A Year Wasted for Madison School Safety

Last year, in response to a series of dangerous incidents in and around Madison schools including two melees outside of East High School, the Madison school district responded by creating a committee… which was the third committee of its kind created in five years… which took months to get organized… which, for some reason, expanded it’s mission to include “safety and wellness”… which finally got around to issuing its recommendations now… and among those recommendations was improving the cultural sensitivity of school cafeteria meals.

And the response from the Superintendent to that report? Basically, in a Wisconsin State Journal story this morning Carlton Jenkins said that he was exhausted, so was everybody else around him, and gosh, that was going to be a lot of work. Inspiring.

In fairness, there is more to the 30 recommendations than improving the food. There are recommendations that make sense, like increasing the number of school psychologists and counselors, getting more information out to students and staff about the availability of that kind of help and improving communication between mental health personnel. And Jenkins did say that the recommendations were made in time for some of them to be included in the next budget.

Not much of anything useful comes out of the Doyle Building.

That’s all fine and maybe some good will come of all this in the long-run. But the root of the problem is the Behavior Education Plan, which was put in place by Jen Cheatham, Jenkins’ predecessor. The BEP disempowers staff, discourages involving Madison police, and favors political correctness over school safety. In general, it focusses attention on kids who are disruptive while it ignores the needs of the vast majority of students who want to be able to learn.

The first recommendation of any sensible committee would have been to throw out the BEP and start over, and it shouldn’t have taken them a year to come up with that conclusion. There would be less need for mental health services if it were made clear that teachers and staff were in charge, that students were expected to behave and would face consequences if they didn’t, that parents were responsible for the actions of their children and that a calm, safe, orderly learning environment was the top priority.

Also, I suppose the food could be better.


Published by dave cieslewicz

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

4 thoughts on “A Year Wasted for Madison School Safety

  1. Parents have been saying the BEP is a failure for YEARS! Went to a “meeting” on it when Cheatham was in charge. Same ‘ol nothing meetings that MMSD puts out to make you think they care and will make a change.


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