Janesville City Council member Jim Farrell thinks the Janesville School District is doing a “woeful job” preventing bullying.
During a discussion about a proposed anti-bullying ordinance at a recent council meeting, a parent told the council that the school district’s efforts to combat bullying weren’t working and that administrators didn’t respond to complaints.
On Monday, the council will vote on the proposed ordinance. Its supporters say it will provide “another tool in the toolbox” for bullying prevention.
We asked school district officials to describe the district’s anti-bullying policies.
Q: Does the school district have an anti-bullying policy and curriculum?
A: Yes. The school district’s policy aligns closely with the policy the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction uses as its model, said Kim Peerenboom, director of pupil services.
The district uses Second Step, a curriculum rooted in “social-emotional learning,” according to its website, secondstep.org.
Social-emotional learning teaches how to work together, how to be a good friend, how to have empathy and a variety of other social skills kids need.
At the elementary school level, students spend about 30 minutes a week on the subject. In middle school, students cover Second Step during a homeroom-type period.
The district’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports system, better known as PBIS, spends a significant amount of time focusing on respect for others.
Q: How do you teach kids what bullying is?
A: Discussions about bullying start by making a distinction between conflict and bullying, Peerenboom said.
Conflicts are defined as disputes that happen occasionally between two people of equal power. They are characterized by equal emotional reactions and efforts to solve the problem. Take, for example, two kids fighting over a video game. Each is upset and feels like he or she has been treated unfairly, and they might try to solve the problem on their own.
Often, those involved in a conflict show remorse for what they have done.
Bullying, on the other hand, involves repeated, purposeful acts to which the victim reacts strongly. There is generally no remorse on the perpetrator’s part nor is there any interest in solving the problem.
In elementary schools, students do role playing to learn the difference, Peerenboom said. Teachers instruct students to report bullying and reinforce those lessons.
“If you see something,” Peerenboom said, “go to an adult, report what’s happening.”
In the high schools, the district uses peer groups such as the Link Crew to help students deal with problems. The Link Crew is a group of older students who help younger ones navigate the trials of freshman year.
They also use a process called restorative justice, said Sonja Robinson, coordinator of student services.
Led by a trained staff member, the two parties meet to try to resolve the problem at hand.
The goal is not for the students to become best friends; rather, the mediator tries to defuse the situation and reach a resolution that satisfies all parties, she said.
Q: How do you make the distinction between conflict and bullying to parents?
A: Peerenboom acknowledged this challenge. Parents are most concerned with their own children’s safety and mental health and want to know what the consequences for the perpetrators will be.
“It’s very difficult,” Peerenboom said. “It might look like bullying, but once a full investigation is done, we discover that there were other pieces to the story that we cannot legally divulge. That’s the hard part.”
If a situation is found to be bullying, the district cannot share what the consequences were, she said.
Q: Why is that information private?
A: Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, also known as FERPA, only a child’s parents can see his or her record. Because discipline would be part of a child’s record, the district cannot divulge to parents of a bullying victim what disciplinary action might have been taken.
“We can’t share anything,” Peerenboom said. “If I get in trouble at school and my mom says, ‘I want to know what happened to the other kid,’ she doesn’t have that right.”
Q: What are some of the consequences?
A: It depends on the situation, Peerenboom said.
“I think people want every situation to be treated the same,” Peerenboom said. “People say that you should just have zero tolerance, everyone should get the same consequence, but that’s not really equitable.”
Q: What are some of the other challenges the district faces?
A: Technology allows bullying away from school grounds.
“When we were going to school, you might have been teased as school, but then we got to go home,” Peerenboom said. “We didn’t have computers, we didn’t have email, we didn’t have texts, we didn’t have Facebook, we didn’t have smartphones.”
A rising stock market lifted U.S. household wealth to a record $106.9 trillion in the April-June quarter, the culmination of a decade of economic recovery but a gain that is concentrated largely among the most affluent.
The value of Americans’ stock and mutual fund portfolios rose $800 billion last quarter, while home values increased $600 billion, the Federal Reserve said Thursday. Total household wealth is now 2.1 percent higher than in the first quarter, when it was $104.7 trillion.
The Fed’s report came on a day when a wave of buying on Wall Street sent U.S. stocks surging and lifted both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index to all-time highs. The Dow has gained nearly 8 percent this year, the S&P nearly 10 percent.
Household net worth reflects the value of assets like homes, bank accounts and stocks minus debts like mortgages and credit cards. The data aren’t adjusted for inflation or population growth.
They also don’t reflect the experiences of most U.S. households. Stock market wealth has been flowing disproportionately—and increasingly—to the most affluent households. The richest 10 percent of Americans own about 84 percent of the value of stocks. That’s up from 81 percent just before the Great Recession began in late 2007.
That trend is concerning to some economists, who regard such sizable disparities in wealth as unhealthy for an economy. When lower- and middle-income people don’t share much in overall prosperity, many are forced to absorb more debt and take other financial risks.
“I would be happy in a world where we saw big stock increases if stocks were more broadly distributed across the population,” said Josh Bivens, director of research at the liberal Economic Policy Institute. “The fact that is where most of the gains are going is worrisome.”
In theory, greater household wealth can speed the economy by making consumers feel richer and more likely to spend. But most consumers are spending less of their wealth than they did before the recession began, economists have found.
