Kansas Governor Vetoes Ban for Transgender School Athletes
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has vetoed a measure that would have banned transgender athletes from girls’ and women’s school sports. The Democratic governor’s action Thursday thwarted an effort by conservative Republican lawmakers to make Kansas the latest state with a GOP-controlled legislature to enact such a ban, with more than 20 considering it. Kelly’s veto was widely expected because she had labeled the bill “regressive” and suggested it would hurt the state’s ability to recruit businesses. Conservative Republican lawmakers did not have the two-thirds majorities necessary in both chambers to override a veto when they pushed it to passage earlier this month.
Missouri House Votes to Ban Trans Athletes on Girls Teams
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Transgender girls would be banned from playing on girls’ sports teams under a bill advancing in the Missouri House. House lawmakers voted 100-51 on Wednesday to add the proposal to another bill. Republican supporters argued the change is needed to protect girls in sports. They decried the risk of being called bigots, hateful or transphobic for proposing the rule. Democrats at times wept and said the rule change could push transgender children to kill themselves. Missouri’s current public high school sports rules already prohibit transgender girls from competing on girls teams unless they’re undoing hormone therapy.
Kansas Governor Vetoes GOP-Backed Education Measures
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly has vetoed two Republican-backed education bills. One of the measures the Democratic governor vetoed Thursday would have required high school students to pass a civics test to graduate. The other would have allowed districts to incorporate gun safety courses into their curriculums. The Republican-controlled Legislature approved the bills this month, but not by large enough margins for override attempts to succeed. It wasn’t immediately clear if anyone who opposed either bill initially might back one or both bills in an override attempt, or even if attempts would be made. Some Republicans who opposed the bills agreed with state Board of Education members who said the measures would have infringed upon the board’s constitutional authority to set graduation requirements.
Inmate Escapes Kansas Jail, Threatens Officer with 2×4; Still at Large
ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are searching for an aggravated robbery suspect who is accused of threatening an officer with a piece of lumber after escaping from a Kansas jail. The Atchison County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post that 20-year-old Taggart Darnell Lee was able to manipulate a door lock and make his way into an unsecured area of the Atchison County Jail around 1:30 am Thursday after staff failed to follow several security procedures. From there he made his way outside, where an officer chased him for several blocks. The post said Lee, who had been in custody since January, got away after picking up the 2×4 foot piece of lumber and using it to threaten the unarmed officer. The post said the sheriff’s office considers Lee dangerous and that he has a history of being armed.
Mushroom Hunters Find Human Skull Southwest of Salina
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The Saline County Sheriff’s Department says mushroom hunters in a rural, wooded area in central Kansas found a human skull. The Salina Journal reports that the discovery was made by the two men Tuesday evening about 10 miles southwest of Salina. Sheriff’s deputies secured the area, and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation was expected on the scene Wednesday to collect the skull and search for any additional evidence. Sheriff Roger Soldan says there is no information available to identify the skull, but said it appeared to have been sitting undisturbed for a long time.
Kansas Schools Get COVID Stimulus Money
WICHITA, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) — Kansas public schools will get nearly $1.3 billion to address learning losses and other effects of the pandemic. Most of the money will go directly to local school districts. They have to spend it by 2024 and show how the funds will help students make up learning lost during the pandemic. Susan Willis, budget director for Wichita schools, said, “that’s going to be a very big component as we vet through all of these ideas: Can we draw these lines to COVID and our COVID recovery plan?” Districts must seek input from students, teachers and community groups. About $60 million in federal aid is earmarked for special education. Schools can’t use the money to cover part of their existing budgets. State Education Commissioner Randy Watson said, “First the confusion was the pandemic. Now it’s, ‘How will you distribute federal funds and do it appropriately and meet the letter of the law?’’”
Most Kansas Counties Turn Down Vaccine over Past Month
MISSION, Kan. (AP) — About three-quarters of Kansas counties have turned down new shipments of the coronavirus vaccine at least once over the past month as demand slows. State data shows that six counties have rejected allocations for four straight weeks. Only 24 counties, mostly the larger ones such as Shawnee, Johnson and Sedgwick, haven’t turned down any vaccine shipments. The slowdown is coming even though just 37% of the state’s residents have received at least one vaccine dose, state data shows.
