants include: Superintendent Art Rainwater, East High Principal Al Harris, Cherokee Middle School Principal Karen Seno, Sennett Middle School Principal Colleen Lodholz and Pam Nash, assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools.
A few notes:

  • First 30 minutes: The City of Madison has agreed to fund police overtime in the schools. Johnny Winston, Jr. asked about supporting temporary “shows of force” to respond to issues that arise. Maya Cole asked what they (Administrators) do when staff choose not to get involved. East High Principal Al Harris mentioned that his staff conducts hall sweeps hourly. Sennett Principal Colleen Lodholz mentioned that they keep only one entrance open during recess.
  • 52 minutes: Al Harris discussed the importance of consistency for staff, students and parents. He has named an assistant principal to be responsible for security. East now has data for the past year for comparison purposes. Additional assistant principals are responsible for classrooms, transitions and athletics.
  • 55 minutes: Art Rainwater discussed District-wide procedures, a checklist for major incidents and that today parents are often informed before anyone else due to cell phones and text messaging.
  • Recommendations (at 60 minutes):
    • Pam Nash mentioned a strong need for increased communication. She discussed the recent West High School community forums and their new personal safety handbook. This handbook includes an outline of how West is supervised.
    • 68 to 74 minutes: A discussion of the District’s equity policy vis a vis resource allocations for special needs students.
    • 77 minutes – Steve Hartley discusses his experiences with community resources.
    • 81+ minutes: Steve Hartley mentioned the need for improved tracking and Art Rainwater discussed perceptions vs what is actually happening. He also mentioned that the District is looking at alternative programs for some of these children. Student Board Representative Joe Carlsmith mentioned that these issues are not a big part of student life. He had not yet seen the new West High safety handbook. Carol Carstensen discussed (95 minutes) that these issues are not the common day to day experiences of our students and that contacts from the public are sometimes based more on rumor and gossip than actual reality.

I’m glad the Board and Administration had this discussion.

Madison Schools’ Expulsion Data Update

Susan Troller:

A total of 92 students were recommended for expulsion in 2006-07, compared with 105 similar recommendations the previous year. Students are recommended for expulsion for a serious violation of the district’s student conduct and discipline plan.
Following the recommendation, the student may be expelled, or may be diverted or dismissed from the process for special education reasons, or because there is not sufficient proof of the violation.
According to the report, 12 students were expelled for use of force against a staff member, eight were expelled for possession of a weapon with intent to use, and seven were expelled for possessing an illegal drug with intent to deliver.
Other offenses included engaging in physical acts of violence as part of a gang (four students), possession of a bomb or explosive device or making a bomb threat (three students), possession of a pellet or BB gun (three students), and physical attacks, arson, serious threats to students and something called “volatile acts.”
School Board President Arlene Silveira noted that the board will be considering expulsion policies at its meeting on Monday.
“The board has had a series of meetings to ensure that we have a fair, consistent and unbiased process for considering expulsions,” Silveira said. “This is an ongoing process, and we will be taking a look at how we fairly handle the student code of conduct in coming meetings.”


Much more on gangs and school violence.

“A Loss of Innocence: Young brothers’ lives are example of the lure of gangs”

Donovan Slack:

Seven-year-old Brajon Brown is clearly a child. He hasn’t committed a crime, though he talks about it. His 12-year-old brother, Malcolm also is not in a gang – at least not one police recognize. He runs with a “crew” of friends formed when Malcolm was 9. Boston police call them “wannabes” and say they usually don’t show up on police radar until they are teenagers and committed to gangs known for more serious crimes. Some experts say Boston neglects such gangs, allowing momentum to build for a coming crime wave that would dwarf the record violence of the mid-1990s. Malcolm, who says the young males in the crew protect their territory by beating up challengers, faces charges in the beating and robbery of a boy earlier this year. “When you look into the eyes of a kid like that, in three or four years, you know he could take a life, no problem,” a former prosecutor and community activist says. He estimates that dozens of gangs like Malcolm’s – semi-organized groups of middle and elementary school-age youth who mimic the actions of older gangs – operate in Boston. Last year, 49 of 102 city-run youth programs allowed only participants 13 or older. And of 180 young people who received city counseling and intervention services, only 49 children were preteens. Stressing the diversion of preteens from lives of crime, Boston’s mayor launched an effort this year to enroll every child between 8 and 14 in a summer program. Teams of city workers knocked on more than 1,700 doors in attempts to reach families who need help. An official says 233 households signed up for services, but he doesn’t know how many were for preteens. Brajon, meanwhile, already walks the streets as if he owns them, slapping pay phones off the hook as he passes and knocking items from first-floor window ledges.

