Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Action alert: Milwaukee Schools Speak Out

We've blogged before about our concerns with the idea of the Milwaukee Mayor taking over MPS. Now you can have a say about what you think.

Tues Jan 5: MPS Takeover Hearing - YOUR VOICE MATTERS
Beginning at 10:00 a.m., to run no later than 5:00 p.m.
Milwaukee Public Schools Central Office (School Board) Auditorium, 5225 W. Vliet St., Milwaukee.

Come tell state lawmakers your experiences with MPS: What programs you think work, what services are needed to help students succeed, and why the state needs to make sure the money is there to pay for those programs and services.

Mayoral control has not worked in other cities. There is no reason to believe it will improve education in Milwaukee. It's just a gimmick that won't get at what MPS students really need.

Those who really genuinely concerned about student performance need to evaluate what programs and services - such as smaller class sizes - help students succeed. Then they must determine what these programs cost, and how those programs will be fairly and adequately funded. That is the kind of adequate education that all Milwaukee students deserve.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Twenty facts about the ACLU - please support us with a year-end contribution!

There is still time to make a year-end contribution to one of the most important organizations in America - the ACLU! People give to the ACLU for lots of reasons: tax-credits, feel-good charitable contributions, passing along some of that holiday gift cash... But we hope you'll consider making a gift today!

As an ACLU activist and supporter, you know that we play a crucial role in defending freedom in America. But we are betting the list below might surprise you. And we are hoping that you'll make a generous gift today -- help us add even more accomplishments to the list in 2010.

Number of online messages ACLU activists sent to Congress and the Obama administration in 2009: 1,208,466

Number of students in the Pittsburgh school district that will finally receive comprehensive sex education after pressure from the ACLU to stop teaching an abstinence-only curriculum: 28,000 students in 66 schools

Year the ACLU first defended reproductive freedom: 1928

Number of schools where the ACLU has intervened after school officials tried to ban or treat gay-straight alliance clubs differently from other school clubs
in the last five years: 36

Number of those schools that succeeded in banning or discriminating against gay-straight alliance clubs: 0

Miles of documents about the Bush torture program obtained through the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuits: 20.5

Number of victims of the Bush torture program who have had their day in court: 0

Number of national organizations that joined the ACLU in opposing the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II: 0

Number of states that have rejected Real ID and a National ID card, due to pressure from the ACLU and others: 24

Number of US military spy satellites the Department of Homeland Security will be allowed to use for domestic intelligence, counter-terrorism and law enforcement after objections by the ACLU and others: 0

Number of hours per day children housed at the T. Don Hutto family detention center in Texas were forced to remain in their cells before an ACLU lawsuit forced conditions to be improved at the facility: 11-12

Challenges to FBI abuses of the Patriot Act’s National Security Letter (NSL) provisions filed by ACLU: 3

NSL requests dropped by the government after ACLU challenge: 3

Year the ACLU first took on creationism in public schools: 1925

Year the ACLU last took on creationism (disguised as "intelligent design") in public schools: 2005

Number of ACLU members at close of 1925: 2,250

Number of ACLU members at close of 2009: Approximately 500,000

Percent of our 2010 budget that the ACLU stands to lose as a result of losing our largest individual donor due to financial circumstances: 25%

Number of people who have taken part in the ACLU’s
Acting Together: 100,000 Gifts Campaign: 70,734

Number of days you have left to make a year-end donation to the ACLU: 4

Feel free to share these facts with friends and family. And, please, make the ACLU a priority in the days ahead.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Beloit Racial Profiling Listening Session Canceled Due to Weather

Have you been racially profiled? Want to give feedback to the justice system about your experience? The public is invited to share their comments with the Traffic Stop Data Collection Advisory Committee on a rule being developed to assess the possibility of racial profiling in Wisconsin traffic stops.

*** Please note! The Beloit listening session has been canceled due to the bad winter weather. Stay tuned for the re-scheduled dates or follow us on Twitter at ACLUMadison and ACLUofWisconsin.

For more information on the Office of Justice Assistance listening sessions, visit their website.

The ACLU of Wisconsin has been involved in the listening sessions by sending staff, ACLU members and people who are concerned with racial profiling. Read more about the ACLU of Wisconsin’s reactions in the listening sessions at the ACLUofWisconsin Twitter page.

Listening sessions have been held in Racine/Kenosha; Keshena; Superior; Rice Lake; Crandon; Milwaukee; Green Bay and La Crosse

The public expects fair treatment and equal protection for all Wisconsin’s citizens under our justice system. The presence of disparities—actual or perceived—is a serious concern. The effectiveness of Wisconsin’s justice system depends on the public’s respect and confidence in the integrity of the judicial process.

In the past decade, two gubernatorial bodies have examined racial profiling and racial disparities in Wisconsin’s criminal justice system. Both groups recommended collection of racial data when a traffic stop is made as one means to determine the extent to which people of different races receive different treatment by law enforcement. Statewide traffic stop data will inform the community about the presence or absence of disproportionate contact with racial minorities during traffic stops, and help identify opportunities for potential changes in public policy and training.

