Group calls for charges against teen to be dropped, school officers removed

DA says teen likely to enter restorative justice
Group calls for charges against teen to be dropped, school officers removed
Focused Interruption Coalition holds news conference at courthouse

Local leaders are calling for charges to be dropped against a Madison East High School teenager who was arrested on felony child abuse charges after a fight at school.

The incident is also leading the group to again call for the removal of police officers from Madison’s four high schools.

The “Focused Interruption Coalition” held a news conference Monday on the steps of the Dane County courthouse, calling for charges to be dropped against a 17-year-old student arrested March 16. News 3 is not naming the young woman because she has not been formally charged with a crime.

Police say an educational resource officer, or ERO, arrested her during a fight with other students in the East High cafeteria.

The coalition of leaders is calling for the Dane County District Attorney to drop any charges against her and for the district to get rid of EROs.

“Today, we’re coming out and saying that’s excessive, it’s unnecessary and uncalled for,” said Caliph Muab’El, with the Focused Interruption Coalition. “The problem we’re having in our schools with these EROs is they aren’t trained to deal with our students.”

Madison School Board President James Howard said Monday that two committees are currently studying the use of EROs. Howard said he did think that officers should be better trained on the types of issues that happen on school grounds, including the March incident at East.

“I think school officials could have handled that situation,” Howard said. “It should not have been elevated to a city, or some type of felony offense.”

Howard also said that he did not think EROs should be taken out of the district.

“I would tell you from my perspective as board president, I think EROs are necessary in schools,” Howard said. “I think with proliferation of gun violence in our society, I do not want guns in our schools and I think that it’s important to have EROs for the purpose of dealing with real serious issues that could happen on school grounds.”

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne tells News 3 that the 17-year-old will likely go to restorative court instead of being formally charged.

That is not an acceptable outcome to the leaders who gathered Monday.

“Restorative justice in this case is not an option,” Muab’El said. “It’s a plea bargain and a cop-out for the system.”

Ozanne said his office “has to deal with this behavior and the referral from police.” He told News 3 he thought this was “a good way to resolve this without facing criminal charges or entry to the justice system.”

A Madison Police spokesman said there was video of the altercation showing two girls throwing punches who were joined by a number of other students in the fight.

MPD is involved in the two committees that are disussing the use of EROs in schools, along with community members.

“We are hopeful that we can continue to make progress in finding common ground, where a symbiotic understanding of the needs of the student can be balanced with the necessity to maintain and enhance public safety,” Madison Police Chief Mike Koval said in a statement.