When the Hanel sisters attended St. Patrick School, hot dog lunches were a gourmet meal.
Once a month on Wednesdays, parents came to school and cooked the hot dogs. For the parochial school students, who were used to cold lunches, that was something special.
The sisters—all five of them—returned Friday night to say their final goodbyes to the 150-year-old school during its send-off celebration.
Officials announced in January that the school was closing at the end of the 2017-18 school year because of declining enrollment, according to a previous report in The Gazette.
Rachel, Janel, Jaylene, Rayne and Jackie attended St. Patrick through the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. As kids, the sisters went to St. Patrick’s Church for Mass three times a week. Their parents still attend Mass there, Janel said.
The sisters laughed and shared memories in a classroom where lessons still lingered on the whiteboard from the last days of school.
Kim Ehrhardt, site coordinator and former principal, said Friday’s attendance exceeded expectations.
He thought about 150 people would come to the send-off. In the first hour, the crowd was about double that, he said.
The celebration also served as a way to solicit ideas about how to repurpose the school, Ehrhardt said. The church will continue to own the building but has not settled on its future use.
The only thing that is certain is that the building will maintain its educational mission, he said.
A lot of things have changed over 150 years.
Janel remembered the stairs as being massive. Now, they feel like normal stairs, she said.
Mary Loggy Robinson graduated from St. Patrick in 1951. She remembers getting in trouble for wearing shorts to a school picnic.
The shorts were meant to be worn under her skirt, Robinson said. She took the skirt off after going swimming, much to her teacher’s dismay.
Many alumni wandered from classroom to classroom, trying to remember which religious sister taught in which room.
One classroom was filled to the brim with bright-green spirit wear for people to take home. Alumni left with armfuls of old cheerleading skirts, trophies and green T-shirts that one man said would make “great jammies,” as in pajamas.
However, some things about the school have stayed the same.
Sisters Deb Saunders and Teresa Henning—they were the Bauer sisters during their school days—shared laughs as they looked over tables of old photographs inside the front doors.
Saunders could still name every person in her sixth-grade class photo.
Throughout the halls came echoed “hellos” that sounded like they hadn’t been said in years. They were accompanied by hugs, laughter and smiles.
Leading up to the event, Ehrhardt said he had an epiphany. Almost everyone in Janesville has some relationship to St. Patrick School—a testament to just how special it was.
President Donald Trump’s ability to reshape the Supreme Court with a conservative nominee could quickly send the nation back to a reality that had seemed far in the past: Abortion would be illegal in a large swath of America, subjecting doctors and perhaps pregnant women to criminal prosecution and potentially upending the political landscape in many states.
As many as 17 states are poised to effectively ban abortion should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that guaranteed abortion rights nationwide. If the decision were overturned, each state could set its own rules on abortion.
Trump vowed in his campaign that overturning Roe “will happen, automatically,” if he were elected and could appoint justices to the court. More recently, as president, he criticized Roe for leading to “some of the most permissive abortion laws in the world.”
Four justices are widely believed to favor reversing the 45-year-old ruling or severely restricting its reach. In replacing Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who on Wednesday announced his retirement, Trump could supply the fifth vote for a majority.
Several anti-abortion states have already laid the groundwork to move fast, providing potential test cases that could get before a more conservative court within a year or two.
Iowa, for example, recently passed a law that prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which often takes place around the sixth week of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant. The law was set to take effect on July 1, but a state judge put it on hold earlier this month.
“States are enacting laws that say, ‘Take us to court; let this go all the way to the Supreme Court. We are confident now that it will go our way,’” said Carol Sanger, a law professor at Columbia University and author of a book on the history of abortion.
“Even if they don’t strike down Roe, whittling it down is very effective. States can find new restrictions that make women pay financially, and also emotionally, by making them feel they are doing something shameful.”
In 10 states, bans that existed before the Roe decision are still on the books and would take effect again should it be reversed, according to a report by the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks abortion laws. A few of those are blue states, including Massachusetts, which would presumably scrap their bans. Several, however—including Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma and West Virginia—are solidly conservative places where anti-abortion sentiment is strong.
Four states—Louisiana, Mississippi and North and South Dakota—have laws designed to ban abortion if Roe is overturned. And seven—Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio and North Dakota—have laws that express the intention to limit abortion as much as the Supreme Court allows.
The lineup of states underscores a big difference between the situation that prevailed before Roe and what might happen if the decision were overturned: When Roe took effect, most states had banned abortion, and few allowed the procedure.
If Roe were overturned now, abortion bans would spring into effect in parts of the South and the nation’s interior. Abortions would remain legal, however, in many of the nation’s largest states, including California, which has a law expressly protecting abortion rights. Women in conservative states who couldn’t afford to travel to places where abortion was legal would be most at risk, experts in abortion law say.
In a number of states where voters are closely divided on the issue, the emotional politics of abortion likely would lead to a new period of political turmoil, where power could shift around an issue that for decades has not been a top concern for most voters.
