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Headlines for Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Washburn University Under Investigation over Response to Sexual Assault Reports

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Washburn University in Topeka is withholding comment for now about being added to a national list of colleges and universities under federal investigation for their response to complaints about sexual assault. The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights announced additions to the list Wednesday. The colleges are facing inquiries under Title IX, the federal law that prohibits gender discrimination on campus. The agency previously released a list of 55 universities under investigation as part of a broader examination by federal officials. Washburn spokeswoman Amanda Hughes said the university hadn't received notification as of Wednesday about the federal investigation and couldn't comment further about any alleged incidents of sexual assault. Some of the investigations were initiated from complaints made to the Education Department. Others were launched following compliance reviews.


Kansas Teachers Plan Lawsuit Against State

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The largest teachers union in Kansas plans to file a lawsuit after the July Fourth holiday challenging new education polices enacted by the legislature this spring. Those policies include the elimination of guaranteed tenure in public schools. Attorneys for the Kansas National Education Association say they intend to file the lawsuit in Shawnee County District Court. The union plans to contest the tenure issue and other provisions that were attached to a $129 million school funding bill by conservative Republicans and signed by Governor Sam Brownback. The KNEA supported the funding increases in the bill, which were aimed at complying with a Kansas Supreme Court decision. Other policies included loosening teacher licensing requirements and creating of a scholarship program for at-risk students funded by corporate donations in exchange for tax credits.


Kansas Teacher License Changes Take Effect

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas officials say the state is hearing from people interested in new teaching license regulations that would allow some people to teach without having education degrees. The changes that went into taking effect Tuesday are aimed at making it easier for people with professional experience to fill teaching vacancies in math, science, technology and engineering. Officials at the Kansas Department of Education say about 100 people have inquired about the changes but only two have met the criteria, which include a degree in a related academic field and at least five years of professional experience. The state's teachers union, contends loosening the requirement for a teaching license weaken the teaching profession and will hurt the quality of education.


Brownback Names Final Member of Kansas School Efficiency Group

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has appointed an educator to the last open spot on a new Kansas commission that will examine ways to make public schools more efficient. But a spokesman for the state's biggest teachers' union says earlier appointments by a legislative leader show that the panel will have an anti-public schools agenda. Brownback on Wednesday named Hoisington High School principal Meg Wilson to the Student Performance and Efficiency Commission. He previously appointed superintendents Bev Mortimer of Concordia and Jim Hinson of Johnson County's Shawnee Mission district. But House Speaker Ray Merrick's two appointments have received the most attention. Those appointees are Dave Trabert, president of the conservative Kansas Policy Institute, and Kansas Chamber of Commerce CEO Mike O'Neal. Both have questioned the need for large increases in education funding.


Kansas City-St.Joseph Diocese Fined $1.1M

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An arbitrator says the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese must pay a $1.1 million fine because it violated a settlement of an earlier lawsuit involving sexual abuse by priests. The $10 million settlement reached in 2008 included 19 requirements for the diocese, such as immediately reporting any abuse and establishing victims' advocacy programs. Three years ago, a lawsuit accused the diocese of violating the settlement by failing to report suspected abuse and withholding evidence of possible child pornography for months. The diocese is seeking to have the ruling vacated.


Topeka Police Say Wounded Man Was Protecting Woman

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police say a man who was shot at a gas station was protecting a woman who had been kidnapped by an ex-boyfriend. Thirty-five-year-old Bryon Snyder was one of three men who hid the woman Monday inside a BP gas station when a gunman opened fire. The other two men and the woman weren't shot. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Snyder was in serious condition Tuesday. Police say Daniel Lynn Cregut fled and prompted a four-hour standoff at a Topeka house before surrendering. He is jailed on $1 million bond. Prosecutors say the woman found Cregut in her home Monday when she returned from work. She persuaded him to take her for cigarettes and escaped into the gas station. Snyder was holding the front door when he was shot.


Judge Allows E-Mail Evidence in Wichita Case 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has rejected claims that AOL and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were acting as agents for the government when they searched a Kansas man's emails for child pornography. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren refused Tuesday to suppress as evidence the email and attachments that Walter Ackerman claimed were obtained through an illegal search. The judge also declined to throw out statements the 56-year-old Lebanon man made when agents questioned him. Ackerman is charged with distribution and possession of child pornography. AOL uses a process to systematically identify child pornography sent through its services. The company maintains a database of digital fingerprints known as "hash values" associated with child pornography. It sends any matches to the center, which in turn notifies law enforcement.