Madison Police Chief on Gangs in Schools

Madison Parent:

Madison Police Department Chief Noble Wray spoke on downtown safety at the monthly meeting of Downtown Madison, Inc. on June 28, 2007, and also briefly addressed the topic of gang activity in Madison schools during the program, as reported in The Capital Times (via the MadCrime101 blog, a welcome and valuable new resource focusing on concerns and issues relating to crime in Madison).
Chief Wray acknowledged the growing problem of gangs in Madison and their presence in Madison schools, and spoke of the need to quantify the extent of the problem and its trends, rather than reacting based on anecdotal “information”. I couldn’t agree more. The MPD can make much progress toward this goal by fuller and consistent disclosure to the public of incidents and statistics on gang activity (whether through its police district newsletters or its public information office news releases). But to quantify the gang problem in schools, the MPD will need to rely on data from the MMSD, since much can happen in a school which is relevant to quantifying the gang problem but isn’t brought to the attention of the MPD. Can the gang problem in Madison schools be accurately and reliably quantified and assessed for those schools that don’t have ERO’s (Education Resource Officers)? Of if the policies on when calls for service are to be made to MPD vary from school to school? Or when the MMSD relies on suspension and expulsion rates, instead of actual incidents of disruptive and violent behavior, to gauge school safety (all the while moving toward a policy of discouraging suspensions and expulsions)?

Gangs & School Violence Forum Audio / Video. More here [RSS].

School Crime Data in Madison

Madison Parent:

How safe are our schools? This question can’t be answered without consistent collection and analysis of information about violent and disruptive incidents in our schools. While the Madison Police Department has just released its Uniform Crime Report for 2006 (the summary of crime statistics that is reported annually to the FBI), there’s no equivalent report for Madison schools. Our state’s Department of Public Instruction collects data for expulsions and suspension, but not for incidents. The Madison Metropolitan School District’s web site simply links to the DPI site. At the individual school level, there may be no system for proactively communicating with parents about incidents affecting safety, or, worse yet, a parent’s school safety questions may languish unanswered.

The post includes a list of recent school crime events. Gangs and School Violence Forum.

Mayor Candidates Debate City Schools

Mary Yeater Rathbun:

Mayoral candidate Ray Allen told 250 Rotarians Wednesday that he would pull cops out of the schools, but later told The Capital Times that is not what he meant.
Allen said after the debate that what he meant to say, as he has said numerous times before, is that he would pull the cost of funding the police officers in the schools out of the school budget and transfer it to the city budget. This might, depending on the latest school financing laws, allow the schools to free up roughly $280,000 to apply to educational programs.
That is not, however, what members of Downtown Rotary heard at the Monona Terrace mayoral forum featuring both Allen and Mayor Dave Cieslewicz.
As Rotarian Amanda Todd said, “As a mom, I was surprised to learn Allen plans to remove the cops from the schools.”
Allen’s misstatement came in response to a question from forum moderator Regina Millner about community safety being critical to recruiting and retaining businesses in Madison. In her question, Millner said the other major factor was the quality of the schools and remarked that the mayor had no control over the quality of the schools.
Allen, who served nine years on the Madison School Board, took issue with this assumption. “The mayor can be the champion of the schools,” he said.

Gangs and School Violence Forum Audio / Video and notes.
Candidate Websites: Ray Allen | Dave Cieslewicz

The State of the City’s Schools

Superintendent Art Rainwater and Madison School Board President Johnny Winston, Jr. discuss the state of Madison’s public schools with Stuart Levitan.

