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Headlines for Wednesday, September 14, 2022



Kansas Board of Regents Approves Emporia State Restructuring Proposal 

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS/Kansas Reflector) – The Kansas Board of Regents unanimously approved Emporia State University’s proposal to eliminate some majors and cut its workforce by about 7%. Emporia State President Ken Hush says student enrollment hasn’t kept pace with expenses, but the university doesn’t want to raise tuition. The answer, he says, is a massive overhaul. Officials didn’t say which majors could be cut. Affected employees will be allowed to work through May and will get a three-month severance. ( Read more.)


Kansas Office Monitoring Foster Care System Overwhelmed with Cases

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The state office monitoring the Kansas foster care system has 69 open cases and has closed seven. The Kansas News Service reports that caseload is divided up among five people. Child advocate Kerrie Lonard says her team has had a hectic start. One completed case so far found inaccurate court documents and caseworkers failing to check up on kids. “These first couple of months, it does not feel sustainable," she said.  "But part of that is that because we are new, we're figuring out some of those barriers in our processes.” The office does not have the authority to overturn court cases, to interfere with those proceedings or change decisions. But Lonard says her office is being listened to by the agencies and private firms that run the state’s foster care system. ( Read more.)


Lenexa Police Standoff over Vehicle Theft Ends with Suspect Dead

LENEXA, Kan. (KMBC) — A suspected car thief is dead following a standoff with police in Lenexa. Police surrounded a vehicle believed to be stolen Tuesday morning. KMBC reports that officers were first called to investigate a suspicious vehicle in a business parking lot around 7:45 am. When officers arrived, they quickly determined the vehicle was, in fact, stolen, and a suspect was still inside. Police say the suspect showed a gun to officers. Negotiators were called to the scene, but by 10:30 am, negotiations ended and the suspect was found deceased.


KCK Police Investigate Shooting of Three Teenagers

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department is investigating after three teenagers were shot Wednesday afternoon. According to WDAF TV, the incident was reported at North 61st Street and Farrow Avenue, just north of Leavenworth Road. The three shooting victims have been identified as students at Washington High School. Police say all the injuries are non-life threatening. This latest shooting in KCK comes on the heels of another shooting Tuesday afternoon in which two teens were seriously injured. No suspects have been arrested.


Wichita Decriminalizes Marijuana Possession, Fentanyl Strips

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita City Council has voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana and fentanyl test strips. The vote on Tuesday means possession of marijuana cases or fentanyl test strips would no longer be filed in Wichita municipal courts. It would be up to the Sedgwick County District Attorney's office to file charges in those cases. The move would eliminate between 750 and 850 marijuana possession prosecutions in the city's courts. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett took no position before the vote but said his office does not have the resources to handle that many more cases. Marijuana remains illegal in Kansas and at the federal level.


Double-Ejection Crash After KCK Police Chase Ends in Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KCTV) - A police chase that began in Kansas City, Kansas, early Tuesday morning ended with a serious crash along the interstate in Kansas City, Missouri.  KCTV reports that the chase began in KCK before crossing the state line and ending in a rollover crash near Interstate 70 and Prospect Avenue around 3:30 am.  Both suspects in the chased vehicle were ejected during the wreck and transported to a local hospital. The incident began in the Westlake neighborhood of KCK, where the suspects were allegedly breaking into vehicles. One of the vehicles’ owners confronted the suspects and started chasing them, according to the KCK Police Department. At one point, the suspects turned the tables on the car owner, getting behind the man's car and shooting at him. KCK officers intervened and the police pursuit began. The chase extended into Kansas City, Missouri, where the vehicle rolled over and the suspects were ejected. No word yet on the severity of their injuries.


Pedestrian Hit and Killed by Dump Truck at Kansas City Shopping Center

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KMBC) — Kansas City police say a pedestrian was struck and killed by a dump truck in the early afternoon on Tuesday. KMBC TV reports that the incident occurred at the popular Zona Rosa shopping area. Police confirmed that the collision occurred in the center of the outdoor shopping outlet. Accident investigators say the pedestrian was attempting to cross the road as a Kenworth dump truck was turning left. Police say the driver of the dump truck did not see the pedestrian, but said he felt a bump. He got out of his truck and saw the pedestrian under his vehicle. The pedestrian died at the scene.