Homes Evacuated After KC Gas Line Ruptured

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A dozen homes in northern Kansas City are evacuated as a precaution after a construction crew hit and ruptured a 2-inch gas line. KMBC-TV reports that firefighters were called to the scene around 12:20 pm on Wednesday after the gas line was broken. A two-block radius around the rupture was evacuated and the leak was capped a short time after the line was struck. Missouri Gas Energy says repairs on the broken line should be finished by this (WED) evening.


Driver of Stolen Pickup Truck Killed During Chase

PLATTE CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 35-year-old man is dead and a second person is critically injured after a police chase ended with the suspect driving the wrong way on Interstate 29 and slamming head-on into another vehicle. The Platte County Sheriff's Office says the suspect, who was killed in the collision, stole a pickup truck from a Platte County residence before leading authorities on a 45-minute, high-speed chase north of Kansas City. The chase started near Kansas City International Airport and went east on Missouri 152 toward Liberty before returning to Platte County. The suspect crossed over into the southbound lanes of I-29 and struck a Chevrolet Suburban, whose driver was taken to a hospital in critical condition. The suspect, who had an outstanding warrant for robbery, died at the scene.


Storm-Damaged Kansas Marina Reopens

EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — A southern Kansas marina heavily damaged by a wind storm last year is back open for business in time for the Fourth of July weekend. Shady Creek Marina is located at El Dorado State Park. The storm last August largely spared the park but caused extensive damage to the marina's walkway and floating office. KAKE-TV reports that the repairs cost nearly $500,000. Manager Cindy Haled says the work included fixing the docks and stabilizing them with cables to reduce the chance that they'll break away in violent weather. Last year's storm also damaged several boats and caused a fuel spill when lines running from the shore to pumps at the marina broke.


Driver Dies After Crashing into Paint Crew Truck

WELLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Turnpike Authority says a 25-year-old driver has died after her vehicle collided with a paint-striping crew truck near Wellington. The crash happened shortly before noon Wednesday on the turnpike about 21 miles north of the Oklahoma line. The victim was later identified as Urmila Sharma, of Kansas City, Kansas. Turnpike Authority spokeswoman Rachel Bell told The Wichita Eagle that  Sharma was northbound in the inside lane when she passed one of several crew trucks trailing a paint striper. Sharma merged her vehicle back into the inside lane and struck a second truck in the slow-moving caravan. Bell says a team of six trucks follows a vehicle painting stripes on the turnpike, with the paint truck usually going about 4 mph and the six trucks following at quarter-mile intervals.


Garden City Man Pleads Guilty in Woman's Death

COLBY, Kan. (AP) — A Garden City man has pleaded guilty to first-degree premeditated murder in the stabbing death of a Colby woman. The Kansas attorney general's office announced that 25-year-old William Andrew Shank also pleaded guilty Wednesday to aggravated arson and aggravated burglary in the February 2013 death of 27-year-old Teri Morris in Colby. He will be sentenced September 10. Firefighters found Morris gravely wounded when they arrived at her home. A coroner said Morris, an emergency medical technician, had been stabbed more than 25 times. Prosecutors say Shank and Morris were contesting custody of their infant daughter. The girl was found safe with Shank when he was arrested in Phillips County.


Missouri Revenues Short of Projections

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri state officials are expected to release the final revenue figures today (WED) for the 2014 fiscal year that ended on Monday. Heading into the last couple of weeks of the budget year, Missouri's revenues were lagging slightly behind the previous year. But they were well short of the growth projections upon which the budget was based. The shortfall was due primarily to a decline in individual income tax collections. Gov. Jay Nixon already has vetoed and frozen spending for 2015 budget year that started Tuesday. Those budget actions were due largely to the worse-than-expected state tax revenues.


SE Kansas Tech Education Center Gets $1 Million Gift

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — The Bicknell Foundation has given $1 million to a group seeking to build a centralized technical education center in southeast Kansas. Pittsburg superintendent Destry Brown says the proposed center will house several technical education courses currently offered to high school students and adults by Fort Scott Community College in cooperation with the five school districts in Crawford County. He says the gift, which was announced this week, also will allow the current programs to expand. The Joplin Globe reports  the $1 million will help to buy a building and 18 acres, as well as expanding the building to accommodate all of the programs and provide more parking. A timeline for development will be set after backers of the project raise another $300,000.


Experts: Bald Eagles Thriving in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wildlife experts say bald eagles are thriving in Kansas this year, and they expect the trend to continue. District wildlife biologist Charlie Cope says there are between 84 and 90 actives eagle nests in the Kansas this year. The Wichita Eagle reports one closely watched pair lives at Harbor Isle, an upscale housing area in Wichita. For the fifth year in a row the eagles failed to produce offspring this year. Observers said they saw one of the eagles in an "incubating position" once but no egg hatched. A storm on June 12 blew their nest out of the tree. The pair was first spotted in the Wichita area in 2009. Naturalist Bob Gress says it's unclear why the birds have been unsuccessful in mating.


