By Owen Reissmann for Wausau Pilot and Review

At a Monday, Dec. 10 Wausau School Board meeting, board member Jane Rusch gave an emotional appeal, criticizing the recent use of ALICE, active shooter response training, at the district’s schools. She spoke first of how such drills can serve as training for a potential shooter, which happened in one recent case. Next, Rusch said, such drills may cause psychological trauma to children. Rusch also objected to the fact that parents were provided only a single day’s notice, via paper (which often does not make it home in time, if at all). As a result, parents and staff who opted not to participate may not have been given the opportunity to do so.

Wausau School Superintendent Keith Hilts clarified that all schools in the state of Wisconsin are required to have ALICE training. He also clarified that, as he understood it, students who are known to respond adversely to situations that might be scary, such as this type of drill, would be shielded in some way or not included in the training.

A parent of a fifth grader at Hawthorn Hills gave an impassioned plea for action. Her daughter has been called vulgar names including “whore” and “bitch” on a regular basis at her school. The student’s mother said her daughter has been threatened with death on at least two occasions, one of which involved a student writing the word “die” many times in the snow on the school playground.

Further, the parent stated, a boy who had threatened both her daughter and another girl won a “PBIS” behavior award. She said that the children who receive such awards largely seem to be children who have very negative behavior.

The parent also said that children are reporting inappropriate behavior and being told it doesn’t matter. She also stated that students have been logging into their iPads on their regular google accounts instead of their school accounts and thus have been able to play video games and access inappropriate videos at school.

On a more positive note, a Wausau East High School staff member offered her thanks to those who helped support the Lumberjack Productions program, which was able to begin last year due to a $100,000 grant won to fund the program. Three students spoke as to how they have been affected by this program and its impact on the community.