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Headlines for Thursday, June 10, 2021

Critical Race Theory Debate Hits Kansas Schools, Universities

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The national debate over a way of teaching racial history, known as "Critical Race Theory," is spilling over into Kansas schools and universities. The topic has been a rallying cry for some conservatives. Education Commissioner Randy Watson told the State Board of Education Wednesday that people have been asking whether K-12 schools are teaching the theory. “But that’s just the topic of the week," he said. "I mean, next week it’ll be something else. Because whoever’s emailing you doesn’t like that topic. That’s what makes this difficult. Because then if you don’t react, where do they go? The Legislature.” Watson says the topic is not part of the state’s curriculum. Critical race theory is the idea that racism is embedded in American culture and policies. A Kansas lawmaker recently asked the Board of Regents to produce a list of university courses that teach it. University leaders say few courses focus on the theory.


Public Memorial for 3 Black Men Lynched by Angry Mob in 1882

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - In 1882, an angry mob of Lawrence residents lynched three Black men, hanging them from a bridge across the Kansas River. This (THUR) evening, a public memorial will be held for those men. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the memorial will be held at 7 pm at Lawrence's Oak Hill Cemetery, where the three men were buried. Tonight's (THUR) memorial service is taking place 139 years to the day after the mob broke into the local jail and lynched the three men.


Judge Asks Kansas Attorney General to Weigh in on State Law Allowing Review of Pandemic Restrictions 

MISSION, Kansas (AP) — A judge has asked the Kansas attorney general to weigh in on “significant constitutional problems” raised by a state law that gives those who object to pandemic restrictions such as mask requirements the right to trigger a 72-hour review. David Hauber, a Johnson County judge, says the law “tips the scales of justice toward the plaintiff.” Hauber was ruling Tuesday in a lawsuit filed by parents Kristin Butler and Scott Bozarth who challenged the Shawnee Mission School District’s mask requirement for students. Hauber says the law provides short deadlines and could “short-circuit other court cases which often have emergent issues, such as domestic violence or business restraining orders.”


Kansas Schools Consider How to Spend More than $1 Billion in Federal Relief Money

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) - More than a billion dollars is heading to Kansas schools. KSNT TV reports that the money comes from multiple federal coronavirus relief programs. On Wednesday, the Kansas State Board of Education approved $25 million for 34 districts. This latest round of money comes from the second of three federal coronavirus relief bills.


Ex-Kansas Governor Colyer Riled by Disclosure of Personal Data

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Former Republican Governor Jeff Colyer says a Kansas county election office isn't doing enough to protect him after it accidentally disclosed his Social Security number to a political research firm. Colyer is running for governor in 2022, with Attorney General Derek Schmidt also seeking the GOP nomination. The Johnson County election office directed the researcher who received documents containing personal information of Colyer and his wife in April to shred them. But an attorney for Colyer told the office that the researcher’s three-word email assurances weren’t enough to confirm that personal information wasn’t passed on. Colyer’s attorneys wanted the county to require a signed affidavit.


Cerner to Eliminate Abuut 500 Jobs from Its Global Workforce

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Cerner says it plans to eliminate about 500 positions across the globe as part of continuing efforts to transform its mission. The healthcare information technology company did not say how many of the cuts will affect Kansas City area workers. The company, based in North Kansas City, said it will remain the largest private employer in the Kansas City region. Cerner employs 26,000 people across the world and about 13,000 at several Kansas City campuses. The company said it plans to hire 2,600 new employees around the world this year. Cerner made two separate job cuts in 2019 and another in June of last year.


Bridge Construction Halted When Debris Chunks Fall on Interstate Highway

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Construction of the 119th Street bridge in Olathe is on hold after drivers reported debris — one described it as “baseball size” — fell onto Interstate 35. The Kansas City Star reported Thursday that dozens of people took to social media to say they saw concrete and other debris falling onto the highway as they passed under bridge that closed June 1 for demolition. City spokesman Cody Kennedy says officials have learned of four reports of minor damage to vehicles, prompting a pause to bridge construction. The city says work over I-35 will not resume until measures are taken “to protect the traveling public.”


Six People Treated After Chemical Spill at Veterinary Clinic

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Six people are recovering after a chemical spill inside a Johnson County veterinary clinic sent them to the hospital. The Kansas City Star reports that a gallon of formaldehyde spilled Wednesday inside the Mission Veterinary Emergency & Specialty clinic. Arriving firefighters learned that while the spill had been cleaned up, several people who had interacted with the chemicals were ill. The Overland Park Fire Department hazmat team was called in, and the building was evacuated. Six people were treated at hospitals and released. Firefighters used fans to ventilate the building, and employees were allowed back in hours later.


