You are the owner of this page.
A1 A1
top story
Milton School District aims to revive coalition to combat student vaping


The revival of an inactive youth organization could help combat the growing popularity of vaping among Milton School District students, officials say.

The school district is looking for volunteers to restart the Milton Youth Coalition.

The coalition would not be run by the school district, but some district officials are working to revive it, said Verlene Orr, a district social worker.

In a presentation to the school board last week, Orr and other members of the district’s student services department said recent data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows that youth vaping is a growing trend.

Nearly one-fourth of Milton High School students who responded to the survey said they had used a vape device or e-cigarette in the last 30 days.

Compared to the state average, Milton has 13.2% more students who admitted vaping in the last 30 days, the survey shows.

As of March 1, the high school has reported 19 tobacco and six drug athletic code violations, which include violations for vaping. Milton Middle School in that time has reported four tobacco and five drug violations, according to the presentation.

Concerns about vaping have increased over the last five years. The first vaping violation at the high school occurred in 2014, said Tara Huber, associate principal.

Milton is not the only district dealing with the issue, said Jeremy Bilhorn, Milton High School principal. He said vaping is a topic of conversation at his monthly meetings with principals from the Badger Conference.

Last year, The Gazette reported on Evansville High School’s efforts to quash vaping in its schools. They included posting signs around schools, having staff members check bathrooms for vaping and pushing for a city ordinance prohibiting anyone younger than 18 from buying or possessing vapor products.

Other Rock County coalitions— Janesville Mobilizing 4 Change, Building a Safer Evansville, Youth 2 Youth for Change and Healthy Edgerton—are already working on vaping prevention and awareness, Orr said.

The Milton Youth Coalition was started in 2010 by late Milton police Lt. John Conger, said Jerry Schuetz, district director of administrative operations.

The coalition comprised local leaders from the school district, police department, city and other organizations, Schuetz said.

For years, it focused primarily on anti-bullying efforts because Youth Risk Behavior Survey data showed that bullying was the greatest concern among youth.

The group has not been active for the last couple of years, Schuetz said, but still it has a couple of hundred dollars in a bank account for whoever wants to revive it.

Vaping started as an alternative to cigarette smoking for adults, but it can be harmful and addictive for teenagers and children, Dan Beardmore, a pediatrician at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Janesville, has told The Gazette.

Children who vape are at an increased risk of using cigarettes or marijuana in the future, Beardmore said.

About 70% of vape juice contains diacetyl, a chemical that can scar air sacs in the lungs. The chemical once was used in microwave popcorn before its harmful effects were known, according to a district presentation.

Some vape juices also contain low levels of formaldehyde, a colorless, strong-smelling gas used in building materials and other products, according to the presentation.

Milton School District officials will be reviewing the health curriculum for next year, and staff will consider increasing vaping education and addressing why young people use substances, Orr said.

The district has applied for a grant to pay for an alcohol, tobacco and other drug abuse coordinator to focus on youth substance use, Schuetz said.

Local case tests question of free speech vs. disorderly conduct


What can you say to a cop?

Where does free speech end and crime begin?

A Janesville man is asking these constitutional questions in Rock County Court.

On Tuesday, Aaron M. Oleston asked a judge to dismiss disorderly conduct and obstructing charges, saying he had the right to utter profanities and say other ugly things to Janesville police officers.

“You work for this piece-of-s---t organization, you Nazi, ISIS organization,” he is alleged to have said to some officers walking to the police station in civilian clothes on their way to begin their shift Aug. 13.

He then asked some officers leaving the police station in civilian clothes if they were going home to beat their wives.

Oleston has used a variety of vulgar expressions to express his apparent displeasure at local police.

Oleston had been asking police questions in Janesville and elsewhere in the area for some time while video-recording them as they worked. He posted the videos on his YouTube channel. This appears to have been the first time he was arrested for it.

Incidents Aug. 13 and 15 went over the line, the Rock County District Attorney’s Office decided, and Oleston was charged with the misdemeanors.

Oleston’s lawyers, Jim Fitzgerald and Walt Isaacson of the public defender’s office, argued in a brief that Oleston had the right to use that language.

The criminal complaint indicates officers did not respond to Oleston until he stood at the curb line at the police station Aug. 15 and “stuck his camera in front of (an officer’s) vehicle as he was attempting to leave.”

Oleston had been using profane language and hollering at officers and complaining that the squad car didn’t have a front license plate, according to the complaint.

This behavior apparently led to the obstructing charge.

Judge John Wood noted in court Tuesday that municipal vehicles have only rear plates.

An officer told him he was under arrest during the camera incident, but Oleston refused to put his camera down, and an officer took the camera from Oleston and handcuffed him, according to the complaint.

