Boyceville school board learns of website complaint

By Cara L. Dempski

BOYCEVILLE — Kevin Sipple, superintendent of Boyceville schools, reported during the March meeting that the district is working to correct issues with its website after receiving a complaint.

The board learned during the March 20 meeting that someone had filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights in Chicago indicating Boyceville’s website does not meet the needs of people with auditory, physical or visual disabilities.

“We have learned there is a disability rights activist from Michigan who is filing website complaints throughout the nation, and to date has filed over 600 complaints in 35 states,” Sipple’s written report indicated. 

The report also stated the complaint against Boyceville may be one of four complaints in Wisconsin. The Office of Civil Rights could not identify the complainant to Sipple, but he did inform the board the source of the issue was not someone who lives or has family in Boyceville, and likely does not even know where the village is located.

The Chicago office told Sipple the complainant likely ran software on the website to locate errors, and filed a complaint when multiple errors were discovered. So far, Sipple said, the complaints do not seem to follow a pattern for targets, but are rather a “dart thrown at a map” to determine what sites are discovered.

The complaint was presented to the district between late January and early February, and the superintendent indicated the district is the only one in the CESA 11 district he is aware of to have a complaint filed. 

“The way we have to resolve it is to work through the Office of Civil Rights in Chicago and do a corrective action plan, and go through a process of making significant changes to our website,” Sipple explained.

The school district’s website is between six and eight months old, and was created with CESA 6 who has thus far put 75 hours into changing the site and performing reconfiguration. Sipple said this will likely be a long process, as Wisconsin Rapids – who received a similar complaint in April 2016 – is now in its 11th month of trying to correct issues.

Sipple and the district’s attorney will be meeting with the Office of Civil Rights on March 22. He said he filed an insurance claim to make sure the district did not run into any issues regarding the length of the corrective process.

“It’s a little frustrating that we weren’t given much of an opportunity to make corrections, as opposed to automatically getting pulled into this level of bureaucracy,” Sipple said.

Board president Tim Sempf asked for clarification on how the complaint was filed. Sipple explained the Office of Civil Rights believes the complaint came from the activist he mentioned in his written report, and that this person’s goal appears to be to file five complaints per day.

Sipple also said there is speculation the complaints are driven by vendors, who follow up complaints with sales calls.

“It is interesting that 10 days after I had the complaint on my desk, I had been contacted by three vendors who want to come in and sell services,” Sipple said. 

The districts affected so far in Wisconsin are Boyceville, Wisconsin Rapids, Franklin and Richland Center. Sipple said the main issue with resolving the problems is the site developers do not have the programming to make the adjustments to bring sites into compliance. 

Despite spending a significant portion of the meeting hearing about the district website, there were multiple reports from other avenues. Tiffany Creek Elementary principal Nick Kaiser informed the board that the week starting March 20 is “Reading Week” at his building. Students are having dress-up days, “Drop Everything and Read” times, guest readers, and a reading assembly to celebrate.

Middle and High School principal Steven Glocke informed the board he has received seven applications for the special education position opening with current instructor Nancy Anderson’s retirement. The position remains open until March 24, and Glocke hopes to begin interviews shortly after.

Glocke also told the board that senior Maxwell Engel has been selected as a 2017 Herb Kohl Scholarship recipient. Principal  Glocke said Engel is the first student to be selected for the award since he started working as the building administrator.

Bonnie Barker, special education director, informed the board that April is Autism Awareness Month and presented some resources for the board. Barker provided those at the meeting with autism awareness ribbon magnets. 

She also informed those present that the district’s “Pupil Nondiscrimination Self-evaluation Report” had been completed and filed with the DPI.

In other business, the board:

• Approved three students for 2017 youth options through UW-Stout.

• Approved the 2017-2018 CESA shared services contract.

• Approved the resignation of Brian Roemhild as head varsity football coach.

• Approved spending $22,980 to replace five equipment-level controllers on the HVAC system.

• Accepted an anonymous donation of 500 square feet of lumber valued at approximately $500.

The board then adjourned to closed session. Superintendent Sipple later reported no action was taken during the session.