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Cops and kids: Officers work to keep schools safe


Officer Sean Jauch buys his water by the case and shares the bottles liberally.

It’s one way he breaks the ice with teenagers on his beat, Craig High School.

“For three bucks, that’s the cheapest way to make friends,” said the officer, who April 1 became one of the five officers patrolling Janesville School District schools.

Jauch also worries that too many students don’t eat or sleep well and stimulate themselves with energy drinks and whatever is in their vape pens.

In that environment, a bottle of water can have a calming effect, he said.

The Gazette visited Jauch and Officer Shane Punzel at Franklin Middle School last week, days after two of their counterparts in other Wisconsin school districts shot and wounded students during confrontations.

At Waukesha South High School on Dec. 2, an officer shot a 17-year-old student in a high school classroom after the student pointed a gun at the officer, police said.

It was later revealed the student had been pointing a pellet gun that resembled a firearm.

Anthony Wahl 

Franklin Middle School resource officer Shane Punzel talks with a student about a dodgeball game he helps coordinate for students annually this time of the year. A school resource office not only serves as a law enforcement officer, but holds many other duties such as being a referral agent to other area resources, an educational assistant and a listener/counselor for school staff and students.

At Oshkosh West High School on Dec. 3, a school resource officer shot and wounded a 16-year-old student who stabbed him during an altercation, police said.

Jauch and Punzel both said a top priority is establishing relationships so students will trust them enough to warn them about a threat and those involved might listen to them as they try to calm things down.

Jauch said he feels a calling to this job and to help set teenagers on the right path.

“I really, honestly, truly want them to succeed,” he said. “… I tell them, ‘I want you to have a job and a living and life you can be proud of.’”

Trouble rears up frequently, Jauch said, sometimes spurred by a scourge of modern teenagers: Snapchat, Instagram or other social media.

Fights are not as big a deal at middle schools, but kids sending inappropriate messages or images on social media “is a huge part of what we do,” Punzel said.

Police data from Jan. 1 through June 11 this year show 151 arrests at the high and middle schools combined.

A minority of the arrests could be for non-school-related offenses because of arrests at the same addresses.

The most common arrests were for truancy, 54, and disorderly conduct, 43.

Those are followed by marijuana possession, 11; battery, 10; tobacco offenses, seven; and disturbing the peace, assault or fighting, six.

Most arrests were at the high schools, 60 for Parker and 57 for Craig.

‘Whatever it takes’

Often, officers sit with students who need to talk or just get away from the hubbub in the halls.

Anthony Wahl 

School resource officer Shane Punzel keeps an eye on the dodgeball action while officiating a game in the upstairs gymnasium at Franklin Middle School on Thursday.

During Gazette visits, a teacher approached Punzel and asked if he could give a girl “a pep talk.”

During the visit to Craig, a student stopped at Jauch’s office to talk. He has a large office where students often drop in, he said. Another student consulted him about a career in criminal justice.

Both officers noted the recent incidents elsewhere in the state. They were asked if they had thought about the possibility of being in similar situations.

“I certainly have prepared myself to do what needs to be done,” Punzel said, noting his training. “And I know that, 100%, all five of us that work in the schools will do whatever it takes to make sure that the students and staff are safe and taken care of.”

Jauch said he has thought about the potential for having to shoot someone since he began his career 20 years ago, and he has been challenged to think about it through numerous trainings, so much so that he is at peace with it.

In addition to training specific to working in schools, both are on the SWAT team. Punzel trains other officers in how to respond to “active shooters” and school students and staff what to do in those situations. Jauch has been a negotiator and firearms instructor.

Anthony Wahl 

Franklin Middle School resource officer Shane Punzel talks with a student after lunch Thursday.

Many of the skills he used on the street for 20 years are the same ones he uses in school, Jauch said.

“My goal is to use the skills I have to talk you down rather than to fight you, and, thankfully, I’ve only had to do a few things around here that have been use-of-force type of things,” Jauch said.

Punzel said he had not heard from students about the Waukesha and Oshkosh incidents.

A few students approached Jauch with concerns, “and I just told them it’s obviously why I’m here, and I’m doing everything I can possibly do to keep you guys safe. ...

“I do think it crosses their minds a lot. I think probably the parents are worried at times,” Jauch continued. “I would hope that they would be more confident with a guy that works hard and tries to keep it as safe as possible, and they see me staying late and coming in early.”

‘Small communities’

Janesville police officers have been stationed in the city’s middle and high schools since 1992, first teaching Drug Abuse Resistance Education.

Now, those at the middle schools are called “school resource officers.” Those at the high schools are known as “police liaison officers.”

Their beats are the size of some villages with hundreds of residents.

“We are the police officers of our small communities,” Punzel said.

They wear their uniforms, complete with sidearms, Tasers and handcuffs.

Anthony Wahl 

Craig High School police liaison officer Sean Jauch demonstrates how he monitors the school from his office using about 100 cameras positioned throughout the building and grounds.

The officers connect students to social services, which can range from sources of food and shelter in the community to in-school counseling.

Both use their schools’ “closets,” where clothing and daily essentials are stored for homeless or otherwise needy students.

Punzel enlisted the Daniels Foods Sentry store to stock the shelves. The store sells “Friends of Franklin” bags that customers can buy and donate for $5.99. Well over 300 are donated each year.