The defense also cited the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Wisconsin: “Illinois courts have time and again held that arguing with a police officer, even if done loudly, or with profane or offensive language, will not in and of itself constitute disorderly conduct.”

The defense lawyers said their client’s words were “repugnant,” but they said he was expressing his opinion of Janesville police officers

“The right of citizens to criticize their government is central to the First Amendment,” they argued. “Although the criticism may be unwarranted and obnoxious, the speech remains protected.”

The lawyers concluded their argument with words from Benjamin Franklin: “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”

Wood agreed with Assistant District Attorney Jerry Urbik’s argument that the First Amendment does not protect obscenity, defamatory or “fighting words” that could incite people to lawless action.

Wood noted the state disorderly conduct statute defines the crime as engaging in “violent, abusive, indecent, profane, boisterous, unreasonable loud or otherwise disorderly conduct under circumstances in which the conduct tends to cause or provoke a disturbance.”

Wood said the statute has survived constitutional challenges many times, but he noted a 2017 state Supreme Court ruling that says the issue of whether profane conduct that tends to promote a disturbance is protected as free speech “is clearly unsettled law.”

Wood cited a balancing test used in some cases: The harm to the public balanced against the social value of the speech.

But Wood said he couldn’t even figure out what Oleston was trying to say.

“It certainly appears to this court to be speech devoid of any social value and certainly, in my opinion, can provoke a disturbance,” Wood said.

“In many respects, I think it would be fair to characterize this as essentially stalking these officers,” Wood said.

“I don’t find any legal basis for the conclusion that these law enforcement officers forfeit their rights to enjoy the privilege of being left alone on their way to and from work,” Wood said.

“There are still unresolved factual issues that I think a jury is going to have to decide,” Wood said in denying the motion to dismiss.

Wood set a trial for July 29.

top story
Evers' budget would increase health care funding in Rock County by $64M

Gov. Tony Evers’ proposed two-year state budget would pour $64 million more into Rock County for health care programs, according to data estimates released by the governor’s office Tuesday.

Evers’ 2019-21 budget would expand Medicaid to cover childless adults, parents and caretakers with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level, which would broaden coverage to about 82,000 more residents statewide.

In Rock County, Medicaid would be expanded to an estimated 2,792 residents for $23.3 million, and $1.7 million would be allotted to prevent childhood lead poising and support those afflicted, according to the estimates.

Medicaid would be expanded to an estimated 1,252 residents in Walworth County, which would receive an influx of $28 million for health-care funding, according to the estimates.

Evers’ office jointly released the county-specific data Tuesday with state Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm.

By expanding Medicaid as allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act, the state would receive $1.6 billion in new federal funding and save $324.5 million, according to the estimates. The state would reinvest those savings into new health-care initiatives.

Along with expanding Medicaid in Rock County, Evers’ proposal would invest $1.3 million to improve access to dental coverage by increasing reimbursement rates to dental providers. It also would boost funding for physicians by $2.1 million and hospitals by $10.1 million, according to the estimates.

More than $1 million would be used for long-term care programs and services in Walworth County, including family care and nursing homes.

Kate Luster, director of Rock County’s department of human services, lauded some of the proposals, including a $1.1 million increase in Rock County to grow crisis services and intervention.

Luster said boosting Medicaid coverage and federal funding for programs would allow the county to expand services without growing the county tax levy.

“Improved access to Medicaid generally will have a positive impact for our client base and for our budget,” Luster said.

Carlo Nevicosi, deputy director of Walworth County’s department of health and human services, echoed Luster, saying his department would see more revenue if Medicaid reimbursement rates rise. That could lead to less dependence on the tax levy and expanded mental health treatment, he said.

Nevicosi said his department supports Evers’ proposal to increase access to dementia care specialists by $188,000—which could lead to reduced long-term care costs—and permanently eliminate the waitlist for the Children’s Long-Term Support Waiver Program.

Nevicosi said he has concerns about Walworth County’s capacity to handle an influx of Medicaid-covered residents because it is designated as a shortage area for dental and mental health care providers and has fewer primary-care physicians per capita than the state average.

Evers’ proposals would have to survive the Republican-led Legislature to be enacted. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has consistently said he will not support any kind of Medicaid expansion.

In April, state Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, whose district straddles Rock and Walworth counties, told The Gazette she is “skeptical” about expanding Medicaid but said the state should look at raising Medicaid reimbursement rates to providers.

Obituaries and death notices for May 1, 2019

Doris “Dorrie” Busse Alff

Frances Lee Bevineau

Anthony T. Boles

Frederick J. Forrest

Robert “Bob” Handel

Jeffrey James Krueger

Betty Jean Lowman

Shirley May Meyerhofer

Zachary James Olson

Blanche Edith Schulz

Joseph J. Westwood Jr.

Rose A. Wozniak