MHS students hear from experts

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Five experts presented to MHS students in the Seminar: American Social Issues Today last week as part of the crime and justice unit.

Approximately 45 stuents heard Reverend Diana Shaw, Sir Williams, Middeton Police Captain Troy Hellenbrand, Andre Johnson and Rudy Bankston speak about their experiences. The speakers visited a morning and afternoon class. The course is taught by Linda Schuerman, Emma Becher and Sue Weaver.

"The students were really engaged with the topic and the speakers,'' Schuerman said. "The panelists had fabulous and interesting experiences to share.''

Shaw works with the Prison Ministry Project of the First Congregational United Church of Christ. This is a restorative justice program that works in Wisconsin’s prisons to restore healthy relationships between offenders, victims/survivors, and the community.

Williams graduated from UW-Madison Law School in 2011 with concentrations in Criminal Law and Family Law. While he was a practicing lawyer, Williams was a Special Prosecutor with the Dane County District Attorney’s Office and focused primarily on traffic and misdemeanor cases. He now works with the UW-Madison Law School administration as the Director of Admissions.

Hellenbrand has served in a number of different roles for the MIddleton Police Department, including patrol officer, school resource officer, detective and patrol supervisor. Until being promoted to Captain, the he oversaw the detective division.  

Johnson is currently Dane County’s Juvenile Justice Services Manager and works with youth who have committed crimes or who are at risk to commit crimes. Johnson also oversees is a restorative justice program that diverts children between the ages of 12-16 away from the court system after being ticketed for minor infractions, such as disorderly conduct, simple assault, marijuana possession, and trespassing.

Bankston was sentenced at 19 to life in prison. In 2015, Bankston had a new lawyer who presented new evidence pointing toward his innocence, accepted a plea deal, and was immediately released. He was hired by the Madison Metropolitan School District as a community liaison for Madison Memorial High School. In the school’s “Peace Center,” Bankston oversees a relaxed, communal-style room where students can work through conflicts that in the past could have resulted in suspension. Bankston presented to the MCPASD Leadership Team in Novmber.

Becher, Schuerman and Weaver have brought in a number of other guest speakers, including MOM representatives and MHS social workers (poverty unit); and MHS student representative from SAGE, representative from the Rape Crisis Center, and Emily's List Consultant (gender issues unit). A future unit on education will include panelists from MCPASD and MHS adminstration along with high school teachers, Schuerman said.