Sick of the recurring violence going on in classrooms, hallways and gymnasiums, parent Kate Bertram last week told the Wauwatosa School Board that the “new pandemic in Wauwatosa schools is a lack of accountability.”
A Republican-led bill passed Tuesday in the Assembly demands more accountability from Wisconsin’s schools in tracking crime.
Bertram told school board members about how frightened she was learning that her daughter and friends hid in a boiler room during the fight late last month between a parent and a student at Wauwatosa West High School. She said the kids contemplated using a ladder they had found to climb to safety had they heard gunshots. Bertram said she was “dying inside,” according to a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The fight was the latest in several physical altercations involving Wauwatosa students on and off district grounds. Expulsions are up significantly, too, remarkable for a woke suburban Milwaukee school district boasting a disciplinary framework that attempts to cultivate “welcoming, diverse, inclusive and accessible school cultures for all students and families.”
“What will it take for you to hold students and parents accountable?” Bertram asked the board.
On Tuesday, the Republican-controlled Assembly, on a party-line vote, passed a bill requiring public and voucher schools to collect data detailing disorderly conduct and violent crime incidents that occur on school grounds during the weekdays. Schools would have to report the data — only incidents involving police and citations — to the state Department of Public Instruction.
Incidents of crime, including homicide, sexual assault, burglary, battery and arson, occurring on school property or on transportation provided by the school must be collected and reported, according to the measure.
The bill’s author, State Representative Cindi Duchow (R-Pewaukee), said the measure is about transparency. She said a brawl several years ago at Milwaukee’s Barack Obama School of Career and Technical Education in which a student kicked a pregnant paramedic sparked discussions on the need for greater tracking of violent incidents in schools.
“At bigger schools like Wauwatosa and MPS [Milwaukee Public Schools] parents don’t always know what’s going on in their schools,” Duchow said. “This is strictly a transparency bill, but the left really pushed back on it today.”
The lawmaker said Democrats are not interested in having light shine on just how bad the crime problem is in their schools.
State Representative Deb Andraca (D-Whitefish Bay) said Wisconsin’s schools don’t want the bill, a bill she insists won’t benefit parents.
“We are looking backwards in time to see what already has happened,” she said. “What we should be looking at is ways to keep our schools safe in the first place, and that is not what this bill does.”
Duchow aid the legislation gives parents the power of knowledge. The statistics will be listed on DPI’s annual school report cards. Duchow said schools won’t be “dinged” for their crime statistics, but parents will have a better understanding of what’s going on in the places they’re sending their children.
The Assembly also passed a bill — mostly along party lines — requiring school resource officers for schools with 100 or more incidents of disorderly conduct or violent crimes on school property. A quarter of those incidents would have to result in arrests for the SRO requirement to kick in. The state’s largest school districts, Milwaukee and Madison, got rid of their student resource officers, and concerns about crime and violence on school grounds have risen.
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