Effective January 1, 2011, all Wisconsin police officers are required to collect data that will be used to determine whether vehicles operated or occupied by racial minorities are disproportionately stopped. The data collected, collection method, and analysis will be determined by a new administrative rule. The Office of Justice Assistance (OJA), a state agency, is preparing the rule with the assistance of the Advisory Committee.

Supporting materials:
Scope statement:

Statutory and non-statutory language on traffic stop data collection:

Comparison of recent traffic stop data collection in MI, IA, IL, and MI:

Traffic stop data collection advisory committee:

Written comments for listening sessions will be accepted by the Office of Justice Assistance until December 11, 2009. Comments can be sent to: Office of Justice Assistance, 1 South Pinckney St., Suite 615, Madison, WI 53703-3220

Feingold’s End Racial Profiling Act: Says Baltimore NAACP “Race Not a Proxy for Criminality.”

Check out this op-ed in the Baltimore Sun on the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA) that will be reintroduced by Wisconsin’s Senator Russ Feingold and Michigan House member Rep. John Conyers. This op-ed breaks down why racial profiling impacts us all: “race should not be a proxy for criminality.”

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Stop the Abortion Coverage Ban - Rally for Women’s Health

Join us today at noon:

Stop the Abortion Coverage Ban
Rally for Women’s Health

Wednesday, December 2 at Noon
Capitol Square – State Street Steps
Featuring Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton

Email Sen. Russell 'Russ' D. Feingold and Sen. Herb Kohl right now to protect all women's health options in health care reform.

Report from D.C. at the prochoice rally from a public policy staffer from the Maine ACLU:

"I’m here in Washington, D.C., after a long bus ride from Maine that took me nearly nine hours -- and more than 500 miles. But nothing could have stopped me from getting here because the fight to protect reproductive rights is too important, and it’s personal.

"My own commitment to reproductive freedom is rooted in my grandmother’s story about her difficult decision to have an abortion when it wasn’t even legal. I’m sure that the hundreds of other women and men who have joined me in Washington today to take part in this lobby day have their own reasons for caring so deeply.

"But we’re all here to send a powerful message to our senators: we want health care reform that will protect reproductive freedom -- not put it in peril as the House did with their Stupak-Pitts Amendment, banning abortion coverage.

"We’re going to be heading to Senators’ offices to deliver this message in just a few moments, but it would be great if they could hear from all of you, too!

"Email Sen. Russell 'Russ' D. Feingold and Sen. Herb Kohl now. Let them know you want health care that will improve women’s lives -- not interfere with them.

"Just off the bus, my fellow bus-mates and I are ready to fight for women's reproductive freedom. Tell your senators that you want health care that will improve women’s lives not interfere with them.

"Many people have come to D.C. today because they’re alarmed by a recent rise of extremism that is influencing decisions on Capitol Hill.

"When the Stupak-Pitts Amendment was added to the House bill, it drastically altered and interfered with a woman’s ability to get the health care she needs. But what’s possibly even more alarming is that a reinvigorated extremist movement is determined to advance their own personal ideology and use the power of our government to force their own narrow view of morality on the rest of us.

"So now we all need to join together and let our senators know that this kind of thinking has no place in our government -- and it doesn’t belong in our health care reform.

"We need to come together -- whether it’s riding a bus to D.C. or clicking a button to email your senators and make sure they know we won’t let the same thing happen in the Senate.

"Whatever your reason for getting involved in this critical fight today, I hope you’ll join with me and let your senator know how strongly you feel about this. Together, we can make a real difference in the lives of millions of women.

"Thanks for standing with us."
Alysia Melnick
Public Policy Counsel
Maine Civil Liberties Union

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

World AIDS Day Commemorated Internationally, Education Needed in Wisconsin

Today is World AIDS Day and in Wisconsin, as is the case across the globe, more work needs to be done to address not just the need for greater medical advances to treat and cure the disease, but also to work through litigation, advocacy and education to stop the stigma that people with HIV and AIDS live with every day. The World Health Organization founded the commemorative day in 1988, but two years earlier, the ACLU’s national AIDS Project was started to fight discrimination against people in employment, housing and public access to accommodations.
The ACLU of Wisconsin has worked with the national ACLU’s AIDS Project on discrimination issues in our own state. But one bill in front of the Wisconsin legislature could make a difference in education about and prevention of HIV at a root level.

The Healthy Youth Act would raise the state standards on how public school students are taught about reproduction, contraceptives and protection against sexually transmitted infections. The bill would be a great step forward in educating young people about how important it is to make healthy choices about sex and why knowing your HIV status through testing is at the core of preventing the further spread of the virus.

For more information on the Healthy Youth Act, check out or recent blog post on the issue. Or view a video posted today of an interview with ACLU attorney and advocate Rose Saxe on the advances the ACLU is making on behalf of HIV positive people across the country.