“If the court rolls back Roe vs. Wade, abortion will become front and center of every state political debate and campaign,” said Patrick Egan, a political scientist at New York University who has studied public opinion on the issue. “The extent to which states prohibit or make it more difficult to access legal abortion could become the battleground in the politics of many states for decades to come.”
More than two-thirds of voters nationwide support keeping the Roe v. Wade ruling intact, according to a poll conducted last year by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. Yet the politics of abortion get murky when voters are asked about specific restrictions. In several swing states, voters are closely divided, which could worsen the political tumult if the Supreme Court returns the issue to state control.
That could add a new, unpredictable degree of volatility to the politics of swing states.
After decades of legal abortion being the law of the land, voters in even the most conservative states have been known to bristle at the idea of abolishing it outright.
When lawmakers in South Dakota passed an abortion ban in 2006, voters overturned it at the ballot soon after. A couple of years later, voters had the opportunity to vote on an abortion ban again. And again, they rejected it. Mississippi voters rejected a constitutional amendment declaring life begins at conception.
“These were surprising results,” said Gerald Rosenberg, a professor of political science and law at the University of Chicago. “We know in the short run a lot of states would move to ban abortion. But we don’t know what would happen in the long run.”
Among the unknowns is the public’s appetite for punitive measures, even in staunchly anti-abortion states. That could quickly be tested if bans that are already on the books take effect, said Leslie Reagan, a history professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Under several state laws, doctors who provide abortions illegally would risk prison sentences, as could the patients who seek them.
“Police used to go into the hospitals and emergency rooms trying to find evidence,” said Reagan, author of the book When Abortion was a Crime. “They would stake out clinics and round up women as they left. … Women would be threatened, interrogated and brought into court as witnesses against their providers.”
Even patients who weren’t seeking abortion, but had gone to the hospital after suffering a miscarriage, would often find themselves under suspicion. “It creates this whole atmosphere of suspicion of pregnant women in general, but any woman who loses a pregnancy before delivery,” she said.
Some things have changed since the early 1970s. A black market for abortion services that might emerge today would offer safer options than those available five decades ago, when many patients died in botched back-alley abortions and public hospitals set up septic abortion wards to treat survivors. There was no abortion pill then. Often the only option was a coat hanger.
But scholars of abortion law say there’s no question that the bans some states are pursuing would lead to the re-emergence of acute health and safety risks for patients.
Abortion rights advocates have made that risk a major point of their efforts to mobilize supporters.
“We are declaring a national emergency,” Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro Choice America, said Thursday in a call with reporters. “This is not a drill. The lawsuits necessary to overturn Roe and criminalize abortion and some form of contraception are already moving through the courts.”
Even if a reshaped court were to balk at fully overturning Roe, it could still empower states to severely restrict the availability of abortion services.
Jerome M. Bridgham
Jesse L. Louison
Margaret Ann Mack
Debra “Debbie” Lynn Matzke
Margaret M. Rogers
Robert C. Stair Jr.
David L. Thomas
Expulsions in the Janesville School District dropped significantly in the most recent school year, and officials say a variety of factors might be at work.
In the 2017-18 school year, seven students were expelled, according to a June 27 memo from Director of Student Services Kim Peerenboom to Superintendent Steve Pophal.
That’s down from 20 students in the 2016-17 school year and from 28 in the 2015-16 school year.
The number of students expelled for having dangerous weapons at school or possessing drugs and/or alcohol dropped from 16 in 2015-16 to 11 in 2016-17.
In the most recent school year, only one student was expelled for those reasons.
“We’re always trying to reduce those numbers of expulsions,” Peerenboom said.
But the reasons for the decrease are not easy to determine.
The district’s behavioral trends seem to match those indicated by the Wisconsin Youth Risk Behavior Survey, she said.
“High-risk behaviors are going down,” Peerenboom said. “There’s less of that and more interactivity online and a greater use of screen time.”
High-risk behaviors—drug and alcohol use, drunken driving, riding in a car with a drunken driver, and fighting at school—all were down, according to the Wisconsin Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The survey found that depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide are up, as is the number of students who “regularly feel unsafe at school.”
It’s possible, too, the Janesville School District’s four charter school options help reduce expulsions.
“I have been invited to pre-expulsion conferences to discuss options in the charter school community that might better fit a student who had been struggling with behaviors,” Lisa Peterson, Rock River Charter School principal, wrote in an email.
Peerenboom said the district’s charter schools also have the option to expel students who exhibit dangerous behavior or repeatedly violate school rules.
“Generally what we see with students in charter schools is higher attendance rates, a better sense of belonging and more academic success,” Peerenboom wrote in an email. “This could lead students to not act on behaviors that could lead to a recommendation for expulsion.”
But there’s no data directly linking the drop in expulsion rates to charter school choices, school officials said.
Students may be expelled for any period of time and can be reinstated early if they meet conditions set by the school board.
The process starts with a building administrator and staff investigating the incident in question. The principal or assistant principal then forwards a recommendation to the superintendent.
If the superintendent agrees, then a hearing is set with the district’s independent hearing officer, who hears both sides of the story.
The hearing officer then takes his or her recommendation to the school board for consideration in closed session.