Americans are saving nearly 7 percent of their incomes, according to Commerce Department figures. That figure has remained fairly steady for five years even as the stock market has set new highs and average home prices have increased faster than most people’s wages. That trend suggests that many people remain cautious about cashing in their wealth, economists say, perhaps because they regard it as less stable than in the past.
The rising concentration of wealth among affluent and educated Americans is another factor why the nation’s increased net worth isn’t accelerating the pace of consumer spending. Richer households are less likely to spend their wealth gains than middle- or lower-income households are.
America’s richest 10 percent of households were nearly 120 times wealthier than the lower middle class in 2016, the most recent year for which figures are provided in a separate Fed report. That is up from 112 times in 2013. (The lower middle class was defined as those whose wealth placed them between the 25th and 50th percentiles of net worth.)
The top 10 percent had an average net worth of $5.34 million; for the lower middle class, the figure was $44,700.
In 2008, the year the financial crisis erupted, U.S. household net worth was $58.9 trillion. Nearly a decade later, it has almost doubled.
Sharp disparities in wealth also cut across racial lines. The median white household has a net worth of $171,000, according to Fed data. That’s about 10 times the typical net worth for a black household of $17,200. For Latinos, it was $20,700.
The Fed revised its previous quarterly data to show that household wealth was higher earlier this year than previously reported. Household wealth in the first quarter is now about $4 billion higher than was original reported, mostly because of higher pension reserves than previously estimated.
Beauford “Boots” Bacon
Judith Joan Dewey
Finley Bryan Edwards
Linda A. (Lowrie) Gwinn
Eunice M. Jakscht
LaVonne R. Moody
Michael J. Nash
The two candidates for Rock County sheriff showed different approaches but did not clash strongly during a debate on the radio Thursday.
Troy Knudson is running as a Democrat and Jude Maurer as a Republican to replace current Sheriff Robert Spoden. They sat in the WCLO radio studio Thursday to answer questions from “Your Talk Show” host Tim Bremel.
They differed on the problem of rising numbers of jail inmates.
“I really think we’re headed in the wrong direction. I think we’ve got to intervene to make sure we just don’t continue to build and continue to fill jails,” Knudson said.
Knudson said root problems—drug addiction, mental health, homelessness and poverty—should be addressed to avoid crowding.
The jail has recently expanded mental-health services and help for re-entry into society for jail inmates, but more needs to be done, Knudson said.
Maurer said the county’s participation in a process called evidence-based decision-making will help officials to enforce the law more equally and objectively without discrimination, and allow people who are not a danger to serve their time outside the jail.
Services offered outside the criminal justice system will help with mental illness and drug addiction, and taxpayer dollars have already been set aside for those services, Maurer added.
“I just caution: Everything my opponent has spoken about is worthy and it’s noble, but the sheriff’s office must fight crime, and we cannot become an extension of human services,” Maurer said.
Knudson also called for increasing drug treatment options in the community.
“Even in the jail, when people come in and ask for help with addictions, the resources aren’t there,” Knudson said. “I think we need to increase the resources, take advantage of some of the advocacy groups that are in our community and bring them in to provide that level of rehabilitation and treatment. … We also have to ensure that treatment is available on demand for people who are out in the community so they aren’t given a 60-day waiting period before being able to enter treatment.”
Maurer said mental health needs to be addressed at all levels. He said deputy overtime for transferring people to mental-health institutions is on track to exceed $60,000 this year alone.
Knudson said he’s also concerned that the jail population is 35 percent African-American, while African-Americans make up about 5 percent of the county population.
Both candidates pointed to county initiatives now under discussion to address the problem of over-incarceration of minorities.
Budget concerns came up repeatedly.
Maurer called for uniting the SWAT teams of Janesville and Beloit police and the sheriff’s office as a way of saving money.
Maurer said the sheriff requested $60,000 in equipment for the SWAT team in last year’s budget, but those expenses were not approved because of budget constraints, he said.
Maurer suggested that deputies’ safety could be in jeopardy at some point because of a lack of proper equipment.
He also proposed the county’s three largest law enforcement agencies form a training consortium rather than training officers separately.
Knudson also mentioned working more closely with other law enforcement agencies.
Maurer said the election is about leadership and said his style—to lead by example and empower employees—would engender a sense of pride, fellowship and loyalty.
Those qualities would allow the sheriff’s office to deliver more effective service at no additional costs to taxpayers, Maurer said.
Knudson said accomplishments should weigh more heavily than ideas proposed in political campaigns.
His 16 years on the SWAT team and dealing with high-profile emergencies, such as the search for Joseph Jakubowski, and helping develop money-saving programs are the kind of experience voters should consider, Knudson said.
Maurer emphasized budget constraints in his final statement, saying his leadership would make the difference in times of tight budgets, and he said he would be “tough on crime.”
Knudson again denied rumors that he said keep cropping up, that if elected, he plans to remove the current chief deputy and replace her with the current sheriff, in the position of undersheriff.
Bremel followed up, asking if Spoden applied for a position with the sheriff’s office, would Knudson consider him?
“No,” Knudson responded.
Maurer said he would continue the practice of working with a chief deputy, not an undersheriff.