COVID Vaccine Increasingly Available Without Appointments
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas counties are increasingly allowing people to walk in to get a coronavirus vaccine without an appointment as interest wanes. In the Lawrence area, mass vaccination clinics, which had been immunizing almost 700 people per hour at their peak, are coming to an end next week. They’ll be replaced next month with five-day-per-week drive-thru clinics that will deliver 200 to 300 vaccinations per day to people without being scheduled in advance. The health department in Johnson County also opened a mass vaccination clinic in Lenexa to walk-ins on Wednesday and Thursday. In the Wichita area, appointments will not be needed starting Monday to get a vaccination at the former downtown library. Wyandotte County also has opened its three clinics to people who don’t have appointments.
Kansas COVID-19 Case Total Nears 307,000, Including 4,961 Deaths, Since Pandemic Began
TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reports there have been 306,883 cases, including 4,961 deaths related to the virus, since the pandemic began. Read more here. Another update is expected today (FRI).
Indiana Prosecutor: Police Justified in Fatal Shooting During Chase; Wichita Resident Killed
MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) — A prosecutor says police were justified in fatally shooting a man during a chase and gun battle in east central Indiana. Delaware County Prosecutor Eric Hoffman said in a report Wednesday that the two officers who shot at 28-year-old Jonathan Levi Allen “unquestionably and without a doubt did so in self-defense and in the defense of others.” Allen, a 28-year-old former Muncie resident who was living in Wichita, died March 10, one week after the March 3 shooting in Muncie. Indiana State Police say Allen was shot in the head by a Muncie officer and crashed his SUV into a parked vehicle.
Missouri House Expels Lawmaker Accused of Abusing His Kids
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri House has expelled a lawmaker accused of sexually and physically abusing his children years ago. On Wednesday, the GOP-led House voted almost unanimously to kick out Republican Rick Roeber. His now-adult children testified to House investigators this year that he sexually abused two of them at the ages of 5 and 9. The committee found records that show his children reported the abuse years ago but that prosecutors didn’t file charges. Roeber didn’t immediately respond to an Associated Press request for comment. He previously told the committee that he didn’t sexually abuse his children.
Kansas Woman Who Fatally Beat Ex’s Dog Gets Probation
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita woman has been sentenced to probation for beating a man’s dog to death with a baseball bat, reportedly in a jealous rage. The Wichita Eagle reports that 32-year-old Hilda Noordhoek was sentenced Wednesday to two years’ probation. Prosecutors say she broke into the man’s home in 2018 by smashing a window, stole a computer and headphones and fatally bludgeoned the man’s bulldog with a bat. A witness told police that Noordhoek killed the pet because she was mad that the man — with whom she was romantically involved — was seeing another woman. Noordhoek denied committing the crimes to police, but pleaded no contest in February to burglary, theft and cruelty to animals.
Black Ex-Firefighter Awarded $2.43 Million in Discrimination Case
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A federal jury has found a Black Kansas City firefighter was subjected to racial discrimination then fired in retaliation for his complaints. The Kansas City Star reports that jurors on Thursday ordered the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, to pay Jyan Harris more than $2.43 million for back pay, future pay and compensatory damages. The trial shone a spotlight on systemic racism within the department. Witnesses testified at trial that Black firefighters are frequently moved into one fire station, are often passed over for promotions and are not actively recruited to serve in the racially diverse city.
Kansas City Police Set New Policies to Improve Interactions
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City police department is unveiling several new policies in response to citizen complaints in the aftermath of last summer’s racial injustice protests. The department also announced Thursday about 900 of its officers are now equipped with body cameras, which was one of several demands made by community activists. The announcement comes a day after Mayor Quinton Lucas and Police Chief Rick Smith met privately with community activists who had made several demands for police reform since the protests. On Thursday, several civil rights groups who did not attend the meeting sent a letter criticizing Lucas and saying the changes are ineffective and inadequate.
