Weekend Roundup: Madison high schoolers stage walk out to support victim in alleged sexual assault

Statewide COVID-19 response, Milwaukee school funding, trick-or-treating and more

Madison East High School
Madison East High School. Andrea Anderson/WPR

Students at Madison’s East High School walked out this week to show support for a classmate who alleges she was sexually assaulted by a classmate at a party following the homecoming dance last Saturday, The Cap Times reports.

Hundreds of students gathered outside the school to demand a response from school administrators.

Feliz Casteneda, who hosted the party and accompanied the victim to the hospital, said she’s been frustrated by the school’s response — focusing particularly on principal Sean Leavy, who took over as principal in late summer.

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“The school has been incredibly uncooperative and nobody was helping us out or listening to our voices,” Casteneda told The Cap Times. “Our principal, when we were telling him about it, he went, ‘I know you have the name of a student that you feel committed a sexual assault,’ and we didn’t feel like it; we knew that s— happened, we were there, we have witnesses.”

For Madison high school students, behavior outside of school is punishable “if that conduct endangers the property, health or safety of others at school or under the supervision of a school authority or endangers the property, health or safety of any employee or school board member of the District.”

According to The Capt Times, engaging in non-consensual sexual intercourse is a “Level 5″ offense, which results in a student being recommended for expulsion from school.

Wisconsin DHS: COVID-19 Weekly Recap

The seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin is 2,198 as of Friday. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has confirmed 8,239 total deaths from the disease.

Almost 55 percent of Wisconsinites are fully vaccinated 84 percent of people age 65 and older and 44 percent of children age 12-15.

Meanwhile, an advisory board for the Federal Drug Administration has recommended the agency authorize boosters of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for those who have gotten the single-dose shot. The committee also unanimously voted to recommend booster shots of the Moderna vaccine to those age 65 and older.

DHS receives $27M to promote racial, geographic equity in COVID-19 response

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has awarded $27 million to the state Department of Health Services to promote racial and geographic equity in the state’s response to COVID-19.

The money, including $9 million specifically for rural communities, is meant to combat inequities related to COVID-19 infection, illness and death.

“Communities of color are bearing the brunt of this pandemic, which has exacerbated existing health disparities in Wisconsin,” DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake said in a press release. “Racism and systemic barriers, including lack of access to quality health care, job opportunities, housing, and transportation, have made these Wisconsinites more vulnerable to COVID-19.”

As part of this initiative, DHS launched on Wednesday a grant program called “Mobilizing Communities for a Just Response.” The program will support local and tribal health departments and nonprofits working to address health inequalities in relation to COVID-19. The grant program hopes to support work that decreases rates of infection, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19 among underserved communities.

Facing enrollment decline, teacher vacancies, Milwaukee Public Schools gets $500M spending plan

The Milwaukee Public Schools Board of Education approved a plan Thursday to use $500 million in federal stimulus dollars, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

The plan comes while the district is facing significant challenges — including the loss of teaching positions and enrollment declines — amid the ongoing pandemic.

District Superintendent Keith Posley said officials had to slash about 120 teaching positions this fall as enrollment had decreased. However, because there are currently 170 staff vacancies in the district, no layoffs will occur, the Journal Sentinel reported.

Officials said that some staff members will be “forced to move into different roles or buildings where teachers are most needed.”

The district had about 74,583 students in 2019, but that number had decreased to less than 70,000 by the fall, Posley was quoted as saying in September.

Warm temperatures, dry conditions this autumn will reduce fall colors in Eau Claire area

Officials with the state Department of Natural Resources said this fall’s warmer weather and dry conditions will result in “less-intense fall colors,” the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram reported Wednesday.

Throughout Wisconsin in September, daytime temperatures frequently climbed into the 70s and 80s. At the same time and according to U.S. Drought Monitor maps, Eau Claire County also witnessed a moderate drought from early June through July.

“We do see a lot of muted color this year, which is an indication that the warm temperatures are pushing off that color change,” Colleen Matula, a forest silviculturist and ecologist with the DNR, told the newspaper.

Wisconsin Book Festival is back in person after an all-virtual event last year

The Wisconsin Book Festival’s Fall Celebration, featuring mostly Midwestern authors, is taking place Oct. 21-24, with both in person and virtual events.

Last year, the pandemic moved the festival entirely online, and Wisconsin Book Festival director Conor Moran is excited to have people back in person. But he told Isthmus the success of the online events made them become part of the fabric of the festival.

“We did about 100 virtual events from April 2020 to May 2021, and they were really well attended,” Moran said, adding that this year, Saturday features “great authors with Wisconsin connections … that is one of the ways we were able to safely offer in-person events, (by focusing on) people who are connected with the community and able to get here without taking a long plane flight.”

This year virtual events will take place on Oct. 21-22, with in-person events on Oct. 23 in Madison. A schedule can be seen on their website.

Spooktacular news: Trick-or-treating is a go

Dr. Anthony Fauci says children can go trick-or-treating safely this year.

“This is a time that children love. It’s a very important part of the year for children,” said Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert.

Last year, Halloween celebrations were canceled many places due to the high number of COVID-19 cases and no vaccine.

But this year is a different story. Many adults and children older than 12 are vaccinated, and a Pfizer vaccine for children between the ages of 5 and 11 could be approved before the end of this month.

Trick-or-treating should take place outdoors, Fauci said, because the risk for infection is lower.

It is also recommended that families trick-or-treat in small groups and people handing out candy should prepackage treats.

Fauci also told CNN that gathering for Thanksgiving and Christmas is looking possible for those who are vaccinated.