Watch the video | MP3 Audio

Topics discussed include:

  • School Safety
  • The November 7, 2006 Referendum
  • School funding
  • “Education is not one size fits all” – Johnny during a discussion of the initiatives underway within the school district (the last 12 minutes) such as online learning, the Studio School and differentiation.
  • Levitan asked Art Rainwater if, during his 8 years as Superintendent, the education our children receive is better than it was in 1998? Art said it was and cited a number of examples.


Art Rainwater’s Memo on School Violence

Madison School District Superintendent Art Rainwater:

By now, I’m sure you know that last Friday a 15 year old boy entered Weston School in Cazenovia (Sauk County) and allegedly shot and killed the principal. This incident has stirred in all of us the uneasy realization that this can happen anywhere, at anytime. We mourn the loss of the principal and empathize with the staff, students, families and community members of that school district. We also feel tremendous responsibility for our own students and staff. Last week, our entire staff spent a day talking about the crucial nature that relationships play in our schools. While the primary focus was on issues of race and equity, we also know that we were talking about any student who doesn’t feel connected to the school and valued by an adult. Last Friday after we heard about what happened at Weston High School, we sent to our staff the following reminders:

Notes & Links:

  • Channel3000
  • Clusty News | Google News | Microsoft Live | Yahoo News
  • Rafael Gomez organized a Gangs & School Violence Forum last September [Audio / video / Notes], attended by all Madison High School Principals and local law enforcement representatives. East High grad Luis Yudice also participated. Yudice is the Madison School District’s coordinator of safety and security.
  • Many more links
  • Johnny Winston, Jr.:

    Message from Johnny Winston, Jr., President of the Madison Board of Education
    On behalf of the Madison Board of Education, we send our heartfelt condolences to the Klang family, Weston School district and Cazenovia community.
    In response to this tragedy as well as recent incidents in Green Bay and Colorado, Superintendent Art Rainwater has sent a message to all employees of the Madison Metropolitan School District outlining strategies and effective communication tools between students and adults. He wrote, “The most effective tool we have for preventing violent behaviors at school is building and maintaining a climate of trusting relationships and communication between and among students and adults.” He has also indicated that the Madison Police will increase their presence at our schools for the next week.
    We know that the Madison community joins our school board in support of the Klang family, Weston School district and Cazenovia community. Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult period.


Madison School District Progress Report

Via a Johnny Winston, Jr. email:

Welcome back to school! I hope you had a wonderful summer. On August 28th the Madison school board approved plans Plan CP2a and Plan CP3a relative to boundary changes that will be necessary if the November 7th referendum to construct an elementary school on the Linden Park site passes or fails. The plan will need to be adjusted depending on enrollment. The board also passed a resolution to place $291,983.75 of the Leopold addition/remodeling monies in the contingency fund of the 2006-07 budget if the referendum passes less the expenses incurred relative to the initial financing of the project
On August 21st, Partnerships, Performance and Achievement and Human Resources convened. The Partnerships Committee (Lucy Mathiak, Chair) discussed strengthening partnerships with parents and caregivers and is working to develop a standard process for administering grants to community partners. Performance and Achievement (Shwaw Vang, Chair) had a presentation on the English-as-a-Second Language Program. Human Resources (Ruth Robarts, Chair) discussed committee goals and activities for 2006-07
On August 14th the board approved a policy that allows animals to be used in the classroom by teachers in their educational curriculum but also protects students that have allergies or other safety concerns. Questions about the November referendum were discussed and an additional JV soccer program at West High school was approved. This team is funded entirely by parents and student fees. The Finance and Operations Committee (Lawrie Kobza, Chair) met to discuss concepts and categories of a document called the People’s Budget that would be easier to read and understand. Lastly, three citizens were appointed to the newly created Communications Committee (Arlene Silveira, Chair): Deb Gurke, Tim Saterfield and Wayne Strong


Soglin on Allied Drive, Gangs

Former Madison Mayor Paul Soglin:

he future for Allied Drive and the City of Madison appears bleak. WMTV-15 reported two nights ago:
Allied Drive Crowds a Growing Concern for Police
Madison police say they have needed to call for backup three times within the last week due to troublesome crowds of people in the Allied Drive neighborhood. And that’s draining resources from other parts of the city.
Police report groups of 20 to 80 people shouting, sometimes pounding on squad cars while officers try to make an arrest…
This report is not from Milwaukee, or even the Town of Madison but the city of Madison, the self-avowed hotbed of progressive leadership. For those interested in verbose, lengthy analysis, go to to any of my posts under the category of gangs.

