First fine levied under Milton antibullying ordinance

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Saturday, December 11, 2010
— It’s a classic school confrontation: A 14-year-old boy approaches a male classmate during lunch in the cafeteria at Milton Middle School.

A school guidance counselor watches the scene unfold. The boy gets within inches of his classmate’s face. He’s chiding, trying to coax a fight from his peer.

According to a Milton police report, the boy repeatedly told his classmate, “Go ahead and hit me.”

School staff says the Nov. 15 cafeteria incident wasn’t the first time the boy had harassed the same classmate. And a school district resource officer and school officials reportedly had warned the boy several times this year to stop harassing other students.

The warnings weren’t working, so Milton police decided to take the next step: A $177 city ordinance ticket for harassment and a court date.

The boy pled guilty to the ordinance violation Monday in Milton Municipal Court, his family said. A judge fined him $100.

The incident marks the first time a juvenile was fined under Milton’s anti-harassment ordinance, which the city enacted in June.

The ordinance localizes Wisconsin’s statute on harassment, stripping it of its criminal aspect. It allows adult and juvenile harassment complaints to be processed through municipal court as ordinance violations with a maximum fine of $177 for a first offense.

City officials say the ordinance gives authorities more ability to handle harassment locally, and police say it’s a powerful tool to curb youth bullying in the Milton School District.

Since the ordinance went into effect, two students at Milton High School have been accused of harassing other classmates, according to Milton police records.

This week was the first time a juvenile was fined for harassment, school officials said.

Milton Middle School Principal Tim Schigur said the harassment ordinance beefs up the school’s response to bullying, but he said the district and police view harassment tickets as a last resort to stem school bullying.

“It’s not about fining kids. It’s about getting kids to change their behavior,” Schigur said.

Schigur said students who target others with repeated shoving or name-calling don’t always realize their actions are harassment.

“We have conversations with them. You tell them what they’re doing is harassing someone else. They’re bullying. It helps to define to students what this is. That stops the behavior almost always,” he said.

Schigur said students face school sanctions for bullying, getting at least one warning from school officials or police before they can be fined for harassment.

“We put it out there that if you’re going to harass someone else, there are consequences. Is it really worth 100 dollars to pick on this kid that you don’t like?” he said.

The mother of the Milton boy fined for harassment this week told the Gazette her son admitted he’d gotten into a classmate’s face. But she said her son did so because he was being bullied by other classmates.

The mother said her son and the boy he was accused of harassing are rivals, and that the other boy’s friends often bully her son.

The woman said she tells her son to walk away from arguments but he refuses to tell school staff when he’s picked on.

“He’s got to be mister cool guy and not snitch. A lot of kids think that they could get bullied more if they tell,” she said.

Milton school resource officer Jim Martin said the city’s harassment ordinance has made students more aware that school bullying can get them into trouble.

But he said police and school officials still are trying to learn how to get students who are harassed to tell adults.

“It was a great idea to adopt this ordinance, but the thing we’re trying to hit hard now is how to get kids that are bullied and kids that witness bullying to come forward,” Martin said. “They need to speak up.”

Last updated: 3:51 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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