Remains Identified as Sedalia Man Missing Since 2015
SEDALIA, Mo. (AP) — Pettis County authorities say skeletal remains found in 2018 were those of a Sedalia man who has been missing for six years. Pettis County Coroner Robert Smith identified the remains as 39-year-old Timothy Gibson, who was last seen on March 26, 2015, when he was taken to a hospital and then released. The coroner said he was not able to determine a cause of death because of the condition of Gibson’s remains but there was no evidence of foul play. A Missouri conservation agent found the remains on October 27, 2018, in a densely wooded area.
Mormon Sex Therapist, Formerly from Kansas, Ousted from Faith for Critiques
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A sex therapist in Utah who has publicly challenged her faith’s policies on sexuality has been kicked out of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Natasha Helfer received a letter Wednesday from a church official, explaining the reasons for her removal from the Salt Lake City-based church. Helfer has been outspoken on sexual issues and supports same-sex marriage. She counsels that masturbation is not a sin and says pornography should not be treated as an addiction. Helfer was disciplined by church leaders in Kansas, where she lived before moving to Utah in 2019.
Missouri House Passes Bill Approving Guns in Churches, Buses
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s GOP-led House has passed a bill that would allow guns in churches and on public transportation. The House voted Monday to send the proposal to the Republican-led Senate. Currently, people need permission to bring firearms into places of religious worship. The bill would allow people with concealed carry permits to bring guns into churches, synagogues and mosques regardless. Another provision in the bill would ensure that gun stores are considered essential businesses. That means the state and cities couldn’t order them closed during emergencies such as the coronavirus pandemic.
Canadian Pacific Attacks Rival Bid for Kansas City Southern
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Canadian Pacific railroad has continued its assault on rival Canadian National’s competing $33.7 billion bid to buy Kansas City Southern railroad in a formal letter to regulators. Canadian Pacific urged the Surface Transportation Board to closely examine Canadian National’s offer to buy Kansas City Southern. It says that deal would hurt rail competition throughout the central United States and destabilize the balance between the industry’s six largest players. Meanwhile, Canadian National maintains that the bid it announced Tuesday is superior to the $25 billion cash and stock deal that Canadian Pacific announced last month.
Kansas Teacher Asks Kids to Be in Wedding on TikTok
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Students squealed with delight when their newly engaged Kansas teacher asked them to be in her wedding in a TikTok video that has more than 10 million views. The Wichita Eagle reports that Alexandra Stamps popped the question to her class of fifth-graders at McLean Science and Technology Magnet Elementary School in Wichita this week as Kina Grannis’s cover of the Elvis Presley ballad “Can’t Help Falling in Love” played in the background. When the camera turns on her junior bridesmaids and groomsmen, they’re cheering and jumping with joy. Some of her 19 students are even sobbing.
Fundraising Underway to Erect Statue Honoring Topeka Mariachi Musician
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — Fundraising is underway in Topeka for a statue recognizing a pioneering mariachi musician. The late Teresa Cuevas was a founding member of Mariachi Estrella, an all-women mariachi band from Topeka that broke into a male-dominated genre. But in a video produced for the Kansas Humanities Council, Cuevas said the group didn’t set out to do that. “We just wanted somebody that played the instruments that we needed. We never said that we wanted all women. After it was all women, oh, we all got so happy it was all women,” Cuevas said. She was badly injured during the 1981 skywalk collapse at the Hyatt Regency in Kansas City that killed more than 100 people. Cuevas died in 2013 at the age of 93. Fundraising is underway to build a statue honoring her, which could cost $80,000. It would be the first statue honoring a woman in downtown Topeka.
CONCACAF Avoids Northeast, West Coast for Gold Cup; KCK Gets a Match
MIAMI (AP) — CONCACAF is avoiding the large population areas of the Northeast and West Coast for the Gold Cup, a championship many top players are likely to skip. The New York area, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., were omitted from the venues, as were Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago. The Confederation of North and Central American and Caribbean Association Football said matches will be played at Arlington, Austin, Houston, Dallas and Frisco in Texas; Glendale, Arizona; Kansas City, Kansas; and Orlando, Florida, in addition to the final on Aug. 1 in Las Vegas, which was previously announced.
Our weekday headlines are generally posted by 10 am and updated throughout the day. Feel free to browse our ad-free news summary. And when you’re done, feel free to make a pledge to KPR. Thanks for your support.