Last Fall’s Gangs and School Violence Forum is a must watch (listen – mp3 audio). Participants included representatives from law enforcement, principals and county/state service employees.
Forum notes can be found here along with a number of background links

Crimes & Misdemeanors: High school security chief Wally Baranyk says most of the wrongdoing in suburban high schools goes on in the shadows. So how dark does it get?

Michael Leahy:

While much of the rule-breaking at Oakton occurs out of sight from faculty and staff members, insubordination at D.C. schools is more often on public display. “I think our biggest problem here is lack of respect by kids for teachers and adults and for other kids,” says Michael Ilwain, a school resource officer at Eastern High School in Northeast Washington. “It leads to disrespect and bad behavior in classrooms, and it leads to fights, too. Almost all our problems start from there . . . But I also think that, in these times, we have some of the same things to face as other schools.”
Those things include the spectacularly dire. At Oakton, as at any other 21st-century high school, Baranyk must ponder scenarios that once would have been unthinkable. He has had to devise meticulous plans for how Oakton staff members and students would respond in an emergency or a catastrophic event, including a terrorist’s biological or chemical strike, or the spread of a potentially lethal virus. “Security at a school means something different now than 20 years ago . . .” he says. “You can try preparing for problems, but it’s hard to know what they all will look like . . . I guess you’re trying to imagine the unimaginable.”

Rafel Gomez hosted a forum last fall on Gangs & School violence. Audio and video here.

New Dane County Gangs Task Force


Concerns about the growth of street gangs in the Madison area are prompting authorities to create a new task force that will target Dane County’s top gang leaders and drug dealers, WISC-TV reported.
Federal, state, and local police will play a key role in the new gang unit.
There’s a great deal being planned on many fronts right now to combat the growing gang problem, and the new gang task force is one component, WISC-TV reported.

Rafael Gomez recently hosted a Forum on Gangs & School Violence: Audio / Video.

Lates Madison crime data


Madison police last week unveiled its 2023 crime numbers, which showed that violent crimes like robberies declined from the previous year. But some crimes, including homicides, went up. 

So it safer in Madison than it was a decade ago? Here are the numbers since 2013, broken down by crime.

Homicides in Madison

There were four more homicides last year than in 2022. Four of those homicides were related to a domestic violence situation. Police have cleared 8 of the 10 cases. Wisconsin reached a 22-year high in domestic violence cases in 2022.


Related: police calls-Madison High Schools 1996-2006.


Gangs and school violence forum.

Civics: “Weimar America”

Victor Davis Hanson:

At Hillcrest High School in Queens, New York, hundreds of students rioted on news that a single teacher in her private social media account had expressed support for Israel. Waving Palestinian flags, and screaming violent threats, the student mob rioted, destroyed school property, sought the teacher out and tried to crash into her classroom—before she was saved from violence by other teachers and an eventual police arrival.

The subtext was that the overwhelmingly minority students (whose school is ranked academically near the bottom among New York City schools) were acculturated to the racist reality that as the “oppressed” they were exempt from any punishment for hunting down their own teacher. As a Jewish (and thus white) “oppressive” supporter of Israel, she was reduced to, in the words an enthusiastic commenter on a Tik Tok video of the riot, a “cracker ass bitch.” And so the student pack tracked her down as if they were hunting an animal. The old Nazi youth gangs tried to kill Jews because they were not considered “white;” our new Nazis hunt them down because they allege that they are. The common denominator between the 1930s and 2023 is an unhinged hatred of Jews.

Hundreds of such incidents are now occurring on a daily basis—as the country is leaving its Weimar phase and heading at warp speed into normalizing Jew-hatred and worse. Instructors singled out Jewish students in classes at UC Davis and Stanford. Pro-Hamas students ripped down posters, swarmed public buildings, and disrupted traffic.