KCK Police: 5-Year-Old Boy Hit by Car Dies from Injuries

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - Police in Kansas City, Kansas, say a 5-year-old boy who was hit by a car near a city park over the weekend has died. Police say the crash happened Saturday evening, when the boy wandered away from adults while playing in Kensington Park. The child then ran into State Avenue, a busy thoroughfare, and crossed the westbound lanes before being hit by an eastbound car. The boy was rushed to a hospital in critical condition and died there Wednesday. Police say the driver of the car was traveling within the speed limit, stayed on the scene and has cooperated with the investigation. Police have not released the boy's name.


UPDATED: Kansas National Guard Airmen Involved in Fatal Accident Identified

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified Staff Sgt. Wesley Kubie as the Kansas Air National Guard airman who was killed when a Humvee overturned during a training accident. The Adjutant General's Department says the 30-year-old Salina man was among members of the Salina-based 284th Air Support Operations Squadron who were training Tuesday afternoon at the Smoky Hill Air National Guard Range near Salina. Kubie was evacuated by helicopter and died on the way to a Wichita hospital. The two airmen who were also injured in that single-vehicle rollover accident were identified as 23-year-old Staff Sgt. Jaden Johnson of Salina and 28-year-old Staff Sgt. Cole Frederick of Topeka.

(Earlier reporting...)

Kansas Air National Guard Airman Killed, Two Injured in Crash

SALINA, Kan. (AP) - Authorities say a Kansas Air National Guard airman was killed and two others were injured when their Humvee overturned during a training accident. The Adjutant General's Department says members of the 284th Air Support Operations Squadron were training Tuesday afternoon near Salina. Two of the injured airmen were taken to a Salina hospital where they are being treated. One man who was unresponsive at the scene was evacuated by helicopter and died on the way to a Wichita hospital. The cause of the accident is not known. The name, age and hometown of the man who died have not been released.  


Kansas City Authorities ID Shooting Victims

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Authorities have identified the victims of a string of Kansas City area shootings and are asking the public for help. Three of the victims died in separate shootings in Kansas City, Missouri, within an hour Tuesday afternoon. They were identified as 52-year-old Jose Lugo, 31-year-old Lavance Jones and 15-year-old Terrell Bell. There are rewards of up to $25,000 for information leading to arrests in the three cases. Meanwhile, police in neighboring Kansas City, Kansas, also are investigating after 15-year-old Kaden Bauswell was killed Tuesday in a shooting near an elementary school. Police are urging anyone with information about that shooting to call a tips hotline.  


Kansas COVID-19 Case Count Exceeds 315,000; Death Toll Tops 5,100

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported Wednesday that there have been 315,500 COVID-19 cases in Kansas, including 5,103 virus-related deaths, since the pandemic began. That's an increase of 401 cases and three deaths since Monday.  Another update is expected Friday.


Missouri Officials Urge Vaccinations Before Fourth of July

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to spike in southwestern Missouri, and residents there are being urged to get vaccinated before gathering for Fourth of July activities. Springfield-Greene County Acting Health Director Katie Towns said 142 new cases of the coronavirus were reported Tuesday, and the seven-day average has reached 62, the highest level since February 10. Meanwhile, 76 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized in Greene County. Towns says Memorial Day gatherings were a source of some of the recent spread, and she says there is concern about the pending gatherings for Independence Day. Meanwhile, vaccination rates in southwestern Missouri lag far behind the state and national averages.


Five People Injured When Fire Truck Collides with Car in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Four Kansas City firefighters and the driver of a car have been injured after a fire truck collided with the vehicle while heading to a call. The accident happened early Wednesday afternoon (near the intersection of Northeast 96th Street and North Oak Trafficway). Witnesses say the fire truck struck a Nissan Altima. The driver of the Altima had to be extricated. Authorities say all five of those injured are in stable condition.


Former Wichita Teacher Pleads Guilty to Sex with Student

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita teacher and city council candidate has pleaded guilty to having a sexual relationship with a student. Rodney Wren pleaded guilty Wednesday to one of three counts of unlawful sexual relations. He admitted having sex with an underage girl in 2015 and 2016 while he worked at Wichita Collegiate School. He was fired from the school when he was arrested in February 2020. Wren was a longtime teacher and debate coach at Wichita Collegiate. He ran unsuccessfully for the District 2 Wichita City Council seat in 2019. His attorney said Wren's actions were wrong, but he said Wren was not a pedophile.


Missouri Governor: Pardon of 4-Decade Inmate Not a Priority

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Republican Missouri Governor Mike Parson says addressing the clemency petition for Kevin Strickland isn't a "priority," even though prosecutors say Strickland didn't commit the triple murder that put him behind bars more than four decades ago. Parson has a backlog of about 3,000 clemency requests and says that cases drawing attention don't necessarily jump to the front of the line.  Several state lawmakers have signed a letter seeking a pardon for Strickland, who has maintained his innocence since he was convicted of the 1978 killings in Kansas City. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker has also called for his release.


