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NAACP and local groups look at cops in schools

BELOIT — As many school districts across the country are terminating agreements with police departments following the death of George Floyd, local groups are looking to connect with the Beloit Police Department to get more information about what is the role of school resource officers (SROs) in Beloit schools.

On Thursday the Milwaukee Public Schools board unanimously voted to end its contract with the police to provide SROs.

Prior to the vote, the board had received a letter from the ACLU of Wisconsin supporting the contract termination and the development of a plan to reallocate funding to better meet student needs such as by providing more counselors.

The ACLU’s 2019 report, “Cops and No Counselors,” state Black students in Wisconsin are much more likely than white students to be arrested in schools.

In a letter to the editor NAACP Beloit President Dorothy Harrell said the NAACP has not taken a formal position on the use of SROs, however the national organization has asked local chapters to take a look at the programs.

In a recent guest commentary in the Daily News by Harrell, she suggested the School District of Beloit Board of Education review the police presence in schools and provide the public with data by race on suspensions, expulsions and referrals to municipal court.

The Beloit NAACP is working with the League of Women Voters to get more information on the program via a presentation and question-and-answer session with Beloit police at a Zoom meeting at 2 p.m. on July 6.

The Beloit League of Women Voters is reviewing its current positions on SROs, according to Bette Carr, Beloit League of Women Voters board member and chairperson of the education study.

“As part of that we are doing interviews and researching what other districts in the area are doing. We have always supported the school resource officers, but we are reviewing that position and seeing if any edits are needed. It’s too early to tell what our position will be.”

Carr said the League started researching the issue prior to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, as the position hadn’t been looked at for several years.

SURJ-Beloit: Showing Up for Racial Justice also will be looking at its position on SROs, according to Megan Miller, a founding member of the organization which launched in 2016.

“SROs are on the docket of things to look at. The way we move forward will be guided with input from groups of people of color,” Miller said.

According to the Memorandum of Understanding between the Beloit Police Department and the School District of Beloit, the SRO program cost the district $256,985 for the 2020-2021 school year. The 4-year contract is set to expire after the 2021-2022 school year.

Beloit Police Chief David Zibolski and Sgt. Jamie Linder, who oversees the three SRO’s covering the intermediate schools and high school, said they will be presenting more information on the program in the upcoming Zoom meeting.

One SRO is stationed at the high school Monday through Friday, while the remaining three rotate among the four intermediate schools. Their primary role is to serve as crisis mitigators. SROs use restorative practices, or helping students work out their problems between themselves. SROs also participate in class programming and building relationships with youth.

By engaging in the day-to-day operations of school and the lives of students, SROs are less seen as enforcers and more as role models, mentors and even family members. The bonds can lead to students having a positive view of law enforcement. One parent commented to police on how a certain SRO helped a child go in a more positive direction.

Relationship building not only helps students emotionally, but can help prevent crime.

“There are a lot of things that start off as incidents and flow out into certain neighborhoods. Having SROs in the schools can address the situation there and also let officers know of issues,” Zibolski said. “It’s a good network for law enforcement to get in front of conflicts which start in school which could result in larger conflicts in the public venue.”

Linder explained how all the SROs are trained in a model which focuses on education and mediation before enforcement action.

Zibolski said data is sent to schools regarding citations issued or referrals made for internal action by the district. He noted the schools have their own security guards which handle internal matters so SROs are not involved in enforcing school policy.

“Arrests are not very common in the schools,” Zibolski said.

Zibolski said a year ago there was a lot of support for mandating officers in schools because of active shooter situations which have occurred at schools around the country.

He said the program can also be a great long-term recruitment strategy to get police departments more diversified by getting students interested in a career in law enforcement.

Restaurant owners on both sides of the state line are eager to serve

With dine-in customers returning, restaurant owners on both sides of the state line are eager to serve hot dishes while taking safety precautions.

In line with Phase Two of Rock County’s reopening plan, Wisconsin businesses are currently allowed to operate at 50% capacity.

And on Friday, Illinois will enter Phase Four of its Restore Illinois plan, which will allow restaurants to reopen their dining rooms to offer indoor seating for 50 or fewer customers.

Beth Larsen, co-owner and manager of Artisan Pub in South Beloit, 1322 Gardner St., said she can’t wait for this weekend to arrive.

“We’re looking forward to getting customers back in here, enjoying themselves, having fun,” Larsen said. “We’re think we’re going to be at capacity again on Friday. We’re expecting a full house.”

Artisan Pub lost nearly 60% of its business in May when Wisconsin restaurants were allowed to reopen to indoor dining, while Illinois dining rooms stayed shut, Larsen said.

Some would-be customers coming off the interstate had to be turned away, and they would drive up the road to dining rooms on the Wisconsin side.

But Larsen said the pub has a full staff scheduled this weekend and anticipates a mix of new and regular customers will return.