Woman Charged in Fatal Hit-and-Run that Killed Father of 10

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - A 27-year-old Wisconsin woman has been charged in the hit-and-run death of a Missouri middle school teacher. Missouri prosecutors say Kyrie Fields, of Oregon, Wisconsin, was charged with felony leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death and other crimes.  KCTV reports that Charles Criniere was struck and killed while riding his bike the morning of August 27. The husband and father of 10 children was a teacher at Martin City Middle School. Police believe the car that hit Criniere was set on fire the day after the fatal crash. Fields, the owner of the car, was arrested September 12. While being interviewed, she told police she was texting a friend, high on Percocet and had taken her eyes off the road when she struck Criniere.


KU Plans to Use $9 Million Grant to Help Student Mental Health in Southeast Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KNS/KCUR) - The University of Kansas Medical Center plans to use a $9 million grant to address student behavioral health needs in Southeast Kansas. The money comes from a federal grant that will be used to fund a multi-agency project focusing on 11 Kansas counties at high risk for poverty, violence, trauma, substance abuse and mental health concerns. As part of the five-year project, government agencies, health care providers, schools and advocacy organizations will collaborate to improve K-12 students’ mental health. Project leaders say many of these rural school communities have long-standing behavioral health needs which have been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. ( Read more.)


EPA Conducting Free Lead Testing at Superfund Site in Southeast Kansas

LENEXA, Kan. (KPR) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says it will offer free residential lead testing, as part of a new assessment of a Cherokee County Superfund Site in southeast Kansas. Residents located within the area may sign up to have residential yards, private drinking water wells, agricultural land, and other areas (such as parks, playgrounds, streams, and mine wastes) tested for heavy metals associated with historic mining, such as lead, zinc and cadmium. Lead is the primary concern. The site in Cherokee County covers approximately 115 square miles and includes the Kansas portion of the former Tri-State Mining District (TSMD), a 2,500-square-mile area in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. At one time, the TSMD was one of the world’s largest producers of lead and zinc.

( Read more.)

To obtain no-cost lead testing, residents must fill out a permission form by contacting the EPA at (800) 223-0425 or by emailing the EPA at R7-TSMD@epa.gov.


Black Hills Energy Announces Commitment to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

UNDATED (LJW) – Black Hills Energy committed Wednesday to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a shorter timeline than originally expected. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Black Hills Energy plans to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in its natural gas utility operations by 2035. The announcement was made as part of the company's annual sustainability report. Previously, the company had committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2035. Company officials said they intend to significantly increase efforts to prevent natural gas lines from leaking and to prevent lines and other infrastructure from becoming damaged, which may cause leaks and methane releases. Methane is considered a major cause of global warming. The program includes plans to replace all unprotected steel pipe in the Black Hills system with either plastic or protected steel lines. The company also plans to expand its efforts to capture and reuse methane. Black Hills operates natural gas systems in many areas in Kansas, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming.


Corrections Officer Arrested for Trafficking Contraband, Having Relationship with Inmate

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – A corrections officer in Shawnee County has been arrested and jailed. WIBW reports it was discovered that the officer entered into an unlawful sexual relationship with one of her inmates. The Shawnee Co. Sheriff’s Office said Saterah R. Hampton, 23, of Topeka, was arrested by its Criminal Investigations Division. Hampton, a local corrections officer, was booked into the Shawnee County Department of Corrections for unlawful sexual relations with an adult male inmate and trafficking contraband into a correctional facility. The case remains under investigation. As of this (WED) morning, Hampton remained behind bars on a $75,000 bond.


Kansas Proposal Would Create Drop Boxes for Unwanted Babies

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A renewed push is underway in Kansas to change state law to allow drop boxes for unwanted babies.  They are simply called baby boxes. Proponents describe them as high tech drop boxes people might see their local library. They are temperature controlled and have alarms that immediately let emergency services know someone just dropped off a child. Kansas state law currently allows people to drop off their infants at fire stations or hospitals. But they have to hand the baby to someone. Lawmakers are interested in changing state law to allow babies to be dropped off in these baby boxes. Angie Malik is one of those pushing for the change. “Communities need safe haven baby boxes because it provides the opportunity to proactively save the lives of children," she said.  A bill was introduced last session to allow for creation of these drop boxes, but it died in committee. The proposal could resurface in the next session.