Keystone XL Pipeline Project Canceled After Biden Had Blocked Permit

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP/KPR) _ The sponsor of the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline says it is pulling the plug on the contentious project after Canadian officials failed to persuade the Biden administration to reverse its cancellation of the company's permit on the day the president took office. Calgary-based TC Energy said Wednesday it would work with government agencies ``to ensure a safe termination of and exit from'' the partially built project. The pipeline would have transported crude from the oil sand fields of western Canada to Steele City, Nebraska, a small town that sits just north of the Kansas-Nebraska border. A portion of the Keystone pipeline...not the XL extension...runs through Kansas, linking Steele City with Cushing, Oklahoma. TransCanada currently has operations in 17 Kansas counties. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt joined a federal lawsuit earlier this year against the Biden administration's decision to revoke the Keystone XL pipeline permit, saying President Biden's "unilateral action" set a precedent creating risk for other permits and projects affecting the state.  


KBOE Approves Computer Science as Graduation Requirement

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Local Kansas school boards can now allow students to take a computer science class instead of a math or science class to meet state graduation requirements. The Kansas State Board of Education voted 8-2 to allow high schoolers to substitute computer science for a required math or science credit. Board members say they need to overhaul Kansas graduation rules to prepare students for future careers. Janet Waugh was one of the members who voted in favor of the change. She says it might be the only chance for many students to try the courses. “Some of these kids going on are unable to take computer science because they have other courses that they need to take and I think that’s why this is important," she said. Two members of the board voted against the move. They worry Kansas already has too few math and science courses in graduation requirements.  


Kansas Public Radio Aims for More Sustaining Members

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - After getting a $216,000 budget cut from the University of Kansas, Kansas Public Radio is hoping to make up the difference by holding a special two-day fund drive later this month. KPR's goal is to increase membership by 300 new or upgrading sustainers. Sustainers are donors who sign up for automatic monthly contributions to the radio station. The recent budget cut from KU is the largest in the 69-year history of the station and represents about 70% of the station's annual funding from the university. The on-air portion of KPR's two-day fund drive begins Thursday, June 24, but fundraising is already underway. KPR supporters have pooled their money to create a $30,000 matching grant when we reach the goal of 300 new or upgrading monthly donors. (Anyone can pledge anytime to KPR on the station's website:


Mormon Sex Therapist's Ouster Stirs Worries of Shame Culture

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A decision by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to kick out a sex therapist who had publicly challenged the faith’s policies on sexuality has triggered concerns from mental health professionals. They fear the move will further embolden a culture of shame that stops church members from seeking help. Natasha Helfer was excommunicated after a hearing at her regional stake in Derby, Kansas, and lost her appeal last month to remain in the faith known widely as the Mormon church. Helfer moved from Kansas to Utah in 2019. The Salt Lake City-based church has cited comments she made in support of removing the stigma around pornography, masturbation and same-sex marriage. It said those remarks contradict church teachings.


World Class Clay Shooters Get a Shot in Southeast Kansas

COLUMBUS, Kan. (KOAM) - Some of the world’s best clay shooters, including an Olympian, are competing in the U.S. Open in the southeast Kansas town of Columbus.  KOAM TV reports that clay shooters from 45 states and four foreign countries are gathered west of Columbus for the competition. Organizers say more than 1,000 of the best shooters in the world are taking part, including more than two dozen world and national champions. The event runs through Sunday.


Symphony in the Flint Hills Returns After Two Year Absence

COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. (KMUW) - The Symphony in the Flint Hills returns Saturday (June 12) after a two-year hiatus. Storms and the pandemic led organizers to cancel the concerts the past two years. But this year, the event is back on track. The symphony's theme this year is the Santa Fe Trail. The concert site this year is located near Council Grove, in Morris County, which was a stop on the trail. Kelly Tastove is the operations manager for the event. She says people are excited as vaccinations rise and the weather forecast remains clear. "It's looking good," she said. "So, I hate to say that out loud too many times, and it's a 'knock on wood moment,' but so far, so good.” The annual event raises awareness and celebrates the culture of the Flint Hills. Concertgoers can enjoy 30-minute presentations about the Santa Fe Trail and check out an art exhibit. People can also purchase a copy of the Field Journal, which features articles about the Santa Fe Trail, including its role in harming Native tribes who lived along it. The Kansas City Symphony will end the evening with a sunset concert. This year's event is sold out.


Chiefs Lose Offensive Lineman Kyle Long to Knee Injury in Voluntary Workout

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The offensive line that the Kansas City Chiefs aggressively overhauled this offseason has taken a hit. Veteran Kyle Long suffered a knee injury during voluntary workouts that could require surgery and keep him out of training camp. The 32-year-old Long came out of a one-year retirement designed largely to get him healthy to sign a one-year contract with the Chiefs, who completely recast their offensive line after it was decimated by injuries and opt-outs last season. But he failed to make it through three weeks of workouts before another injury sidelined him.


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