This Post is NOT About Religion in Schools

It was brought to my attention that Waupaca High School is allowing one or more local ministers to enter the school during lunch hour(s) and speak to students without their parents’ knowledge or permission.  They sit at a designated table and students (apparently) decide whether or not to engage the minister(s) in a conversation.  I have been told that this practice is known to the Waupaca School Board and tacitly approved by them.  Here’s what I understand about the practice:

  • It has been going on for years.
  • It also happens at the Middle School.
  • Previously, the ministers were allowed to “mingle” in the lunch room – inviting themselves to sit down with students.
  • Segregating the ministers to a table seems to be a “common sense” approach to avoiding conflicts with students not interested in speaking with a minister.
  • Students requested a “non-denominational” table, which would be manned by a person not representing a religion (and yet is a member of a religion).
  • Initially, their demand was denied.  Apparently, the students took their demand to the superintendent (David Poeschl?), who approved the students’ request.
  • The ministers are not vetted – no background check, for example.  It’s not clear whether they are required to sign in as visitors.

Despite the fact that this practice goes on with the approval of the school administrators and the district superintendent, I could not find a single written word about it – not on the school websites and not in the minutes of the school board meetings.  When the students requested a change in the program and it was denied and later approved – where was this written down?

Has this policy – of allowing ministers into the school to mingle and talk with students – ever faced public scrutiny of any kind?

If the ministers came into the lunch room and invited students to say a prayer with them, this would be a violation of the legal principle of “separation of church and state”.  The school knows this, so they invite the ministers into the school with the understanding that their activities will not reach a point where the “separation” is lost.

But who is supervising these tables of ministers in the WHS lunch room?

Here are my concerns, which have nothing to do with religion:

  1. The Waupaca School District is carrying out this “program” with absolutely no public scrutiny whatsoever.  Despite the fact that this practice could bring serious consequences – including an intervention from the federal Department of Justice – it appears nothing about this program has been discussed in public or documented in school policy.  No parental permission has been sought or obtained. Parents send their children to a school for an education – any other activity should require parental permission.
  2. If the ACLU hears about this unwritten, unsupervised, zero-notice practice; then you can expect them to sue the Waupaca School District.  Defending this lawsuit could cost hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars – maybe a million or two, before it is all over.  Would this be a good use of public funds?
  3. It is always a bad practice to invite ANYONE into a school on a recurring basis and provide them with unsupervised access to minors – particularly, without vetting them or documenting their visits.

Now, you may accuse me of casting aspersions on these ministers – that would be hard to do, because I don’t know any of them, not even by name.  If you think that nothing “bad” can come from allowing a minister into a school at lunch time, there’s this:

“Last week attorney Cris Feldman filed a lawsuit against Second Baptist Church on behalf of the parents of a teenage girl who fell victim to 35-year-old Chad Foster, a former youth minister who pleaded guilty to raping one teenager and soliciting another for sex via Facebook and Skype.

Foster met the girl doing outreach for Second Baptist at a middle school in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD [Texas]. The lawsuit claims Second Baptist had a ‘simple yet effective marketing scheme’ in which youth pastors would recruit young members by showing up during public school lunch hours and giving students free fast food lunches.

The lawsuit claims Foster first met the young girl at school during her lunch hour.”

Houston Press, October 6, 2014

Yes, that’s a “worst case scenario”, but it happened.

If the Waupaca School District wants to stand behind this practice, then bring it out in the open.  Tell parents.  Put it on an agenda of a public meeting.  Write a policy. Supervise the visitors.  Evaluate the outcomes.

Breaking my promise on not making this about religion: Would WHS invite a Muslim Imam into the lunchroom?

If anything I have written here is inaccurate, then I invite the school officials to contact me with any suggested corrections/clarifications.

Vote for Isherwood – Unless You Plan to Commit A Crime

First, nobody could be happier to see John Snider slink out of office after being reprimanded by the State of Wisconsin Crime Victims Rights Board – for his mishandling of a fatal hit-and-run that occurred in 2013 and has yet to go to trial.

The only thing worse than an bumbling district attorney is a bumbling district attorney who runs unopposed in every election.

Now we have 2 candidates for the first time in 32 years.

Veronica Isherwood had 20 years of adult life experience before she went to law school – this is a positive attribute.  She has 15 years experience as an Assistant DA, 2 of those years here in Waupaca County.  She is a graduate of UW-Madison Law School, and has prior experience as an auditor for the Dept of Revenue and as a manager of a county child support agency.

Her opponent, not so much.

Robert Forseth graduated from Waupaca High School in 2001 and UWSP seven years later.  He graduated from Thomas Cooley Law School at Western Michigan; this law school is best known for: “the loosest admissions standards of any accredited American law school…[and, that] the employment prospects of its graduates are grim, even compared to the generally dire state of the legal job market”.  Which may explain why he works for the WJ&H law firm – although I can’t find his name on their website.

For those readers who have not experienced the Waupaca County justice system: it operates as a well-oiled revolving door used by defendants – with a defense attorney on one side and the district attorney’s office on the other – both of them spinning the door as fast as it can.  (Most of the defendants seem to be represented by a single, well-known local attorney.)  The judges get involved after the two opposing lawyers reach a plea deal.

