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Headlines for Thursday, September 1, 2022



Inmate Who Walked Away from Lansing Correctional Facility Back in Custody

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - An inmate who walked away from the minimum security unit at Lansing Correctional Facility is back in custody.  Police in Kansas City, Kansas, apprehended Michael Shane Stroede this (THUR) morning. Stroede had been placed on escape status after he walked away the Lansing facility on August 30. No other details have been released.


Sports Betting Now Legal in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) - Sports betting is now legal in Kansas and sports fans are being swamped with sports book advice. The Kansas News Service reports that experts are urging bettors to have realistic expectations.  Sean Green hosts the Sports Gambling Podcast out of Los Angeles. He says many betting apps are offering sign-up bonuses and other incentives to attract people. He suggests people get familiar with tools that let you set betting limits. And never pay for betting recommendations. "There’s a lot of people out there trying to take advantage, I think, of novices or people who are just, ‘Tell me who to bet on, tell me who to bet on'," he said. Kansas lawmakers legalized sports betting this spring. People will be able to gamble on sports in the state’s casinos and online through casino apps.

(AP version)

Legalized Sports Betting Underway in Kansas with "Soft Launch"

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Sports fans will now be able to legally place their bets in Kansas. The state is holding a "soft launch" of its new legalized gambling today (THUR). Currently, people will be able to place in-person bets at Hollywood Casino in Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane, and on six mobile betting operators. Boot Hill Casino in Dodge City and Kansas Crossing in Pittsburg are offering mobile sports betting, with in-person betting expected to begin soon. Tribal casinos in Kansas are working with state officials on contracts. The soft launch will be followed by an official launch on September 8.


Kansas GOP Governor Candidate Says He Respects Vote on Abortion

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the Republican candidate for governor, says if he is elected he will concentrate on defending current abortion laws in the state. Schmidt said Thursday during a campaign stop in Overland Park that he would respect the wishes of voters who on August 2 overwhelmingly rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have removed abortion rights from the state constitution. Schmidt, who is seeking to oust Democratic Governor Laura Kelly, said in the same campaign appearance that if he becomes governor, he would ask state lawmakers to quickly pass a bill banning transgender athletes from competing in women and girl's sports.


GOP Candidates Soften Tone on Abortion for Midterm Election

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Strict, anti-abortion Republicans running in competitive House, Senate and governor’s races in key battleground states are trying to distance themselves from their past statements and positions. This is in light of reignited enthusiasm among abortion rights supporters since the June U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe. v. Wade. In newspaper op-eds, during interviews and on their campaign websites, Republican challengers who expressed support for banning most or all abortions are downplaying those positions at a time when abortion rights have vaulted into the top tier of midterm campaign concerns and complicated Republicans’ focus on the economy heading into the November midterm elections.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — In a story published Sept. 1, 2022, The Associated Press reported that an Aug. 25 op-ed by Kansas Republican House candidate Amanda Adkins on her opposition to a federal ban on abortion came after months of silence from her following the May 3 leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion signaling Roe v. Wade was in jeopardy. The story should have made clear that Adkins’ spokesperson had been quoted in a July 4 story saying Adkins opposed the ban.


Woman’s Trial for 2 Kansas Deaths Ends with Hung Jury

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A jury in Kansas could not reach a verdict in the case of a woman accused of killing her ex-husband and his girlfriend. After deliberations spread over six days, a Shawnee County jury told a judge on Thursday that it was unable to determine if Dana Chandler shot and killed 47-year-old Mike Sisco and 53-year-old Karen Harkness in Topeka in 2002. Prosecutors argued that Chandler was upset by her divorce from Sisco and his relationship with Harkness. Defense attorneys said law enforcement missed chances to investigate suspects other than Chandler, who always claimed she was in Colorado when the killings occurred. Chandler was convicted in 2012 but the Kansas Supreme Court overturned that conviction in 2018.


Convicted Child-Sex Offender Charged with Attempted Kidnapping in Douglas County

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - A convicted child-sex offender has been charged in Douglas County District Court with attempted kidnapping. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 27-year-old Darian Michael Willis, of Eudora, faces one felony count of attempted kidnapping and one felony count of aggravated intimidation of a witness. According to court documents, the charges stem from an incident on February 25, 2022, when Willis allegedly tried to force a woman into a car and threatened her.

Willis was convicted in 2018 in Douglas County of one felony count of indecent solicitation of a child between the ages of 14 and 16. That charge relates to an incident in 2017, when he reportedly tried to get a child to perform a sex act. Willis pleaded no contest to that charge in 2018 and was sentenced to 20 months in prison; she then suspended the sentence to 24 months of probation. Willis was arrested on the attempted kidnapping charge Tuesday afternoon and was released on bond later that afternoon. He is next scheduled to appear in court September 13.