In interview, former Madison Whitehorse staffer speaks publicly for the first time since altercation with student

Negassi Tesfamichael:

Whether Mueller-Owens will be able to find a place in the community remains to be seen, as he has kept a low profile since media reports surfaced last month about the Feb. 13 incident and sparked a flurry of outrage in the community.

Mikiea Price, the girl’s mother, has said she believed Mueller-Owens snapped when he attempted to escort her daughter out of a classroom after she had repeatedly disrupted it.

“I have been in several situations where students have kicked me, spit on me, broke my ankle, and I still did not conduct myself in that kind of manner,” Price said when no criminal charges were filed against Mueller-Owens.

Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham penned an open letter to the Madison community in which she described the altercation as “especially horrific.”

“Jennifer Cheatham has known me ever since she came to Madison and has grown to respect me and trust me,” Mueller-Owens said. “She invited me to the White House with her because of the restorative work I’ve done in the district and my commitment to kids in this city.”

The irony of the incident is that Mueller-Owens served as a positive behavior coach. He traveled to Washington D.C. with Cheatham to attend a conference in 2015 at the White House to talk about reforming school discipline.

“E tu Brute? That’s how I felt. You’re going to stab me in the back, too, Ms. Cheatham?” Mueller-Owens said in response to the superintendent’s open letter.

Mueller-Owens and his attorney, Jordan Loeb, said MMSD’s handling of the incident and his employment with the district was unfair.

Related: Gangs and school
Violence forum

Public Education’s Dirty Secret

Mary Hudson:

Aside from the history teacher from Texas, other Washington Irving educators stood out as extraordinary, and this in an unimaginably bad learning environment. One was a cheerful Lebanese math teacher who had been felled as a child by polio. He called himself “the million dollar man” because of his handicapped parking permit, quite a handy advantage in Manhattan. Although he could only walk on crutches, he kept those kids in line! His secret? A lovely way about him and complete but polite disdain for his students. Where he came from, students were not allowed to act that way. Another was a German teacher, the wife of a Lutheran minister. Her imposing presence—she fit the valkyrie stereotype—kept those mouths closed. You could hear a pin drop in her unusually tidy classroom, and she managed to teach some German to the few hardy souls who wanted to learn it.

The most impressive of all was a handsome black American from Minnesota. He towered over us all, both physically and what the French call morally. He exuded an aura that inspired something like awe in his colleagues and students. I think he taught social studies. He was the only teacher who got away with blacking out his classroom door window, which added to his mystique. He engaged his students by concentrating their efforts on putting together a fashion show at the end of each school year. They designed and produced the outfits they strutted proudly on the makeshift catwalk, looking as elegant and confident as any supermodel. To tumultuous applause. They deserved it.

Although the school was always on the verge of hysteria and violence, it had all the trappings of the typical American high school. There were class trips and talent shows, rings and year books—even caps and gowns and graduation. High school diplomas were among the trappings, handed out to countless 12th graders with, from my observation, a 7th grade education. The elementary schools had a better record. But everyone knew that once the kids hit puberty, it became virtually impossible under the laws in force to teach those who were steeped in ghetto and gangster culture, and those—the majority—who were bullied into succumbing to it.

Students came to school for their social life. The system had to be resisted. It was never made explicit that it was a “white” system that was being rejected, but it was implicit in oft-made remarks. Youngsters would say things like, “You can’t say that word, that be a WHITE word!” It did no good to remind students that some of the finest oratory in America came from black leaders like Martin Luther King and some of the best writing from authors like James Baldwin. I would tell them that there was nothing wrong with speaking one’s own dialect; dialects in whatever language tend to be colorful and expressive, but it was important to learn standard English as well. It opens minds and doors. Every new word learned adds to one’s wealth, and there’s nothing like grammar for organizing one’s thoughts.

It all fell on deaf ears. It was impossible to dispel the students’ delusions. Astonishingly, they believed that they would do just fine and have great futures once they got to college! They didn’t seem to know that they had very little chance of getting into anything but a community college, if that. Sadly, the kids were convinced of one thing: As one girl put it, “I don’t need an 85 average to get into Hunter; I’m black, I can get in with a 75.” They were actually encouraged to be intellectually lazy.

