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Other cities with anti-bullying ordinances say they can be effective prevention tool


The goal of the village of Plover’s anti-bullying ordinance is not to issue citations or collect revenue, Plover Police Chief Dan Ault said.

Its main purpose is to raise awareness among parents who might not know their child is bullying others at school or on social media.

The ordinance applies to the whole village, which means police can address bullying that happens away from school property, Ault said.

Plover, located near Stevens Point, is one of several communities in the state with such a policy. As the Janesville City Council considers developing an anti-bullying policy, The Gazette contacted some of these places to learn more about the effectiveness of their ordinances.

The push in Janesville to enact such a measure comes after the suicide of 12-year-old Ellizabeth Jacobson.

At Monday’s city council meeting, Rebecka Coughlin, Ellizabeth’s mother, and other anti-bullying advocates encouraged officials to enact the ordinance, saying it could prevent another child suicide.

Some of Monday’s speakers cited what other places have done to deter bullying.

Most of these communities created their anti-bullying ordinances by combining four state statutes pertaining to harassment, disorderly conduct, and unlawful use of telephones and computers. They define bullying as intentional behavior that is “reasonably likely to intimidate, emotionally abuse, slander or threaten” another person while serving “no legitimate purpose.”

None of the four municipalities The Gazette surveyed have issued citations for violating the ordinance. In Plover, police decided one incident was serious enough to be disorderly conduct, a more severe offense, Ault said.

None of these places believed they had a specific problem with bullying. It was a societal issue that happens everywhere, officials said.

And while all the communities designed their policies to prevent childhood bullying, officials said their ordinances could apply to adults, too.

Monona established its policy in 2013. Police there first issue warning letters, then levy a $124 fine if the bullying doesn’t stop. Subsequent offenses cost $187, Police Chief Walter Ostrenga said.

The city has distributed three warning letters in five years, he said.

Ostrenga thinks some victims of bullying are still too scared to report incidents to police, but he hopes the policy could empower some kids to speak up and send a message that bullying will not be tolerated, he said.

In Shawano, the police and schools joined forces to establish the ordinance in 2016. Combining multiple state statutes into one city policy helped police focus on specific types of behavior, City Administrator Brian Knapp said.

“Officers have a lot of discretion when they issue citations. They may not want to tag a young person with a disorderly conduct-type of charge just because of the potential ramifications of that,” Knapp said. “Having a specific charge for bullying or bullying behavior, which could be anything from texting to a pattern of intimidation, that’s more easy to define.”

Violating the ordinance in Shawano costs $366 for the first offense. The fee jumps to $681 if a second offense occurs within one year of the first, according to a document provided by the city.

South Milwaukee enacted its policy last month. Sometimes, handing out a citation—which would cost $439—might not be the best option, Police Chief William Jessup said.

“There are some occasions where the offense might be a one-time activity,” he said. “We may have juveniles who are immature who recognize once they’re talked to their actions are inappropriate and would change their behavior.”

It will take time to determine whether South Milwaukee’s fledgling ordinance will be a deterrent, but it’s a “symbolic message” backed up by the threat of financial penalty, Jessup said.

Ault firmly believes in the power of Plover’s ordinance to make a difference.

Some people have criticized him and said the policy is like the government intruding on parenting tactics. Some say victims could handle bullies themselves by retaliating physically.

Ault said critics misunderstand the ordinance’s purpose.

The policy encourages parents to take a more active role in their children’s lives, but it doesn’t tell them how to do it. And physical violence would do nothing to deter hurtful messages archived on social media, he said.

Bullying behaviors have also evolved on social media, where they can proliferate quickly. Solutions devised before the advent of social media don’t work in that context, but the ordinance can help modernize prevention tactics, Ault said.

The village has yet to issue a $124 fine in three years of existence. But citation numbers aren’t a useful tool to check whether the policy is working.

Its benefits—parental awareness and discouraged behavior—are subjective and harder to measure, he said.

He compared it to two methods of policing drunken driving. One officer might make a slew of intoxicated driver arrests while another might deter drunk people from getting behind the wheel at all.

“To gauge something like this, I don’t know that we’ll ever have the numbers to see how effective it is,” Ault said. “But I do know that this has reached a lot of people, and it’s important to a lot of people. I think we have prevented a lot of bad decisions.

“Here’s the thing. If I prevent one child from killing themselves, if I prevent one child from bringing a gun to school and killing somebody, if I get a kid to go to school that would have normally stayed home, then this ordinance already was worth it.”

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Applicants jump to win jobs on Geneva Lake's U.S. Mailboat


Holly Johnson clung to the side of the U.S. Mailboat as it plied the waters of Geneva Lake early Tuesday morning.

