An Outagamie county judge is under fire for mishandling and abusing truancy court.
An outside source was brought in to evaluate the truancy court, he presented the findings of his investigation in a report at Thursday’s school board meeting.
The retired attorney from Madison hired to investigate Outagamie county’s truancy court evaluated two separate judges.
According to him it was clear that one judge consistently was abusive in language and punishment and has suggestions for the district moving forward.
Former students, current students and their parents called to an end to truancy court which they say has wreaked havoc on their lives.
“I will forever have scars on my body reminding me of the time in my life I constantly felt like I was a delinquent criminal, like I wasn’t smart enough, like I didn’t even matter,” says one student who now attends Kimberly High School.
“Imagine your child taken away from school and put in shelter care, can’t talk to her mom and her parents anything like,” says a former Appleton school student. “That’s traumatizing.”
Retired Madison attorney Duane McCreary was hired to investigate and sit in on truancy court under judge Mark McGinnis.
He listed his grievances which included calling students names like stupid, talking down to parents and attorneys, sending students to shelter care without notifying their parents and giving students excessive amounts of community service hours.
“It simply needs to be shut down, not rushed through, shut down,” says school board member Alvin Dupree.
Dupree has spear-headed the movement to make changes to truancy court.
He says several families from lower economic backgrounds are the ones being affected.
“The majority of the state does not use court in a school system,” says Dupree. “It speaks to punitive in nature, it speaks to my observation of it pipelining a certain sector of the community and again it’s not ethnicity, it’s social classism.”
Part of McCreary’s report included suggestions for the district moving forward.
They include removing McGinnis from truancy court, Appleton modifying it’s truancy ordinance, no longer sending kids to summer school or shelter care and administering less community service hours.
The board has suspended truancy court for the remainder of the school year.
“I had talked to people on the school board three years ago, two years ago and I didn’t feel like I was heard,” says anti-truancy court advocate Ronna Swift. “I think tonight everybody heard. I’m so proud of the students who were involved, that took a lot of courage.”
Local Five asked McCreary to give official comment on camera but he declined.
The school board has decided to review his report and come up with an action plan to be presented January 10.