Toilet papering as part of homecoming OK if homeowner
While toilet papering itself is lawful if it's done with the homeowner's permission, students in the Dells may find themselves walking a fine line between engaging in harmless homecoming revelry and breaking the law.
Wisconsin Dells Police Department school liaison officer Eric Torkelson said there will be "zero tolerance" for individuals, including but not limited to high school students, who violate city ordinances by littering, trespassing, obstructing the roadway and staying out past curfew during this year's homecoming activities that start Monday.
In the past the department has received complaints from residents about their properties being covered by toilet paper. Having their property toilet papered has been unwelcome for some residents. And police will be on the watch out for impermissible behavior that often occurs leading up to toilet papering, Torkelson said.
Actions that could get a person in trouble include crossing a neighbor's lawn in order to get to the house that is the target of toilet papering, having toilet paper in the street, juveniles driving with too many people in the car for the graduated driver's license rules, people driving without headlights on and speeding. Even the wind blowing toilet paper from one property to another can be a problem, Torkelson said.
Putting forks in lawns, spreading shaving cream, turning over trash cans and egging houses fall into the category of criminal damage, he said.
People 17 and under can't be out past curfew, which is 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Torkelson said the exceptions are if someone is going to or from a school function or going to or from work.
Parents can get in trouble for letting their child be out past curfew, too. The citation is $95.10, according to Torkelson.
Torkelson said the Lake Delton Police Department, and the Adams, Columbia, Juneau, Sauk and Marquette counties sheriff's departments know about the Dells homecoming activities schedule and will be enforcing laws, too.
Torkelson and administrators at Wisconsin Dells High School launched a public awareness campaign starting with a letter that went out to parents on Thursday encouraging students to be respectful, an announcement on the school's WDTV and on Sunday will place a reminder phone call on the school's automated calling system asking parents to make sure they've read the letter.
Wisconsin Dells High School Principal Randy Kuhnau wrote the following in the letter: "Although homecomings of the past have been a positive experience for our students and community, one ‘activity' that annually creates negative perceptions about homecoming and our student body revolves around ‘toilet papering.' To clearly set an expectation that students understand, the local law enforcement agencies will enforce a zero tolerance rule as it relates to students involved with toilet papering, trespassing and vandalizing property."
Also in the letter, Kuhnau reminds parents that students must stay at the dance in the high school gym until it ends at 11 p.m. Saturday.
Torkelson said private property owners can mostly do what they want with their property, which is why toilet papering in itself isn't barred, but that the school does not endorse the toilet papering.
Torkelson said if someone reports toilet papering as a complaint to police, "things that an individual could be cited for would be trespassing, littering, and if they cause a disturbance when they're there, it could be disorderly conduct," he said.
Torkelson explained the reason for the zero tolerance approach.
"We're just trying to make it safe for everybody, not just the juveniles involved. The spirit of homecoming, we want it to be positive. We just don't want anybody to get hurt or anybody in the community to be affected by it in a negative way," he said.
Torkelson stated the following amounts for being cited. Some of the violations are handled in Wisconsin Dells Municipal Court, but some are jail offenses, he said. He said criminal damage to property, harassment, disorderly conduct and trespassing could be criminal offenses and involve jail as a consequence.