The most Dantesque scene I witnessed at Washington Irving was a “talent show” staged one spring afternoon. The darkened auditorium was packed with excited students, jittery guidance counselors, teachers, and guards. Music blasted from the loudspeakers, ear-splitting noise heightened the frenzy. To my surprise and horror, the only talent on display was merely what comes naturally. Each act was a show of increasingly explicit dry humping. As each group of performers vied with the previous act to be more outrageous, chaos was breaking out in the screaming audience. Some bright person in charge finally turned off the sound, shut down the stage lights, and lit up the auditorium, causing great consternation among the kids, but it quelled the growing mass hysteria. The students came to their senses. The guards (and NYC policemen if memory serves) managed to usher them out to safety.

‘Living on borrowed time’ before someone killed by teenage burglaries, car thefts

David Blaska:

Congrats to Ald. Paul Skidmore for hosting Monday night’s public safety meeting at Blackhawk Church off Mineral Point Road. Guessing a very engaged crowd of 400 to 500, with a significant representation from black and white.

What a line-up! Juvenile court judges Juan Colas and Everett Mitchell, Sheriff Dave Mahoney, D.A. Ismael Ozanne, Madison police chief Mike Koval, West district captain Cory Nelson, and Mayor Paul Soglin.

They addressed, at the demand of Ald. Skidmore, the spate of juvenile crime — car thefts, joy riding, and home burglaries — particularly here on the west side of town. Colas, chief judge of the Dane County circuit, said his own car had been broken into recently at his home off Hammersley Road. Just Monday he recovered a neighbor’s smartphone in the bushes.

Related: Gangs and School Violence Forum.

Three arrested in shooting near La Follette; alleged shooter not a student, Madison police say

Shelly Mesch and Bill Novak:

The school district screened students entering the school Thursday and Friday with metal detector wands as a precaution following the shooting. Joe Balles, safety and security coordinator for the school district, said screening will not need to continue next week but there will be screening for students entering Saturday’s Homecoming dance.

The arrests were made by the Police Department’s violent crime unit.

The shooting was the second near La Follette in a week. On Sept. 19, a 15-year-old boy on a Metro Transit bus near the school injured two 16-year-old students when a gun he had accidentally fired. The 15-year-old, who was arrested the next day, was not a student at La Follette. A district spokeswoman would not say what schools the three attend.

Related: Gangs and school violence audio video.

Written Off

Amber Walker:

Reese’s experience raises broader questions about what information is shared between MMSD and the Dane County Juvenile Court when it comes to youth in their care. While the district insists it was an isolated incident, juvenile court staff, like Smedema and her supervisor, Suzanne Stute, said collecting statements from school staff is a routine part of their work.

The case also illuminates communication issues and a lack of standardized procedures between MMSD and Dane County Juvenile Court employees. Such communication happens on an ad-hoc basis and varies from school-to-school, largely unmonitored by the district’s central office. A task force of both groups of employees has been working to correct this, and Madison schools Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham proposed adding $120,000 to next year’s budget to establish an office dedicated to court-involved and other “at-risk” youth.

After spending over a week in the Dane County Juvenile Detention Center, Reese’s son was ready to go.

“I want to go home,” he wailed as the court commissioner ruled to extend his stay for the second time, in an audio recording of a custody hearing reviewed by the Cap Times. The Cap Times is not identifying the student by name because juvenile court records are sealed.

The county’s Juvenile Court uses custody hearings to determine the best environment for a child before a delinquency hearing or trial. Custody hearings usually happen within 24 hours of a child’s apprehension by authorities. Options typically include secure detention, non-secure shelter, or returning home with a parent or other stable adult. If a child is not released after the initial hearing, they can request follow-up hearings. Custody hearings are not used to determine a child’s innocence or guilt when accused of a delinquent act.

Shortly before the commissioner made his decision in late February, the student’s public defender argued that he’d been doing well in his classes during detention, and both parents were committed to helping him stay in school and out of trouble.

