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Tri-County Schools In Plainfield, WI Must Have Better Anti-Bullying Program

April 17, 2018

It took me some time to respond to this matter.  The reason being that I attended Tri-County Schools in Plainfield, Wisconsin, was bullied in my teenage years, and  suffered the loss of my 18-year-old best friend due to his suicide from bullying.  When I turned 50 years old, and after decades of keeping most of the story to myself, I decided a chapter about that time was required in my first book.   I can get rather emotional over the topic of bullying and therefore wanted to take time to place the events at my former high school into a constructive fashion.

In March a student at the school made a social media threat that was supposedly to have been “funny”.  Obviously the school nor the parents took the matter lightly.  A school board meeting was held where public input was taken on many aspects of this incident.  As we all know the issue at hand is one that too many schools have had to deal with over the years.

One of the parents addressed the board on the topic of bullying and the need to be mindful of its impact on students.    It was then Plainfield Police Chief Kevin Fenske spoke.  The Waushara Argus reported in its April 5, 2018 edition that Fenske made the following comments.

“I listen to the bullying thing and I am not going to disagree that it doesn’t go on, but what always upsets me is that I am in that building four days a week. Nobody ever comes to me.

The two or three cases that have come to me, it stopped. But nobody ever comes to me. I am there four days a week, somedays five days a week. But nobody ever comes to me. So, that is why I get frustrated. That is why I am over here shaking my head. Nobody comes to me.”

After reading those words I knew a response was required.

I find it absolutely unacceptable for an individual tasked with responding to bullying issues to think that the person who is being bullied should knock on a door and ask for a conference.  That is not the way those who are under assault from bullying, be it verbal or physical, respond in such situations.  I am somewhat stunned that in 2018 it appears the same problem exists as it played out in my high school years of the late 1970s.

Teachers know full well what takes place in their classrooms, the antics that occur in hallways, or in the lunch room.  It is not the bullied student who should be making first contact with the police chief, but the educators who have the background, experience, and skill set to intervene on behalf of those bullied.

In my book Walking Up The Ramp I wrote about the role of teachers regarding those who are bullied.

I could never just go to school. I always needed to think two steps ahead, to think about my path to wherever I was headed, especially if I was not in the circle of my friends. If I was sure some of the bullies were lined along the hallway paths, or lingering by their lockers I walked around them. There were times in the early part of my freshman year I actually exited the school from one door and entered through another to avert someone wishing to punch me, or shove me inside a locker. In addition to the way to navigate around those who were bullies, I also needed to find ways to shore up my emotional side, and not lose more of my inner self to them.   While I needed to avoid more abuse from bullies in school, I also needed to avoid the embarrassment of going home and trying to explain how something like this happened to me. I needed at all costs to my teenage pride, which is very fragile for any one at that age, to avoid admitting to my parents that I was not able to stand up to, and defeat those who tormented me. I hated being thin, and hated that I was not able to protect myself.

There is no way to overstate the disgust felt when entering a classroom, and being targeted with truly despicable words tossed about from those already seated while a teacher sits at a desk pretending to be a million miles away. There is no way to understand how it feels to be a small-framed guy, and yet urged by well-meaning peers—some really nice acquaintances—to go and clean the smile off the bully’s face. They clearly understood the injustice of it, the incivility of it, and proposed a route perhaps to remedy it.

The fall of my freshman year, I had found a way to dodge those upperclassmen during lunch.   The easiest way was just to avoid the lunchroom. Of course, this did not help my being a small guy. Early in my freshman year I found a nook in the corner of the old school near the elementary entrance, and just simply waited for the noon hour to be over. A few times my cousin who was a schoolteacher passed with her brood of students and nodded. Those were hard days to get through, but when I found an exit strategy I employed it.

That educator, who was even an extended family member, along with all the others who knew what was happening never once reached out to me or to someone in power within the school administration to make the bulling come to an end.

If I read the words correctly from Fenske it would seem the same dynamics are still in play.  He knows bullying is taking place, and that means educators at the school do as well.  And yet….  And yet.