Social media is one of the most common complaints they deal with, they said.

But Job 1 is safety. Officers look for internal and external threats, handle any criminal activity and make arrests when needed, working hand-in-hand with teachers, administrators and other staff.

“They’ve got great kids, here, even the ones I’ve had to arrest,” Jauch said. “… If I’m not holding people accountable every day, I’m not doing my job.”

Officers monitor dozens of cameras that cover large portions of their schools and grounds.

Janesville schools Superintendent Steve Pophal sent a letter to parents Wednesday in reaction to the Waukesha and Oshkosh incidents, assuring them Janesville schools place a high priority on safety.

Pophal in the letter reminds parents of security procedures in place and notes every classroom contains a crisis response guide “that covers situations ranging from kidnapping and assaults to medical emergencies and mass casualties.”

Punzel said the only time he has had to take a weapon from his belt in the six years at Franklin has been to show off his Taser during the electricity unit in seventh-grade science classes.

But the possibility they might have to draw down on a student is always there.

“I have kids in school, too,” Punzel said. “I wish we lived in a world where we didn’t have to do lockdown drills at the schools. We don’t live in that world, so I am proud that in the School District of Janesville, all the buildings, all the administrators and all the officers of the Janesville Police Department are prepared to a level to make sure that everybody is taken care of.

“We take it seriously. We train to it numerous times throughout the year … So when I hear that happening in other communities, I know that we are doing the right thing with the preparation in our community, and I’m proud of that.”

Anthony Wahl 

Police Liaison Officer Sean Jauch talks with Janesville Craig High School student Kaitlyn Butt about her career plans Thursday.

Angela Major 

Codey Holcomb’s 5-ton U.S Army tow truck makes its way down Main Street on Saturday, December 7, 2019, in downtown Janesville.

Death notices and obituaries for Dec. 8, 2019

Wayne G. Bleiler

Dorothy Mae Dickerson

Helen C. Gridley

Patricia E. Leverick

Thomas F. Jones

Edward A. Joseph

Rollin “Ole” Natter

Marilyn J. Kontny

Thomas B. Pedersen

Shawn M. O’Grady

Thomas C. Ray

Louise “Gerry” Stocker

Randy A. Wuthrich

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Persistent woman living dream as visual artist


Adrienne Tracy always enjoyed the artwork produced by the creative people of Artworking, a Madison-area program that provides career support for artists with disabilities.

So when she and Karilyn Essen decided to host a gallery night at McCann Floors, they chose 26-year-old Kathleen Coogan to be the first artist.

Both Tracy and Karilyn are art lovers and interior designers at the Janesville business.

Kathleen is a thriving painter with Down syndrome who spends at least one day a week at the nonprofit ArtWorking. Kathleen is inspired in the creative space, where she said she learns from other artists.

The young woman uses watercolors and acrylics to create landscapes, trees and other plants. In the bleak of winter, the bright blues, deep reds and brilliant yellows of her creations bring light to dreary rooms.

“I see art in nature and paint lots of flowers,” Kathleen said. “I can show people what I can do with trees and flowers.”

She said creating art is relaxing.

“I have control of the brush,” she said. “I have control of my arm and hand with good brushstrokes. I have less tension in my shoulder.”

A dream realized

Kathleen, the daughter of Mike and Sharon Coogan of Janesville, explored the idea of being an artist before graduating from Milton High School in 2012.

She shared the idea with her mom, who gently advised: “Art is more of a hobby than a job.”

But Kathleen, who now lives in Madison, persisted.

“I thought about if I could be a real artist,” she said. “I could design things. The idea grew naturally, and I thought I could keep going.”

Kathleen was accepted into the Cutting Edge Program, an inclusive college program for people with disabilities in Madison.

She took art classes there, and the program’s director encouraged Kathleen to start an art business.

Today, Kathleen sells her art and art merchandise, including cups, flip-flops and towels, at the ArtWorking gift shop in Madison. Rotary Gardens in Janesville also sells some items. In addition, Kathleen sells directly to customers at art fairs and has an online store.

“Kathleen reminds me of my ‘hobby’ statement often,” Sharon said, “now that she has a successful art business.”

Sharon said Kathleen’s business is just one of the things that makes her proud of her daughter.

“What really makes my heart burst with pride is that she has built an independent and happy life,” Sharon said.

Kathleen has a job at Panera Bread in Madison. With her three roommates, she also has an active social life and is a member of Madison’s Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church.

Sharon said her daughter is not defined by a disability.

“She is a happy young woman,” Sharon said, “who has worked hard to achieve so much.”

Gallery night launch

Kathleen has shown her work with other artists at an Edgewood College display. But her show at McCann Floors will be her first solo exhibit.

“We are hosting a gallery night because Janesville is filled with talented artists in all areas,” said Essen, the showroom manager at McCann Floors. “We would like to share our passion of the arts with our clients, friends and family.”

The first event is Thursday, Dec. 12, at McCann Floors, and it will not be the last.

“We want to continue showing off the work of Janesville artists,” Karilyn said.

Kathleen is thrilled to be showcased at the premier event.

“I am beyond being excited,” she said. “I just love what I do.”

Anna Marie Lux is a Sunday columnist for The Gazette. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email amarielux@gazettextra.com.