She stood on a slight ledge on the side of the 75-foot-long boat. As the vessel slid close to a pier, Johnson waited for the right moment to leap.

“It doesn’t seem like we’re going very fast while we’re on the boat,” Johnson said. “When you’re out there on the ledge, you feel like you’re going a million miles per hour. There’s just so many thoughts going through your head.”

Johnson, 18, of Burlington was the morning’s second jumper. Along with eight others, she was vying to become a summer mailboat jumper for Lake Geneva Cruise Line.

To qualify, each applicant had to leap from the boat, stuff mail into mailboxes fixed onto piers and jump back on the boat in a matter of seconds. The boat never stops moving.

It’s a 102-year-old tradition on Geneva Lake. Each summer, the jumpers deliver mail to about 60 piers through a contract with the U.S. Postal Service. On Sunday mornings, they deliver newspapers.

The boat leaves the pier at 7 a.m. with two jumpers on board. Each jumper works a few days a week, and two or three jumpers stay on as alternates.

Katie Theisz, 20, of Lake Geneva has been a jumper for two years. She said it takes a couple of weeks to get comfortable with the jump.

“Even if we jump four days a week, the people are brand new, and they’ve never seen this before,” Theisz said. “They can’t believe we’re jumping off a boat. It’s super fresh. I love my job.”

Aside from leaping onto piers, the jumpers serve as tour guides. They provide detailed information to guests about the houses that ring Geneva Lake, their famous guests and lake history.

Ellen Burling, a manager at Lake Geneva Cruise Line, said the U.S. Mailboat holds about 150 tourists. Most of the tours, which will kick off Friday morning, are already sold out, she said.

Neill Frame is the boat’s captain, and he’s been behind the wheel for 50 years. He said mail delivery on the lake has a rich history, dating back to the late 1800s when residents had milk and groceries brought to their piers by boats.

By 1916, residents starting having their mail delivered to mailboxes on their piers. Since then, mail has been delivered uninterrupted every summer, Frame said.

“It’s a big tradition. We meet so many great people,” he said. “You get a lot of interaction with the passengers.”

Many of the jumpers Tuesday were repeat applicants. One of them, Connor Handel, 18, of Elkhorn cartwheeled back onto the boat after delivering mail to one pier.

When asked how he felt about his chances, he said, “I’m feeling pretty confident. This will be my fourth summer.”

Later in the day, after each applicant had jumped onto three piers, the cruise line announced the winners. Theisz; Handel; Molly McEneany, 17. of Lake Geneva; and Ronan McCarter, 18, of Naperville, Illinois, were named regular jumpers for the summer.

Sean Brady, 18, of Williams Bay; Lauren Kirkwood, 18, of Highland Park, Illinois; and Paige Aspinall, 17, of Lake Geneva are the alternates.

Johnson’s first jump was telling. She decided she could spend her summer better elsewhere.

“I ended up belly-flopping, but that’s OK,” she said. “I got up and didn’t even bother trying to grab the boat. I didn’t need to fall in, too.”


Thomas E. Bluhm

Albert J. “Al” Brovick Jr.

Kenneth L. Kidder

Karen Marie Cates

Roger O. Runaas

Thomas S. Shaw

Edward E. Stephan

Trump sees 'new future' for North Korea, but path unclear


President Donald Trump wrapped up his five-hour nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with surprisingly warm words and hope for “a bright new future” for Kim’s isolated and impoverished nation. Yet he immediately faced pointed questions at home about whether he got little and gave away much in his push to make a deal with the young autocrat—including an agreement to halt U.S. military exercises with South Korea.

Meeting with staged ceremony on a Singapore island, Trump and Kim signed a joint statement Tuesday agreeing to work toward a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, although the timeline and tactics were left unclear. Trump later promised to end “war games,” with ally South Korea, a concession to Kim that appeared to catch the Pentagon and Seoul government off guard and sowed confusion among Trump’s Republican supporters in Washington.

The head-scratching was a fitting end for a meeting marked by unpredictability. The face-to-face meeting was unthinkable just months earlier as the two leaders traded insults and nuclear threats. In agreeing to the summit, Trump risked granting Kim his long-sought recognition on the world stage in hopes of ending the North’s nuclear program.

While progress on the nuclear question was murky, the leaders spent the public portions of their five hours together expressing optimism and making a show of their new relationship. Trump declared he and Kim had developed “a very special bond.” He gave Kim a glimpse of the presidential limousine. Kim, for his part, said the leaders had “decided to leave the past behind” and promised: “The world will see a major change.”