Kansas Preserve Could House Yellowstone Bison

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Bison from Yellowstone National Park could someday be living in Kansas. The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Chase County was one of 20 possible sites included in a Department of Interior report discussing a future home for the Yellowstone bison. The Wichita Eagle reports the preserve near Strong City currently has 27 bison and plans to add another 20 this fall. Superintendent Wendy Lauritzen said Monday that the preserve hopes to have 60 bison in 1½ years. Lauritzen says bison from Yellowstone could be brought to Kansas only after all state laws had been reviewed. Monday's report was intended only to discuss other options for the bison from Montana. Park service officials say it could be five years to a decade before more animals were relocated.


International Teachers Join Kansas Schools

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Nine international teachers will be in Kansas classrooms this fall to give students exposure to other cultures and languages. The state Department of Education began the Visiting International Teacher program in 2001. The program allows certified teachers from Spain and China to spend up to three years teaching in Kansas public schools. They typically provide instruction in Spanish and Chinese, and in English to students who are learning it as a second language. They are also permitted to teach art, math and science in elementary grades. All teachers are screened and sponsored by the state Education Department. The agency provides assistance to the visiting educators and to the school districts where they will teach, including any cultural adjustments to the U.S.


Teachers from Philippines in Legal Limbo in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Six teachers from the Philippines who work in Topeka are waiting for a decision on their residency permits. The Topeka school district began recruiting teachers overseas in 2005, focusing on math, science and special education. The district currently has 30 teachers from abroad. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the U.S. Department of Labor last summer blocked the district's applications for permanent residency for six teachers. The department said the district had not proven there was a shortage of qualified teachers in the U.S. The district has appealed that ruling, arguing that their positions are still difficult to fill. It also has submitted applications on behalf of another 13 international teachers, and eight have been approved. Those teachers have more steps before they are allowed to stay in the U.S. permanently.


Kansas Teen Recovering from Scorpion Sting

HAYSVILLE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas teenager is recovering at home after spending three days in intensive care recovering from a scorpion sting. Fifteen-year-old Parker Hartley of Haysville was bitten Friday after he played Frisbee Golf at a park in Haysville, while he was barefoot. He put on his shoes after the game and felt a sharp sting and instant pain. KAKE-TV reports Hartley's parents at first thought he had been stung by a bee or wasp. But within 24 hours, his foot had swollen and Hartley said the pain was unbearable. A nurse at Wesley's emergency room recognized the sting and he was hospitalized. Experts say scorpions hide in dark places, so check your shoes if they've been outside, or in sheds.


Northeast Kansas Teen Sentenced for Sex Offenses

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) -- A northeast Kansas teenager will spend more than five years in an adult prison for a pair of sex offenses. KAIR Radio reports that 16-year-old Zaheer Cluke, of Atchison, will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life after finishing the prison term ordered by a judge this week. Cluke was 15 when he was arrested last August for attacking a 13-year-old girl in an Atchison park. He was certified to stand trial as an adult and pleaded guilty in December to aggravated indecent liberties with a child. The sentence also includes six months for lewd and lascivious conduct. That charge stemmed from a December incident in which Cluke exposed himself to a female jail employee.


Woman Charged with Nearly $3 Million Embezzlement

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City woman is charged with embezzling nearly $3 million from a bank and a company that had to close after declaring bankruptcy. A federal grand jury indicted 52-year-old Irene Marie Brooner on Tuesday on several counts of wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering. She made her initial court appearance Tuesday. Prosecutors say Brooner embezzled close to $2 million while working for Galvmet, a sheet metal fabrication and steel service company that closed earlier this year. She also allegedly embezzled $1.1 million from a bank. The fraud allegedly occurred for a decade. Prosecutors say Brooner used the money for personal expenses and lavish living, including remodeling and stocking a basement bar in her home, travel, jewelry and spa visits.


Bartlett Grain to Build Elevator Near Great Bend

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Bartlett Grain says it plans to build a grain elevator near Great Bend that will employ more than 10 people year round. The company, based in Kansas City, Missouri, says construction will start this month off U.S. 56 east of Great Bend. The site is on the Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad. The Wichita Eagle reports that the elevator is designed to hold nearly 3 million bushels and load 110 car shuttle trains. It is scheduled to be opened for the 2015 wheat harvest. This will be the company's 10th elevator in Kansas.



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