Some Kansas Education Officials Seek Change in High School Graduation Requirements

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) - Some high-ranking Kansas education officials want to shift high school graduation requirements to focus more on what will make students better future employees. A task force reviewing graduation requirements says employability and life skills should count more heavily toward a diploma than some more traditional subjects. The plan would also add financial literacy and reduce the number of required arts classes. Melanie Haas is a member of the state board of education. She wants to know more before she decides whether to support the idea. “How many art teachers are we going to lose if we cut back to a half-credit? How many districts are no longer going to offer art? Is it going to go online? What does that look like?," she said. The task force says schools should count other types of learning toward graduation, like apprenticeships or college prep test scores. The state board could vote on the plan later this year.


Potential Railroad Worker Strike Affects Amtrak's Southwest Chief

KANSAS, MISSOURI (KNS) - A potential nationwide railroad worker strike is already disrupting passenger service through Kansas and Missouri. Amtrak canceled Tuesday's usual route through the states on the Southwest Chief. Amtrak has canceled its Southwest Chief route that travels between Chicago and Los Angeles. That’s because the company is concerned about a looming strike over freight rail employee pay and working conditions that could begin later this week. Amtrak uses freight companies’ tracks to cross this region and wouldn’t be able to run its trains if those companies’ workers — such as dispatchers — go on strike. So, Amtrak is choosing to cancel this and two other long-distance routes to avoid getting its trains and passengers stranded mid-trip. And this could be a preview of broader disruptions. If a strike happens, it’s unclear how long it might last.


Bonner Springs Man Guilty of Child Sexual Exploitation

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KPR) – A Kansas man pleaded guilty to engaging in sexual acts with a child and taking nude pictures and videos of the child.  Federal prosecutors say 35-year-old Joshua Courtney, of Bonner Springs,  pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual exploitation of a child and four counts of possession of child pornography. Investigators received cybertips from Google, Snapchat and Dropbox about child sexual abuse material within accounts identified as belonging to Courtney.  Agents found dozens of pornographic images in Courtney’s Google photos, including some of which were later identified to be of a 10-year-old child. Courtney admitted to investigators he took nude photos of the child, filmed himself while engaged in sexual acts with the child and sent these materials to others. He also admitted receiving child pornography of other children on his cell phone. Courtney faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison for each count of child exploitation and up to 20 years in prison for each count of possession of child pornography. His sentencing is scheduled for December 1. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Secret Service have been investigating the case.


KU Moves Up Two Spots in Rankings by U.S. News & World Report

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - The University of Kansas has moved up two spots in the most recent university rankings from U.S. News & World Report. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that KU finished No. 56 among all public schools ranked by the media company. That's up from No. 58 in last year’s report. Among all universities, both public and private, KU moved up one spot.  KU continues to be the top-ranked university in Kansas, according to the magazine's rankings.  However, those rankings are not universally viewed as a good measure of a school’s overall quality.

In a press release this week, KU highlighted some other information from this year’s rankings:

• KU’s School of Nursing ranked No. 22 among public schools and No. 29 among all universities.
• KU’s School of Business ranked No. 42 among public business schools.
• KU’s School of Engineering ranked No. 51 among public engineering schools.
• KU ranked No. 22 among public schools in the “best value” category.
• KU ranked No. 53 among public schools in the category of Best Colleges for Veterans.


NextEra Still Looking into Viability of Wind Farm Project in Southwest Douglas County

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - NextEra Energy, a Florida-based energy company, has confirmed to the Lawrence Journal-World that it is still considering whether to build a wind farm in southwest Douglas County and part of Franklin County. Sara Cassidy, a spokesperson for NextEra, says her company is still assessing existing transmission infrastructure, gauging interest among landowners and county officials and conducting environmental surveys. Some area landowners are opposed to the project while others have already signed on to the idea. ( Read more.)