Soon, Kim was on a plane headed home, while a clearly ebullient Trump held forth for more than an hour before the press on what he styled as a historic achievement to avert the prospect of nuclear war. Before leaving himself, Trump tossed out pronouncements on U.S. alliances, human rights and the nature of the accord that he and Kim had signed.

The details of how and when the North would denuclearize appear yet to be determined, as are the nature of the unspecified “protections” Trump is pledging to Kim and his government.

The Singapore accord largely amounts to an agreement to continue discussions, echoing previous public statements and commitments. It does not, for instance, include an agreement to take steps toward ending the technical state of warfare between the U.S. and North Korea.

Nor does it detail plans for North Korea to demolish a missile engine testing site, a concession Trump said he’d won, or Trump’s promise to end military exercises in the South while negotiations between the U.S. and the North continue. Trump cast that decision as a cost-saving measure, but also called the exercises “inappropriate” while talks continue. North Korea has long objected to the drills as a security threat.

It was unclear whether South Korea was aware of Trump’s decision before he announced it publicly. U.S. Forces Korea said in a statement Tuesday it was unaware of any policy change. Trump phoned South Korean President Moon Jae-in after leaving Singapore to brief him on the discussions. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Seoul Wednesday for follow-up meetings.

The U.S. has stationed combat troops in South Korea since the end of the Korean War in the 1950s and has used them in a variety of drills. The next scheduled major exercise, involving tens of thousands of troops, normally is held in August.

The Pentagon said Tuesday it was consulting with the White House and others, but was silent on whether the August exercise would proceed. Mattis’ chief spokeswoman, Dana W. White, told reporters he was “in full alignment” with Trump.

Lawmakers, too, were looking for details. Republicans emerged from a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence wanting more information on which exercises were on hold. Colorado Sen. Corey Gardner said Pence told them that small-scale exercises would continue, but “war games will not.” Pence’s spokeswoman later denied that comment.

”There will be certain exercises that will continue.” Gardner told AP, adding he hoped “there’s further clarification what that means.”

North Korea is believed to possess more than 50 nuclear warheads, with its atomic program spread across more than 100 sites constructed over decades to evade international inspections. Trump insisted strong verification of denuclearization would be included in a final agreement, saying it was a detail his team would begin sorting out with the North Koreans next week.

The agreement’s language on North Korea’s nuclear program was similar to what the leaders of North and South Korea came up with at their own summit in April. Trump and Kim referred back to the so-called Panmunjom Declaration, which contained a weak commitment to denuclearization but no specifics on how to achieve it.

But Tuesday’s meeting was as much about theatrics as the details of a deal.

The U.S. president brushed off questions about his public embrace of the autocrat whose people have been oppressed for decades. He did say that Otto Warmbier, an American who died last year just days after his release from imprisonment in North Korea, “did not die in vain” because his death helped bring about the nuclear talks.

In the run-up to Tuesday’s historic face-to-face with Kim, Trump had appeared unconcerned about the implications of feting an authoritarian leader accused by the U.S. of ordering the public assassination of his half brother with a nerve agent, executing his uncle by firing squad and presiding over a gulag estimated to hold 80,000 to 120,000 political prisoners.

In their joint statement, the two leaders promised to “build a lasting and stable peace regime” on the Korean Peninsula. Trump has dangled the prospect of economic investment in the North as a sweetener for giving up its nuclear weapons. The longtime property developer-turned-politician later mused about the potential value of condos on the country’s beachfront real estate.

The formal document signing, which also included an agreement to work to repatriate remains of prisoners of war and those missing in action from the Korean War, followed a series of meetings at a luxury Singapore resort.

Ahead of the meeting Trump had predicted the two men might strike a nuclear deal or forge a formal end to the Korean War in the course of a single meeting or over several days. But in the hours before the summit, the White House unexpectedly announced Trump would depart earlier than expected.

Aware that the eyes of the world were on a moment many people never expected to see, Kim said many of those watching would think it was a scene from a “science fiction movie.”

Critics of the summit leapt at the leaders’ handshake and the moonlight stroll Kim took Monday night along the glittering Singapore waterfront, saying it was further evidence that Trump was helping legitimize Kim on the world stage.

“It’s a huge win for Kim Jong Un, who now—if nothing else—has the prestige and propaganda coup of meeting one on one with the president, while armed with a nuclear deterrent,” said Michael Kovrig, a northeast Asia specialist at the International Crisis Group in Washington.

Trump responded that he was embracing diplomacy with Kim in hopes of saving as many as 30 million lives.

The North has faced crippling diplomatic and economic sanctions for years as it has advanced development of its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Pompeo held firm to Trump’s position that sanctions will remain in place until North Korea denuclearizes—and said they would even increase if diplomatic discussions did not progress positively.