Reformulated COVID-19 Booster Shots Could be Available in Kansas this Month

UNDATED (KNS) - Kansas health officials say reformulated COVID-19 booster shots could be available by the middle of September. The shots target the original virus as well as Omicron subvariants B-A-4 and B-A-5, which currently account for nearly all new infections in the state.  The new Pfizer booster is authorized for those age 12 and up, and the Moderna booster for those age 18 and up - so long as a person has already received the initial vaccine or booster at least two months prior. There are still questions about what the rollout will look like, and whether those at higher risk of virus complications will be prioritized. Adrienne Byrne is director of the Sedgwick County health department. She says it’s unclear what demand for the new boosters will look like. "A lot of people are just pretty done with COVID," she said.  "It’s been around for a long time. But it still is in our community, there's plenty of people that are ill with COVID." She says staying home if you’re sick and other precautions are still important.


Teacher Suspended for Not Using Student’s Preferred Pronouns Gets $95,000 from Kansas District

MANHATTAN, Kan. (KC Star) - A Kansas school district has agreed to settle a lawsuit after suspending a teacher who had refused to use a student’s preferred name and pronouns due to religious reasons. The Kansas City Star reports that attorneys for Pamela Ricard called the settlement a “victory for free speech at public schools.” The Geary County School District, where Ricard was employed as a math teacher at Fort Riley Middle School, agreed to pay her $95,000 in damages. “We’re pleased to settle this case favorably on behalf of Pam, and we hope that it will encourage school districts across the country to support the constitutionally protected freedom of teachers to teach and communicate honestly with both children and parents,” said Tyson Langhofer, the director of the Alliance Defending Freedom Center for Academic Freedom.  The Geary County School District said it had no comment when reached by McClatchy News on Wednesday.

Ricard received a three-day suspension during the spring 2021 semester when she would only address a particular student “by the student’s legal and enrolled last name” and not his preferred name or the “he/him” pronouns he uses, according to the lawsuit filed in March. The teacher was warned that any additional misgendering or calling any student by a name they do not go by would lead to further disciplinary action.

In order to be “respectful to the student without compromising” her own beliefs, she referred to the student as “Miss (last name),” the lawsuit states. Her attorney stated Ricard regularly uses last names instead of first names “as a more formal way of addressing students or getting students’ attention.” The school district, according to Ricard’s attorneys, also forced the teacher to conceal the student’s social transition to his parents. Ricard was supposed to use the student’s preferred pronouns and preferred name in class, but the student’s legal name with parents.  Ricard asked for a religious exemption for the school’s policy regarding the use of preferred names and pronouns, but the school refused, according to the lawsuit.

The teacher retired in May, and as part of the settlement, the district agreed to issue a statement that she “was in good standing without any disciplinary actions against her,” her attorneys state. Court records show the case was voluntarily dismissed on August 31 following the settlement. “The Geary County School District unsuccessfully tried to convince a federal court that a teacher should completely avoid using a child’s name during a parent teacher conference in order to hide new names and genders being used by the school for a child in a classroom,” ADF attorney Joshua Ney said. “Absurdity and deception has its limits, especially in federal court. I’m glad the case clarifies the financial stakes for school boards if they attempt to force teachers to lie to parents about their students.”

(AP version)

Kansas School District Settles Lawsuit over Student Pronouns, Pays Former Teacher $95,000

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas school district has settled a lawsuit filed by a teacher who was suspended because she refused to use a student's preferred pronouns. Former Fort Riley Middle School math teacher Pamela Ricard sued the Geary County School District in March after she was suspended for three days in the spring of 2021. She said the district refused her request for a religious exemption from its policy on preferred pronouns. She also said she was told not to tell a student's parents about their child's identity preference if that's what the child wanted. Under the settlement announced Wednesday, the district agreed to pay $95,000 to Ricard, who has retired from the district. Ricard is now teaching in Oklahoma.


Western Kansas Grocery Store Seized over Unpaid Taxes

LACROSSE, Kan. (KSNW) — The only grocery store for many miles in Rush County has been seized over unpaid taxes. The Kansas Department of Revenue says the agency, along with the Rush County Sheriff, has seized the Rush County Grocery Store in LaCrosse, along with the assets of owners Henry J Montiel and Jennifer L Montiel. According to the Department of Revenue, the business owners have unpaid sales tax totaling more than $67,000. KSNW TV reports that the seized assets will be sold at auction to cover the delinquent taxes. The Department of Revenue says they work with delinquent taxpayers to enter repayment agreements, and it’s only after those options fail that businesses and assets are seized.


