Janesville mothers present anti-bullying petition to city counci - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Janesville mothers present anti-bullying petition to city council

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JANESVILLE (WKOW) -- Weeks after 12-year-old Elizabeth Jacobson took her life, hundreds of Janesville parents are calling for action, taking their demands to the City Council.

Leading the charge are Bre Martinson and Katie Jones who drafted a petition calling for an anti-bullying city ordinance so no one ever again feels the pain, Rebecka Coughlin felt when she found her daughter's body in their backyard.

"Your policy isn't working," Coughlin said at the council Monday evening. "It didn't work when I was in school because I tried to kill myself when I was 17 because the bullying that happened to me at Craig."

She said her daughter suffered from the same pain. In front of the council, Coughlin described the pain Elizabeth felt after her father died in 2016 and the ways kids used that pain to hurt her even more.

"The kids made her feel like she wasn't welcome anymore and they tortured her," she said.

All the while, Coughlin said she didn't hear anything from her daughter's school.

"She should be standing here with me, fighting against this bullying, instead of being in ashes around my neck," Coughlin said. "I don't want any other kids to feel the way my baby did, hopeless, like that was her only way out."

Coughlin's was far from the only voice speaking out against this issue. At least half a dozen mothers came forward including Kirstin Buchanan. She said her son was bullied in elementary school for his speech and it got so bad he was nonverbal for years afterward.

"As parents, we should not have to feel helpless," Buchanan said. "That shouldn't be something, that should not be an emotion we feel in regards to the schools that teach our children."

As of Monday evening when they presented it to the council, the petition had more than 720 signatures all in favor of the anti-bullying ordinance modeled after similar measures in Monona and Shawano. 

Under those ordinances, the police department issues a warning to the bully's parents after the first reported incident of bullying. After another, parents get a fine.

City Councilman Jens Jorgensen said he's been working to make this a reality in Janesville.

"This isn't the end-all be-all but it's one more tool in their toolbox," he said.

Jorgensen said he's been in touch with the city of Shawano to understand their ordinance and is drafting a similar version alongside councilman Jim Farrell.

According to Monona police, in the five years since their ordinance has taken effect, they've given out several warnings but no fines. Jorgensen said he heard a similar story from Shawano.

"I think as a city councilman, that's my duty to the people I represent, to give law enforcement, to give city staff one more tool in their toolbox to keep our kids safe and make them feel okay with going to school," he said.

That's a change Coughlin said can't come soon enough.

"She might not be the first, but we're hoping she's the last and if this is where it starts, this where we have to do it," she said.

Jorgensen said the draft ordinance is in its early stages but he hopes to bring it forward to the council next month.

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