Investigation reveals 10 students responsible

By Mike Ramczyk

Correspondent

Racially motivated vandalism soiled Burlington Area School District grounds for a second time late last month and the Burlington Police Department has apprehended at least 10 minors involved in both incidents.

On Sept. 30, nearly two weeks after the first incident at Cooper Elementary School, officials discovered a racial slur inside the new Karcher Middle School.

According to officials, the N-word was written on the floor inside an opening on the south side of the school, which faces Wainwright Avenue.

As for the suspects, seven of the 10 allegedly committed breaking entering, trespassing, hate speech and vandalism ­– and some may face felony charges.

On Tuesday, BASD Superintendent Stephen Plank said surveillance cameras helped catch three BASD minors who wrote “die n***** die” and “down with BLM” Sept. 17 at Cooper Elementary School, and a districtwide letter to students and parents led to seven BASD minors being caught in the Karcher incident.

Plank does not believe the incidents are related.

 

Swift response

The district sent out a letter to parents and students on Sept. 30 about the incident at the new Karcher Middle School and prompted a swift response, according to Plank.

“We almost immediately discovered that there were seven BASD minors involved and some were student-athletes,” Plank said on Tuesday. “Much like the Cooper incident, we worked collaboratively with the police department.”

Plank said since they are students at BASD, they face both legal and school-based consequences.

“In this case specifically, the offenses ranged from breaking and entering, trespassing, hate speech and vandalism. Some of these offenders may be subject to felony charges,” Plank said. “All students were out of school suspended, and the duration for each student is dependent on their level of involvement in the incident.”

Plank further added students participating in extracurricular activities also face an athletics/activities suspension per the Burlington High School Athletic and Activities Handbook and Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association rules and regulation.

“The degree of ineligibility is based on the offense, pending litigation, student’s record, and their ability to be forthright, honest, and remorseful during the investigation. In addition, the WIAA clearly defines that any student charged and / or convicted of a felony shall, upon the filing of felony charges, become ineligible for all further participation until the student has paid his/her debt to society and the courts consider the sentence served (including probation, community service, etc),” Plank said.

 

Surveillance evidence

At Cooper Elementary on Sept. 17, three days after an emotionally charged School Board meeting, surveillance video identified three BASD minors allegedly involved in the incident.

“We were able to work collaboratively with the police department in both cases to determine who the offenders were,” Plank said. “With Cooper, we had sufficient surveillance to be able to identify the suspects. There were three minors present and one that was identified as responsible for the damage. As a district, we are committed to not only implementing punitive measures, but also restorative and education-based opportunities for students.”

Plank’s information clears up speculation surrounding the two events, which occurred on the same month the district had a contentious, emotionally charged School Board meeting Sept. 14 at BHS.

Plank, meanwhile, said he doesn’t believe the two vandalism cases are connected.

“That said, it is difficult to imagine that they are not subconsciously related to the heightened rhetoric that has been so public as of late,” Plank said.

For an expanded version of this story see the Oct. 8 edition of the Burlington Standard Press.