The pub has a brand new patio to show off, which has been used recently for outdoor dining. Also, all tables inside are spaced six feet apart. In the gaming room, plexiglass barriers have been installed to reduce the spread of germs.

Artisan Pub servers will all be wearing masks and gloves, along with kitchen teams. Bartenders will be encouraged to wear protective gear as well.

The staff is also keeping charts to log when they last cleaned certain surfaces in an effort to frequently wipe them down, Larsen said.

On the Wisconsin side, Lucy’s #7 Burger Bar, 430 E. Grand Ave., has been drawing in steady business since reopening its interior dining area.

“Every day is just a new system, just trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t and go with it,” General Manager Emily Hopper said.

Lucy’s reopened May 23 and has encouraged staff to wear masks and wash their hands between each task. The team is also wiping down all tables and chairs every hour. Sometimes employees are scheduled specifically for cleaning duties.

All diners are being spaced six feet apart, and outdoor seating has helped with social distancing, too. Customers also are able to wait in an outside beer garden until space clears up inside, Hopper said.

Hopper said her staff recommends customers call ahead to reduce wait times while operating at 50% capacity.

“Beloit’s community is very strong. Everybody’s just been really excited to get out of their house and have some normalcy,” Hopper said.

Staff at Sophia’s Restaurant, 3201 S. Riverside Dr., have also encouraged patience since they reopened at limited capacity on May 21.

Owner Avdi Culafi said even after reopening, carry-out orders account for about 15% of the restaurant’s current business.

“It’s been going great,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

A significant number of recent customers have been Illinois residents, Culafi said, which has helped gain extra exposure for his business.

Sophia’s wait staff have been wiping down surfaces and cleaning restrooms more often. Masks are not required but are encouraged for servers who wish to wear them.

Culafi said his brother spent two days building eight glass dividers, which have been placed between tables to help separate families.

On especially busy days, the restaurant can seat up to 60 or 70 people at 50% capacity, and has benches outside for customers to wait their turn as staff works to clear out some space.

He said customers overall have been appreciative to be able to come inside and have a sit-down meal again.

Fauci: Next few weeks critical to tamping down virus spikes

WASHINGTON — The next few weeks are critical to tamping down a disturbing coronavirus surge, Dr. Anthony Fauci told Congress on Tuesday—issuing a plea for people to avoid crowds and wear masks just hours before mask-shunning President Donald Trump was set to hold a campaign rally in one hot spot.

Fauci and other top health officials also said they have not been asked to slow down virus testing, in contrast to Trump’s claim last weekend that he had ordered fewer tests be performed because they were uncovering too many infections. Trump said earlier Tuesday that he wasn’t kidding when he made that remark.

“We will be doing more testing,” Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health, pledged to a House committee conducting oversight of the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic.

The leading public health officials spent more than five hours testifying before the committee at a fraught moment, with coronavirus cases rising in about half the states and political polarization competing for attention with public health recommendations.

Fauci told lawmakers he understands the pent-up desire to get back to normal as the U.S. begins emerging from months of stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns. But that has “to be a gradual step-by-step process and not throwing caution to the wind,” he said.

“Plan A, don’t go in a crowd. Plan B, if you do, make sure you wear a mask,” Fauci said.

Troubling surges worsened Tuesday in several states, with Arizona, Texas and Nevada setting single-day records for new coronavirus cases, and some governors saying they’ll consider reinstating restrictions or delaying plans to ease up in order to help slow the spread of the virus.

Arizona, where Trump was headed for a rally at a Phoenix megachurch, reported a new daily record of nearly 3,600 additional coronavirus infections Tuesday. Arizona emerged as a COVID-19 hot spot after Republican Gov. Doug Ducey lifted his stay-home orders in mid-May. Last week he allowed cities and counties to require masks in public places and many have done so.

Texas surpassed 5,000 new cases for a single day for the first time—just days after it eclipsed 4,000 new cases for the first time—as America’s largest pediatric hospital began taking adult patients to free up bed space in Houston. The infection rate in Texas has doubled since late May. And Nevada surpassed a record one-day increase for the fourth time in the past eight days. Other states also were experiencing worrisome surges, including Louisiana, Utah and South Carolina.

Another worrisome trend: an increase in infections among young adults. Fauci said while COVID-19 tends to be less severe in younger people, some of them do get very sick and even die. And younger people also may be more likely to show no symptoms yet still spread the virus.

If people say, “’I’m young, I’m healthy, who cares’—you should care, not only for yourself but for the impact you might have” on sickening someone more vulnerable, Fauci said.

About 2.3 million Americans have been infected and some 120,000 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Republican Rep. David McKinley of West Virginia asked if Fauci regretted that the American public wasn’t urged sooner to wear face masks, and then interrupted before the visibly annoyed scientist finished answering.

Fauci said he didn’t regret the change in recommendations. Early in the pandemic there was a “paucity of equipment” for health workers “who put themselves daily in harm’s way” and “we did not want to divert” those scarce supplies, he said.