Last week, six individuals — two of whom were not students — were arrested after a fight broke out at Menomonee Falls High School just past noon in a gym at the school. The incident has left some parents worried about the prevalence of violence in the schools, and the safety of their children.
“I have a daughter who will be a freshman next year at the high school and I am terrified to send her,” wrote Falls resident Julie Beck on the Menomonee Falls Patch Facebook page. “The frequency and level of fights that I have heard about over the past few months seems to be growing with students calling in other people — adults in many cases — to come to the high school to fight.”
On Thursday, two of the six individuals involved in the incident were Milwaukee residents who were called to the fight by a juvenile relative in the center of the altercation, according to a police report. One of the men was a 19-year-old graduate of MFHS, who was let into the school by students involved in the altercation. A 22-year-old friend drove him.
The juveniles involved received disorderly conduct citations, and the non-students received citations for disorderly conduct and unauthorized presence on school grounds.
The fight started after one student made fun of a female student’s “big butt," according to the report.
“There will be significant consequences for the individuals involved who were students and non-students,” said Falls Superintendent Patricia Greco. “Regarding the students, the extreme consequence is expulsion.”
Greco didn’t state what the specific consequences would be for the students, but administrators are reviewing the case. If expulsion were deemed a rightful punishment, the case would go before a board comprised of school administrators and School Board members. They would make the final determination.
For parents, they’d like to see misbehavior punished more strictly. Some believe troublemakers are given too many chances in the school system.
“I worry far more about my daughter. Kids just seem to be getting more violent and that scares me. The school needs to get tougher on these kids — zero tolerance for violence of any kind,” wrote Falls resident Beth Yohnk on Patch's Facebook page.
Misbehavior on the rise?
According to data from the Wisconsin Department of Instruction, nothing in the data indicates an upward trend in the prevalence of violence in Falls schools. Rather, each year presents its own unique circumstances, and the total number of incidents involving suspensions or expulsions fluctuates from year to year.
Incidents That Led to Suspension or ExpulsionWeapon or Drug Related 2010-2011 2009-2010 2008-2009 2007-2008 Menomonee Falls High School 10 15 18 5 North Middle School 6 4 17 14 Not Weapon or Drug Related
2010-2011 2009-2010 2008-2009 2007-2008 Menomonee Falls High School 76 110 34 72 North Middle School 232 143 179 218 Source: Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction *2011-12 school year not available
Between 2007-08 and 2010-11, a total of 19 students were expelled from North and MFHS combined.
Although 2011-12 data is not yet available from the DPI, the Menomonee Falls Police Department tracks each time an officer is dispatched to the school. Between Jan. 2, 2012 and Jan. 22, 2013, police visited MFHS on 368 occasions, according to call logs from the department. However, a majority of those calls are routine patrols from officers, community policing, parking and parking complaints.
Menomonee Falls Patch reviewed those call logs and tallied the total instances where a call was specifically labeled a behavioral issue. The tallies don't include instances where a specific behavioral issue wasn't identified in the initial call log information. Instances like "specific event" or "miscellaneous services" don't indicate the specific incident.Police Dispatches to MFHS Fight 5 Juvenile Trouble 8 Bomb Threat 2 Criminal Damage to Property 1 Disorderly Conduct 6 Assault/Battery 1 Drug Law Violation 7 Theft 12 Suicide Threat 1 Source: MFPD Call Logs
Menomonee Falls Patch has requested more data from the district regarding the 2011-12 suspension and expulsion totals. Additionally, Patch requested data on the proportion of students involved in violent behavior who are not residents. Public Information Officer Mitchell Maersch said the district would fulfill the request later this week.
Greco said one of the reasons parents may perceive an uptick in violent behavior is the district's proactive approach to informing parents when incidents occur at the school.
“We want to make sure parents are aware of incidences and updates that would involve children in the school they may attend,” Greco said. “The communication has been a focus within the strategic plan, (North Principal) Lynn (Grimm) and Menomonee Falls High School Principal) Corey (Golla) have been working hard to ensure that parents are up to date with information.”
Greco said an increase in communication may shape the perception that violence is occurring more often. Greco said the district is beginning to see a reduction in behavioral problems — namely at North Middle School. The district has implemented Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) at the school, which is a disciplinary program established by the U.S. Department of Education.
Staff at North and the elementary schools are being trained on the PBIS program. The purpose is to help prevent behavior issues by clearly setting a social culture and the support system at the school for students. Greco said they have seen improvement at North since PBIS implementation.
“We will continue to see evidence that results are showing positive change,” Greco said.
Patch has also requested data that shows the PBIS program is shifting behavior in a positive direction. That will also be supplied later this week.
Greco also said the district and the MFPD have a strong partnership to address and prevent issues in the schools.
“Within school environments, it’s about relationships with family, school, and the community, and ensuring that we’re providing a learning environment for every child,” Greco said. “We’ve got a really strong leadership and a partnership with the police department. However, we can’t guarantee an individual child won’t use poor judgment.”