The damage from bullying has been well documented in a number of ways over the years.   We also are aware of the means to address it.  I would hope and trust that in this time of national dialogue surrounding bullying, and those impacted, that more school boards and educators at all schools–but especially rural ones–will be more earnest in addressing it.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. Britt Rain permalink
    April 18, 2018 11:45 AM

    I too attended TC . I love my Alma mater. I was tormented by my teachers then I was by my peers. From a 4 the grade teacher that would have never come to the front of the class everyday saying” ok Britt now spin around so everyone can see you” to the middle school principal/ math teacher slamming me into the lockers so hard they all shook. Mind you I was the smallest girl in my class. Also had teachers ask me in front of my classmates if I took my medication today as I was the first kid to be diagnosed with ADHD. Kids can be cruel to each other but when teachers are the ones doing it, it gives kids even more leverage to act the same way. Teachers are not all innocent in bullying students of all ages.

  2. Janelle permalink
    April 18, 2018 11:27 AM

    Maybe students are afraid to go to “Officer Fenske”. My children attended Tri County schools. Their father is employed there. When my eldest son was in high school he stood up to his father, for himself and his siblings, and rightfully so. A few hours after arriving at school Mr Fenske called my son into his office to warn him about his behavior and to be thankful his Dad wasn’t filing charges against him. Mr Fenske had no idea what had really happened, what was truly going on, and how much my children.were being affected. The school safety officer had no business taking the side of an adult in a situation he knew nothing of, especially if his position is to be of service to the students.
    The Tri County staff covers for one another, regardless of right or wrong. It’s a shame.

  3. JACCI WHITE permalink
    April 18, 2018 10:40 AM

    My grandson had gone to this school also, and repeatedly had the same issues with bullying. And yes we did go to officer female, the principal, the teachers, my grandson was told if he were to tell anyone about this, the other person would kill my grand son and his family. After many attempts to get this to stop, it didn’t, this was not a one time thing, there where many times, my grandson became from a happy child to a child that would keep to himself, to cry, NOT eat, . Because of the school and officer fenske,my 2 grand children where removed from this school.It is time the teachers, the principal, the police , and the students to stand up and put a end to this.Hoe many more children are going to end their life, due to be bullying?? Wake up people, yes this is still going on in every school.

  4. Thomas j Schwind permalink
    April 18, 2018 8:58 AM

    Thank you young lady for being strong as time goes on your going to excel in life . I know it was disgusting the way you were treated . To those teachers that treated you like a slow learner your a disgrace to the community .

  5. Juanita Facundo permalink
    April 18, 2018 7:44 AM

    Growing up in the 70s alot of discrimination not that it doesn’t exist now. Couldnt go to principal with any bullying problems because he was very prejudice. And it was my fault because he said I was “Mexican”.

  6. Liza permalink
    April 18, 2018 6:53 AM

    Felicia, I’ve personally seen that exact behavior while attending Tri-County. They belittled anyone who didn’t fit within their messed up standards..
    The teacher who was the worst to me, personally, was Mr Elsinger… I loved English class; but cried inside while walking to his classroom…
    Thankfully my Mom realized what was happening and that it wasn’t going to stop. We moved after 7th grade year. I’m very grateful for that; as I’m not sure I could’ve tolerated much more of it… I sincerely hated myself in middle school…
    I wish they would understand how much this has hurt many, many people and CHANGE…
    Until then, I keep praying for a solution.