Despite the student’s and his parents’ request for monitored release, Assistant District Attorney Andrew Miller and Melissa Tanner, a Dane County social worker assigned to the student, did not think it was the best option. Along with concerns about the student running away again, Tanner and Miller spoke about their perception of his experience at West.

When asked by the court commissioner whether or not they believed the student should be released from custody that day, both mentioned Pryor’s letter as a reason to think twice.

“I haven’t gotten confirmation about how West would feel about him coming back, but we do have this letter that was submitted to the court about their concern,” Tanner told the court.

“I strongly believe that if he stays at West or any of the large MMSD schools, his behavior will not change and he will progress to even more serious behaviors,” said Miller, reading a line from Pryor’s letter to the court.

“Returning (to West) is not a sure thing, it is by no means certain,” Miller told the commissioner.

An impressive piece of local journalism…

Gangs and School Violence Forum

They’re all rich white kids and they’ll do just fine – Not!

Madison’s K-12 Governance & Discipline Climate: Teacher Union View

Andrew Waity, Karen Vieth, Andrew Mayhall, Cari Falk, Kira Fobbs, Jessica Hotz, Michael Jones, Kerry Motoviloff, and Peter Opps:

Superintendent Cheatham,

We saw the article in the Wisconsin State Journal on Monday, March 26th and found the tone of your quotes in the article disturbing and provocative. We have heard similar concerns from MTI membership.

The primary concerns center around the impression given that MMSD staff is not engaging in proactive work around student behavior, and are engaging in actions that fail to “warn” students before more serious behaviors occur. The article on the front page appeared to place blame on educators in schools.

The reality is that MTI members, leaders and staff have been calling for more interventions, more support and more accountability for student behaviors at the lower tiers. The call for changes to the current climate in our schools is resounding across MMSD. We know that you have heard this as well in your visits to schools. The idea that staff is not intervening with students out of fear or for other reasons is a willing and political deflection of responsibility from administrators (primarily non-school based) onto teachers and other staff in our schools. Our data and other measures of climate are a product of many factors that include a sense of frustration around a lack of consistently effective supports for our staff and students around behavior education.

We fully recognize a need to change outcomes for our students and the need to engage in work that reduces disparities around achievement and discipline. The way to do this is to develop systems that increase shared accountability and maximize supports at the individual student and classroom level. Engaging in shared leadership that includes staff, students, families, community and administration is critical, and that level of collaboration doesn’t currently exist here.

If the WSJ article represented your sentiments inaccurately then you should clarify to MMSD staff and the public. Your words do matter a great deal to your staff. We look forward to hearing from you.


MTI Board of Directors

Andrew Waity, Karen Vieth, Andrew Mayhall, Cari Falk, Kira Fobbs, Jessica Hotz, Michael Jones, Kerry Motoviloff, and Peter Opps


Gangs and school violence forum.

Madison Teachers, Inc

Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

Madison spends nearly $20,000 per student, far more than most K-12 Districts.

And, the comics have weighed in:

by Alan Talaga and John Lyons.

A 1980s study on juvenile crime in Japan sheds light on American gun culture

Annalisa Merelli:

In 1982, John Beck—a strategy advisor and former business professor at Harvard and UCLA—was a 22-year-old Harvard student working on his thesis on juvenile crime in Japan. In the 1980s, Japan had seen an uncharacteristic increase in juvenile crime, which was associated with bōsōzoku (暴走族), or biker gangs. These groups, Beck says, comprised between 20 and 50 youth, under the age of 21, who would have standoffs that involved beating and sometimes knifing each other.

Once the gang members turned 21—the age at which criminal records become permanent in Japan—the vast majority of them went through a solemn ceremony and returned to lawful citizenship. But a small percentage continued their criminal careers as part of the yakuza (ヤクザ).

Beck had been exposed to the phenomenon several years prior, while living in Japan as a Mormon missionary between the age of 19 and 21. He was fascinated by what he described to Quartz as a “nonconforming group within such a conformist society.” By 1980, according to the data he collected, nearly 15 minors every 1,000 were arrested—compared with an adult arrest rate of 3 every 1,000.

Related: Gangs and School Violence Forum.

Police calls, Madison Schools 1996-2006.