Kansas Health Officials Share Thoughts on Overdose Awareness

UNDATED (KCUR) - Wednesday was International Overdose Awareness Day, and Kansas health professionals have been sharing what people can do to help prevent overdoses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdose deaths in Kansas in 2021 increased by 43% over the previous year. It was also the leading cause of death among adults aged 18 to 44 in Missouri. That’s why University Health mental wellness therapist Brit Buell is hoping to bring awareness to the stigma surrounding drug addiction. “It's not just this moral problem," he said.  "At this point, it's been a medical disease for over 40 years and it's been recognized as such and that's how we treat it.” Buell stressed the importance of having Narcan available to treat suspected opioid overdoses. He said rather than enabling, it helps build a caring bridge to users.


Solar Flares Could Disrupt GPS Systems Used by Kansas Farmers

HAYS, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas farmers battered by drought now have more weather to worry about... in outer space. The Kansas News Service reports that solar flares could disrupt the GPS equipment farmers rely on. GPS powers a lot of the technology that runs Kansas farms these days. More than two-thirds of grain farms use satellite guidance to steer their planters and harvesters in the most precise, efficient way possible. But that tech can be disrupted by space weather — specifically solar flares, which are expected to increase in intensity over the next several years. Terry Griffin, an agricultural economist with Kansas State University, says even just two days of disrupted GPS during a critical time could really add up for Midwestern farmers. “It could be easily a billion dollar loss of efficiency," he said.  Griffin says farmers should prepare by coming up with backup plans to keep their farms going without GPS.


Kansas Plans to Plug Thousands of Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas will plug thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells over the next several years. The Kansas News Service reports that the federal government is spending billions of dollars to deal with abandoned wells that can leak the greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere and pollute groundwater. Kansas gets $25 million to start, but could ultimately get more than double that amount. If so, state officials hope to plug about half of the estimated 11,000 abandoned wells in the state.  Farmers and other landowners continue to find abandoned wells scattered across Kansas. Oil and gas drilling in this region began in the mid-1800s. Often the state doesn’t have any records of where old wells are located.


Kansas Woman Indicted for Coercing Minor to Produce Child Porn

WICHITA, Kan. (KPR) – A federal grand jury in Wichita has returned an indictment charging a Kansas woman with two counts of sexual exploitation of a child. The charges include production, possession and distribution of child pornography. According to court documents, 34-year-old Brandi Snyder, of Americus, is accused of persuading and coercing a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is leading the investigation.


Fire Heavily Damages Fort Scott Catholic Church

FORT SCOTT, Kan. (KSNW) – The state fire marshal is investigating a fire that heavily damaged a Catholic church in southeast Kansas.  KSNW TV reports that the blaze broke out Monday night at Mary Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Fort Scott. Fire crews from Fort Scott and neighboring communities battled the blaze until early Tuesday morning. One Fort Scott Firefighter sustained a minor injury. He was treated and released from the hospital.  The historic church predates the Civil War.


Defense Fund Established for Kansas Men Charged in January 6 Capitol Riot

OLATHE, Kan. (KCUR) - More than 1,000 people have donated about $70,000 to help pay the legal fees of two Kansas Proud Boys charged in the January 6th Capitol riot. The families of Olathe residents William Chrestman and Christopher Kuehne have set a collective goal of $800,000 to pay for legal fees and other expenses. Both men were charged with multiple felonies in connection with their participation in the riot. The families used the Christian crowdfunding site GiveSendGo for their fundraising efforts. Chrestman has been jailed in Washington D.C. since his arrest in February 2021. Kuehne is free on bond.


K-State Offers Free Training Videos to New Teachers

MANHATTAN, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) - Kansas State University is now offering free training videos to the growing number of substitutes and other new teachers. The Kansas News Service reports that teacher shortages mean more substitutes will be leading classrooms this fall. “Teaching 101” is a new series on YouTube produced by K-State's College of Education. In 10 short videos, K-State alumni and some Kansas Teachers of the Year offer advice on topics like managing a classroom and creating lesson plans. The goal is to provide practical tips for people who are leading classrooms but don’t have a degree in education. The videos, which also promote K-State’s online degree programs in education, were produced in response to a statewide teacher shortage.  They are available on the K-State College of Education YouTube channel.