  7. Felicia Lockhart permalink
    April 17, 2018 8:21 PM

    I too was a target of constant bullying at Tri-County. Unfortunately my bullring didn’t just come from students, it came from teachers, it came from a principal and an administrator that failed to protect me through the years. I was an LD student. I use to be afraid to say that. LD means learning disabled, it doesn’t mean I’m stupid, it doesn’t mean I don’t matter, and it doesn’t mean anyone has the right to be mean to me just because I couldn’t read as well as they did. Starting with 8th grade awards, I worked so hard to get good grades, and not a single award for my hard work and when my mom asked why, she was told because I was in LD classes, that’s why I didn’t receive any academic awards. Then on to high school, what should of been the happiest time in my life, was torcher. Starting when three coaches/teachers stood in front of me and implied that I sucked and shouldn’t even play volleyball, then my mom asked me to leave and she told them off, which I think they deserved. Then I spent a summer covering for majorettes who didn’t want to perform with the band because they didn’t want to give up their summer, but I did to help out. Then it was time for homecoming and I was practicing with the majorettes for the halftime show and a couple of the girls didn’t want me in it, at first Mr Femal told them no, that I would be in it, then the girls said if she is in our show then we won’t be and Mr Femal called me in only to say, sorry I can’t let you be in the show. This was crushing, he let those bullies bully me. He is a teacher and yet he didn’t protect me. Then comes my report about the life of a student with a learning disability that I had to present in front of my peers, these bullies. I stated my report and I felt strong, I got half way through when a kid (who’s parents are all well known in the community) began to laugh at me in front of the class and Mr Sherman, he said nothing. Then the other bullies the boys (who’s parents are currently on the board and whos Father was our district administrator) joined in the laughter. Again the teacher let the bullies, bully me. Our district administrators kids were also known for throwing another student in the stands during a basketball game and kicking a girl during a basketball game, why would he stop bullying when his own kids are bullies. He failed to protect me. Shame on all of you. Let me take you to my last senior concert when Mr Femal made a point of recognizing every senior with a candy bar, and there I sat waiting and waiting for him to recognize me, only to have him end the show. I cried after that, but my mom hugged me and said he is pathetic do not let this hurt you. My mom then went into the office to confront him the next day, only to have him say “she is so quiet, I just forgot about her”, as if my good behavior and quietness gave him the right to dismiss me like I was a nobody. I’m SOMEBODY!! Then came the the newspaper with graduation photos, mine was not in there, why do you ask… they said they forgot. How do you forget one person, oh I know because my mom spoke up about my senior photos being appropriate for the year book, but the year book coordinator wasn’t going to have it because my should was bare, my mom said well then you can’t have any prom or homecoming photos either then because their shoulders are bare. My photos where then put in the year book, and she inadvertently, on accident left me out of the newspaper graduation photos. No she didn’t, she was just a bully, and I didn’t matter to her. A year ago I went in front of the school board and looked the parents of my bully’s in the eye, only to have them ignore me and do nothing to prevent the bullying of others including my moms best friends daughter who tried to kill her self. I deserved to be included, I deserved to be treated kindly, and I deserved to be recognized for being a great human being. It starts with Our District Adminstrator, Teachers, Board Members, and it starts with parents raising kids to include others even those who may be different. This is my story and Inwould be happy to speak up again and again if it helps a student like me.
    Felicia Lockhart

  8. April 17, 2018 5:52 PM

    My kids go to that school and they are not on top of anything they defend the bullies and allow it to happen in my eyes

  9. Arlene (Cummings) Dampier permalink
    April 17, 2018 5:27 PM

    Well said Greg, those where some tuff years.

  10. Liza Cummings permalink
    April 17, 2018 5:06 PM

    I grew up in Plainfield, went to TC and lived the same constant bullied life. It’s taken me until now, 40 years old, to somewhat feel that humiliation leave a tiny bit…
    The school knew and their officials were very aware of it happening; as many times I ended up in the office, for a ride home… Why? Maybe due to the fact that I hurt from being physically beaten, or that my glasses had been smashed and broken against my face, again???.
    The only thing that school did for me, was to remind me daily: that I did NOT matter. The bullying was something to be ignored..By me and them.
    Hey Tri-County School District: do you think that this will go away on its own? Do something before one of these battered children takes drastic measures into their own hands. It’s YOUR job and duty to ensure the safely (mental as well as physical) of every single student, while in your care.
    Shame on you!

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