Group Raises Questions About Donations to Kansas GOP Candidate for Governor

UNDATED (KNS/Kansas Reflector) - A national advocacy group is raising concerns about some of the campaign donations collected by Kansas GOP gubernatorial candidate Derek Schmidt. Schmidt is currently the Kansas attorney general, and he’s received campaign donations from law firms that won contracts from his office. That’s according to a Kansas Reflector report that describes the criticism from End Citizens United, an advocacy group opposed to the influence of money in politics. The group says Schmidt has received more than $46,000 from 20 law firms that his office awarded state contracts to, and that looks like a conflict of interest. A spokesman for Schmidt’s campaign says the office used an open bidding process, and points out that Schmidt’s opponent, Democratic Governor Laura Kelly, also received money from those same law firms. The Reflector reports Kelly got roughly half of the money Schmidt received.


Kansas DCF Produces Child Sex Abuse Reports from Abortion Clinics - 12 Years After Mandate

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) - A dozen years after lawmakers mandated the Kansas Department for Children and Families to produce annual statistics on child sex abuse reports from abortion providers, legislators will finally see what the data reveal. Kansas law since 2011 has required the state child welfare agency to publish a public report on the number of reports of child sex abuse reported by abortion providers. But DCF and the predecessor agency, the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, never produced the legally required annual reports until the Topeka Capital-Journal filed a pair of open records requests this summer.  DCF has since published the required reports online.

The reports show 183 reports of child sexual abuse filed by abortion providers in the past 12 years. But the past three years showed a trend of rising child sex abuse reports, which went unreported to the lawmakers who were supposed to receive the annual report. In the past fiscal year alone, DCF received 56 reports of child sex abuse from abortion providers. A subsequent records request for reports dating back to 2011, when the law was passed, revealed that no reports were ever created under any of the past three governors. ( Read more.)


KU and WSU Seeking Approval for $300 Million Medical Complex in Downtown Wichita

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - The University of Kansas and Wichita State University are hoping to build a large medical school complex in downtown Wichita for about $302 million. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the two universities will seek approval for the project from the Kansas Board of Regents this week. The new Health Science Education Center would be jointly operated by the KU Medical Center and Wichita State.  KU Chancellor Doug Girod previously said the project would essentially be a replacement for KU’s School of Medicine in Wichita. But rather than building a new standalone facility, KU is looking to partner with Wichita State, which does not have a medical school but does provide a host of health care education. The two universities propose to split the costs for the new facility based upon how much space each university will occupy in the complex. KU has operated a medical school campus in Wichita since the early 1970s. The Wichita campus generally has about 200 students enrolled, compared to more than 3,000 students enrolled at the KU Medical School’s main campus in Kansas City, Kansas. ( Read more.)


Chiefs' Mahomes Still Thrives on Proving Naysayers Wrong

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — It’s sometimes hard to believe that Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, for all that he’s accomplished during his young but brilliant NFL career, would carry such a considerable chip on his shoulder. But he thrives on proving people wrong, and that was evident again in Arizona. Despite losing game-breaking Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins, Mahomes threw for 360 yards and five touchdowns without an interception in a near-flawless performance. And he'll carry that momentum into Thursday night's showdown against the AFC West-rival Los Angeles Chargers.


KC Chiefs' Andy Reid Critical of Arizona Turf After 2 Injuries

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid criticized the field inside State Farm Stadium on Tuesday after two Kansas City players slipped on the turf and sustained injuries during their 44-21 win over the Arizona Cardinals last week. Harrison Butker’s plant foot slipped awkwardly during a kickoff early in the game, forcing the Chiefs to use safety Justin Reid for most of their kickoffs and extra points the rest of the way. First-round pick Trent McDuffie hurt his hamstring when the young cornerback’s feet slipped during an otherwise impressive debut. The Chiefs have a short turnaround before facing the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday night at Arrowhead Stadium, meaning it's unlikely that either will be available.


Big 12's Underappreciated Teams Stealing Spotlight Early in Season

UNDATED (AP) – What were supposed to be the Big 12 also-rans took some of the spotlight from favorites such as Oklahoma and Oklahoma State over the weekend. Kansas improved to 2-0 with its overtime victory over West Virginia. Iowa State did the same with a road win over rival Iowa. Kansas State blew out former Big 12 foe Missouri in the first meeting with the Tigers in more than a decade. Texas Tech used double overtime to rally past then-No. 25 Houston. That's some pretty salty stuff from a quartet of schools that were not expected to make much noise this season.


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.