Here’s what gets done in the courthouse:

Felonies get wiped under the well-worn carpets (or in legal speak – “dismissed but read into the record”).

Criminals get released MUCH sooner than they should – and return just as quickly.

The district attorney pushes stacks of case folders several feet high off his desk, only to push equally sized piles of new cases onto to his desk.

The defense attorney gets paid – essentially for brokering a Tangier-rug-dealer type transaction. Not much law involved, just bartering with the DA – until they both agree that nobody wants the “messy trouble” of holding a trial.

From the weakly newspaper, it appears that the judges only get involved after a deal had been reached, and then they simply prescribe a sentence – that presumably has already been pre-negotiated.

When was the last time Waupaca County held a criminal trial?  If the paper did a story about a criminal trial in all of 2015 – I couldn’t find it.  Nor could I find a criminal trial in 2014.  The newspaper publishes accounts of “facebook harassment”, so why wouldn’t it publish a story about a felony trial – unless there weren’t any?

I challenge you to attend one of the arraignment sessions at the courthouse, because I found them both eye-opening and nauseating.  Defendants arrive without a lawyer and the judge brow-beats them into taking a lawyer.  Which lawyer?  Well, there just happens to be one out in the hallway.  (Hilariously, the judge asked John Snider to basically “fetch” the defense attorney for a defendant, and Snider dutifully jumped out of his seat and went after the best-known defense attorney in the county.)

The defense attorney strides in and asks one thing of his potential client:  “Can you pay me $50 a month?”  I wish I had $1 for every client who is still paying this guy $50 a month.

A few defendants don’t show up for arraignment and a couple of them call on the phone. They are told they can’t be arraigned over the phone, and then they are arraigned over the phone.  The other defendants look at each other and think, “why did I show up?”

At the district attorney’s table, John Snider takes a folder off of one pile that is a foot tall, writes a note inside, and then drops it onto another stack that is almost a foot tall.

As the defendants get processed and leave, there are fewer and fewer of them in the courtroom.  I then realize that the judge is puzzled – he has 4 case files remaining on his desk and there are 5 “defendants” sitting in the courtroom – I am #5.  He’s puzzled only because he hasn’t had a “visitor” or “observer” at an arraignment in 5 years?  10 years?

What does the average taxpayer (or crime victim) know about the activities inside the courtroom?

My point?

My point is, Robert Forseth proudly works for the “$50 a month” guy.

The last thing we need is a revolving door at the courthouse with a “$50 a month guy” on one side and his former minion standing on the other side.

High School Dealing Caffeine to Students?

While I was at the Dayton meeting, I noticed these huge soda machines in the hallway.  When I was in high school, I think there was one Coke machine in the basement – which was too far away to be used most of the day and who had the money?

What really shocked me was that the WHS machines were packed with cans of “soda” that serve only as caffeine-delivery systems.

Why in the world would the Waupaca School Board allow high-caffeine drinks to be offered in the high school?

Caffeine Levels:

Coke   34 mg

Pepsi   38 mg

Mountain Dew   54 mg

Mountain Dew Kickstart   92 mg  <—  currently offered at WHS

Teenagers already know that Mountain Dew is “better” than other sodas, even if they don’t know why.  Now we are catering to their caffeine addiction – right in the school.

Mountain Dew markets Kickstart as a “breakfast soda”.  What in the hell is a breakfast soda?!

It wasn’t that long ago that a local school board went ballistic over the subject of serving chocolate milk in its schools.

How much distance lies between a teenaged caffeine addiction and a 20-something heroin addiction?  Less than you think.  What they are learning is that their body responds in a positive way to a chemical, and they know how to feed their bodies with that chemical.

I think the subject of these caffeine laced “breakfast sodas” should come before the Waupaca School Board – posthaste.

Town of Dayton is Doomed – To Its Own Ineptness

Went to the “special” meeting on June 8th; here’s what was special about it:

A disgraced, unseated, former town chairman was allowed to run the meeting.

The current town board allowed him to run the meeting.

The town board told residents they could vote and leave – even while public comments were still going on.

In other words, the meeting was run no better than those run by the self-identifying idiots of past administrations.  What was accomplished by electing a new board?

The current town chairman gave his “estimate” of the costs of a part-time and a full-time employee, and declared them to be equivalent to the cost of the two elected officials.  Here is where he was wrong – and why he deserves to work with Judy Suhs for another 5 years:

The employee was going to work in the town office for somewhere between 8-12 additional hours, including Saturday hours.

So the two options are not equal: in one option you get 4 hours of disgruntled elected officials who don’t want to be there; and, in the other option you get 12-16 hours of customer service from a motivated employee, who needs to perform satisfactorily or get fired.  The elected officials can’t be fired – even when they are fired.

Is there anyone in this county who can develop a “cost benefit analysis” ?  No.

So, Dayton keeps it’s elected matrons – who do their work in the shadows without even the pretense of supervision and dismiss “customer service” as though it was some form of punishment.

You wanted them, you keep them.