Trump contradicts US military stance on Korea war games


President Donald Trump’s abrupt announcement Tuesday that he will suspend U.S. military drills in South Korea appeared to catch the Pentagon and the Seoul government flat-footed, and it contradicted a pillar of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ campaign to make U.S. troops more combat-ready.

During a news conference following his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Trump pushed his unconventional approach even further by calling annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises “provocative.” He also said he would like to remove all 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, although he made clear this was an option for the future, not a part of current negotiations.

The U.S. has stationed combat troops in South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 war and has used them in a variety of large-scale drills designed to sharpen skills and test troops’ ability to operate effectively with their South Korean partners.

The next scheduled major exercise, known as Ulchi Freedom Guardian and involving tens of thousands of troops, normally is held in August.

“We will be stopping the war games, which will save us a tremendous amount of money, unless and until we see the future negotiation is not going along like it should,” Trump said in Singapore. “But we’ll be saving a tremendous amount of money. Plus, I think it’s very provocative.” In a later interview with the Voice of America, Trump said the North Koreans were “very happy” about his decision to freeze the exercises “because it is so provocative.”

In the wake of Trump’s unexpected, almost offhand comments to reporters, the Pentagon had nothing to say about the future of the war games. Several hours after Trump’s remarks, the Pentagon put out a brief statement welcoming “positive news” from Singapore, but it remained silent on whether Ulchi Freedom Guardian will proceed. Mattis’ chief spokeswoman, Dana W. White, told reporters he was “in full alignment” with Trump and had been consulted in advance on all aspects of the Singapore talks.

“There were no surprises,” she said.

If Mattis was aware that Trump was going to announce a suspension of military exercises, he apparently did not share that information with the South Koreans or with the military organization most directly affected: U.S. Forces Korea.

That U.S. command said it had “received no updated guidance on the execution or cessation of training exercises.”

The South Korean government also appeared caught off guard. Seoul’s presidential office told The Associated Press that it was trying to parse Trump’s comments. The South Korean military seemed similarly surprised.

“At this current point, there is a need to discern the exact meaning and intent of President Trump’s comments,” Seoul’s Defense Ministry said, adding that there have been no discussions yet with Washington on modifying drills set for August.

A degree of confusion arose after Vice President Mike Pence spoke to senators at a lunch closed to media coverage. Sen. Cory Gardner, Republican of Colorado, said Pence indicated that “exercises will continue,” although Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, said this referred to routine, daily training in South Korea, not the large-scale war games that Trump said are suspended.

Trump’s remarks contradicted decades of assertions by U.S. administrations that military exercises in South Korea are defensive and essential to ensuring that allied forces are ready at a moment’s notice to fight North Korea. A favored U.S. slogan in South Korea is “ready to fight tonight.”

Mattis often says his number one priority as Pentagon chief is to improve what he calls the “lethality” of the military, which includes making troops better equipped, trained and prepared for a full range of combat. In his view, preparedness equates to more effective deterrence—persuading potential adversaries they cannot win and thus should not attack.

Trump’s statement was portrayed by critics as an unreciprocated concession.

“Stopping the joint exercises has been a long-term goal for North Korea and China,” two Asia analysts, Victor Cha and Sue Mi Terry, wrote in a summit assessment for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Trump delivered it while getting nothing in return beyond the same generalities that North Korea has been offering since the early 1990s.”

Even some Republicans in Congress seemed uneasy about this. Rep. Ed Royce of California, who is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, applauded Trump for pursuing peace through diplomacy, but he also said Kim had “gained much” Tuesday, “including an apparent promise” from Trump to suspend military drills.

Trump also seemed annoyed that U.S. bomber aircraft make six-plus hour flights from the Pacific island of Guam to the Korean peninsula as part of its exercise routine.

”Six and a half hours—that’s a long time for these big massive planes to be flying to South Korea to practice and then drop bombs all over the place, and then go back to Guam,” Trump said. “I know a lot about airplanes; it’s very expensive.”

North Korea regularly calls the military exercises provocative preparations for a northward invasion, and many of the scariest standoffs in recent years on the Korean Peninsula have happened when the drills were being staged.

Moon Seong Mook, a former South Korean military official, said Trump’s comments on the drills confirmed what many in South Korea had feared all along—that North Korea would attempt to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul and gain substantial concessions from an unconventional U.S. president who thinks much less of the traditional alliance than his predecessors.

”The American military presence in South Korea wouldn’t mean much if the militaries don’t practice through joint drills,” said Moon, now a senior analyst for the Seoul-based Korea Research Institute for National Strategy.