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First meeting of Madison school safety committee focuses on including student voice | Local Education | #students | #parents


At its first meeting Thursday night, a safety committee aimed at addressing the recent violence in Madison schools committed to centering the voices of students, including gathering input from those who may be engaging in fights and bad behavior.
The safety and student wellness committee, which is made up of community members, students and staff, was launched Monday, five months after it was first discussed in the wake of multiple fights at East High School. One outdoor fight ended with police pepper spraying students.

Just this week there were two fights involving East High students. Other schools have dealt with violence as well, including a January beating at La Follette High School that injured a student so badly that he may need dental reconstructive surgery.

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The goal of the new committee is to address the root cause of violence in schools.

The committee’s first meeting was largely procedural, with introductions and discussions on meeting rules and logistics. The only vote taken was the one to adjourn the meeting.


Most of the discussion revolved around the importance of student perspectives in determining the best way to respond to the violence.

“We have a voice, too, and it deserves to be heard and included in our community,” said Memorial High School student Mia Braico, who is a voting member of the committee.

It’s rare for students to have a vote on Madison School Board committees. Students are usually included on committees, but only have advisory votes that are not in the final tally.

The goal is for the group to have six student voting members, one from each high school. Braico and East High student Gordon Allen, who is co-chair of the committee, were the only students at Thursday’s meeting.

School Board member Ananda Mirilli, the other co-chair, said the committee is still working on confirming other student members.


The other voting members at Thursday’s meeting were: Sabrina Madison, founder of the Progress Center for Black Women; Madison Deputy Mayor Reuben Sanon; Rebecca Ramirez, a trauma trainer for the district and representative from the intervention program Building Bridges; Dana Pellebon, co-executive director for the Rape Crisis Center in Madison; Michael Jones, president of Madison Teachers Inc.; Andre Johnson, youth justice manager with Dane County’s Department of Human Services; and Mari Hansen, a parent of two Memorial High School students.

The committee is supposed to have 13 voting members, according to its draft plan.

Madison said she’s grateful the committee is giving students a vote, but she noted that the committee also needs to seek input from the students who are participating in the problematic behavior. She said those students are sometimes “disengaged” and not connected to their classmates in leadership roles.

“That’s really important that young people who might be suffering consequences of their behaviors are part of the decision making as well for how to sort of remedy what they’re dealing with,” Madison said.


Committee members discussed engaging with students on social media and having in-person or Zoom events to connect with families.

Part of the committee’s work will be gathering input from four separate “stakeholder groups” made up families, especially those who are marginalized; community partners, such as disability advocate groups; mental health and wellness professionals, and city and county officials; and schools staff, including those from middle and elementary schools. The co-chairs will attend those meetings and report back to the larger committee.

The group plans to meet ever two weeks for the first few months to get the committee’s work rolling.



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