Madison School Board is Out to Lunch

After two melees outside of East High School last fall, after a student was beaten outside of West, after another student showed up at La Follette with a loaded handgun and had to be wrestled to the ground by Madison police, after another La Follette student with special needs was beaten so badly that he requires dental surgery, and after that very same student was attacked again on his first day back in school, and after yet another fight in a classroom at East just on Monday, the Madison School Board responded with…. a committee,,, that it just got around to actually creating this week.

And, of course, all the members of the 13 member committee have not been appointed yet. And, of course, one of the tasks of the committee is to identify the “root causes” of the violence. There is no timetable for the committee’s report, but I would not look for it next week.

If this strikes you as something short of a sense of urgency, well, you might be forgiven.

“I don’t think they understand how dangerous this has become and how it has harmed young students who are just trying to get an education,” Lynn Lee, whose daughter attends East, told the Wisconsin State Journal.

“I feel terrible for the students and the teachers who are continually forced to deal with impossible situations like (Monday’s) and all of the students involved who are not receiving the learning environment they deserve,” he said.

That same State Journal story noted that board President Ali Muldrow and Vice President Savion Castro didn’t respond to the paper’s requests for comment. They won’t even answer questions about why it took so long to do what is essentially nothing. Not exactly models of public servants there.

Madison School Board President Ali Muldrow and Vice President Savion Castro won’t even answer questions about why it took them four months to appoint a committee that will do nothing to address the crisis of violence in Madison schools.

Here’s what needs to happen.

  1. School Resources Officers need to be returned to the high schools tomorrow.

2. The Behavior Education Plan, which among other things discourages school staff from contacting police, needs to be tossed out. Any document that begins with, “we believe in authentic relationships,” is not promising for what might follow. What the heck does that even mean?

3. The board and administration need to make clear statements to students that those who fight in or around schools will be expelled and, where possible, charges will be filed against them and, if their parents are involved as they were in the East melees, against them as well.

4. The board and administration also needs to tell school staff that when they act to prevent violence proactively their bosses will have their backs.

But, of course, none of that will happen. In my decades of being actively involved with or observing the Madison schools this is the flat out worst school board I have ever seen.

Postscript: Shortly after this was posted yesterday another fight broke out near East, this time involving a couple dozen students at Demetral Field.

And another matter… Assembly Speaker Robin Vos will meet with advocates of withdrawing Wisconsin’s electoral votes and reassigning them to Donald Trump. He’s essentially giving credibility to people who want to overturn free, fair and accurate election results. His excuse for the meeting is that they should have a chance to make their case. Okay. Next he should meet with the Flat Earth Society. Then he needs to hear out the creationists. I’d like just a half hour with him so that I can introduce him to the Easter Bunny.

Can’t get enough YSDA? Well, now there’s YSDA: The Book. That’s right. You can order Light Blue: How center-left moderates can build an enduring Democratic majority on Amazon right here.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

4 thoughts on “Madison School Board is Out to Lunch

  1. Excellent article, but it does not contain words like “equity”, “implicit bias”, “systemic” anything, or “restorative measures”. Your “socio-normative” arguments are for actually DOING something about the problems and not just signalling your “wokeness”. “Wokey” don’t roll like that.

    Instead, you need to hold a press conference to announce the formation of a committee to discuss the development of a Task Force to outline the creation of a panel to find the root cause of the violence (carefully ensuring equity and inclusion at every step). THEN, you must develop knowledge optimization initiatives to leverage your key learnings.

    Wokeness depends, not on results, but participation in process, and establishing “virtue” bona-fides that you can list any time your name is mentioned.

    The “direct action” approach to problem solving that you, David Blaska, and others advocate for won’t happen on its own. All of the people concerned about the welfare of the children, and of society in general, constitute a “Very Large Tent”, and they can Go Write In, if they care to.


  2. I’m not from your community and I don’t know the details about the incidents you describe. But calling for expelling any student that fights in and around a school seems extreme to me. Did none of you experience fights in school when you were growing up? Kids do fight sometimes, and sometimes a kid has to defend themselves – should a kid defending themselves get expelled? Think back to when you were in high school: it wasn’t always cut and dry “who started it”, so do both parties really get expelled under this proposal?

    I’m supportive of improving school discipline, but all the writing I’ve seen on the Madison blogs is lacking quality plans to replace the existing practice beyond get the cops back and expel kids. I don’t think that’s much of a plan, and I encourage deeper, practical thinking about this topic.

    Expel a kid: tell a kid who doesn’t like going to school that he can’t go to school anymore. Now what happens? Think mom will quit her job and home school him? You’re “removed the problem” from the school and created new problems that I’d love to know the plan for. I’m not totally against the idea of protecting the other kids’ learning environment, but you need a practical plan. It’s not as easy as you’re letting on.

    Cops in school: still takes 3 minutes for the police to get to the fight, probably enough blood created in that time frame to satisfy the fighters. Then you give a kid that cares zero for consequences some legal consequences that he’ll care zero about. How many kids think “I’m so mad I’d risk my own safety to fight you, but there’s a cop 3 floors up so I guess we should just talk it out”?

    I encourage anyone with brilliant ideas about how to handle kids to work with kids (I don’t mean raising your own kids) for a year or 2 and see if you get new ideas. Things are lots easier in theory than in practice. You know the schools need help, step away from the keyboard and go help.


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