Kansas Governor: Affordable Housing a Top Priority

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) - During a speech in Wichita Tuesday to the annual Kansas Housing Conference, Governor Laura Kelly said affordable housing tops her list of priorities. "This housing shortage is an undeniable barrier to growth for our state," she said. "Only with housing can we attract and retain the workers we need to continue the strong job growth and business investment we've seen over the past few years." Last year, the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation oversaw a statewide housing needs assessment - the first in more than 20 years. It found a shortage of housing for middle-income residents and insufficient investment in preserving and upgrading older housing stock. The legislature passed a bill in May that includes several investments in affordable housing. Among them are state income tax credits for investors in the construction of residential housing.


City of De Soto Prepares for Massive Electric Battery Plant

DE SOTO, Kan. (KNS/KCUR) - City leaders in De Soto say they hope to preserve the community’s small-town feel even as it becomes the home to Panasonic’s new, $4 billion electric battery plant. Kansas officials announced in July that Panasonic chose the community of 6,000 for a factory that will manufacture electric vehicle batteries for Tesla and other car makers. City Administrator Mike Brungardt says that before the plant can be built, the city will need to upgrade up to $60 million worth of local infrastructure. But he also says De Soto is concerned about growing its city staff, available workforce and affordable housing. The factory is receiving a significant amount of state tax incentives. Brundgardt says they expect construction to start sometime in 2024 at the site of the former Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant.


25 Kansas Districts and About 140 in Missouri Have 4-Day School Weeks

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KC Star) - More public school districts in Kansas and Missouri are now holding classes for only four days a week, a number that has increased in recent years. The Kansas City Star reports that the reasons are varied, ranging from budget constraints to a desire to attract and retain teachers. A total of 25 school districts in Kansas are now operating on a four-day week schedule, representing 56 individual public schools. The total enrollment in these schools is around 4,746 students.  Ann Bush, a spokesperson for the Kansas Department of Education, said they don’t have specific data on how long Kansas districts have been using a four-day week. “However," she said, "some have been using a four-day week for as many as 20 years, while others are more recent."  An estimated 141 districts in Missouri now operate on this reduced schedule. 2010 was the first year a Missouri district switched to four-day weeks, and the numbers have increased significantly in the past few years. The number for Missouri is an estimate from researchers at the Missouri State University College of Education.


Haskell Indian Art Market Returns for First Time Since 2019

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - The Haskell Indian Art Market is set to return for the first time since 2019. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the popular market, which sells Native American arts and crafts, is back this year after a pandemic hiatus. The market will take place Saturday and Sunday at the Haskell Pow Wow Grounds. Steff Fernando, the Haskell Indian Art Market coordinator, told the Journal-World that the event helps student organizations earn money. The market plays host to vendors selling jewelry, paintings, pottery, sculptures, beaded items, food and more. The market also traditionally includes powwow-style dance performances on both days, and those performances will return this year. The market is open from 10 am to 6 pm Saturday and from 10 am to 4 pm Sunday. Admission and parking are free.


KU Rewards Leipold with Extension Through 2027 Season

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas added an additional year to football coach Lance Leipold’s contract that will keep him on the sideline through the 2027 season, a reward for a two-win first year that raised hopes for a long-awaited turnaround. Leipold was hired last year, shortly after the Jayhawks parted with Les Miles following a winless season and amid sexual harassment allegations from his time at LSU. And despite never having an opportunity to put together a full recruiting class or working with his team in spring football, Leipold’s progress was evident in a late-season upset of Texas.


K-State Opens Against South Dakota with Big Expectations

UNDATED (AP) – Kansas State University begins a season of high expectations against South Dakota on Saturday before facing Missouri next week in a showdown against an ex-Big 12 rival. South Dakota took the Wildcats to the wire in their last meeting in 2018. Kansas State will lean on Nebraska transfer quarterback Adrian Martinez and returning running back Deuce Vaughn. Vaughn is a preseason All-America all-purpose player who had nearly 2,000 yards total offense last season. The Coyotes have arguably the toughest schedule in the Football Championship Subdivision with four games against preseason top-10 teams following the trip to Manhattan.


Big 12 Looks to Potential Early Extension of Media Rights

IRVING, Texas (AP) — The changing Big 12 Conference plans to have discussions with ESPN and Fox about a potential early extension of its media rights deal. The current deal goes through the 2024-25 academic year. New Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark says with the changing landscape of college athletics, the league welcomes the opportunity to determine if an early extension is in the best interest of all parties. Oklahoma and Texas are set to leave for the Southeastern Conference at the end of the Big 12's current deal. Football independent BYU, along with American Athletic Conference schools Cincinnati, Houston and UCF join the current 10-team Big 12 next summer.


These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre, and Tom Parkinson. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays, 11 am weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members.  Become one today. And follow  KPR News on Twitter.