- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The St. Joseph News-Press, June 19

New law improves student safety

It took too long, but Missouri lawmakers and Gov. Jay Nixon have strengthened the protections afforded to students threatened by bullying.

A measure Nixon signed into law earlier this month tightens the standards for anti-bullying policies implemented by school districts. It requires:

- Districts must adopt a procedure for reporting acts of bullying.



- Districts must adopt procedures for training employees on their anti-bullying policies and discussing these policies with students.

- Districts must investigate a report of bullying within two days. They must also complete the investigation within 10 days.

- Cyber-bullying is defined, and the law makes clear any district can discipline a student for cyber-bullying.

As anticipated, lawmakers also provided for educators to receive up to two hours of training in youth suicide awareness and prevention as part of their professional development hours required for certification.

Also, school districts will be required to adopt strategies that can help identify students who are at possible risk of suicide.

“Every student should feel safe at school, and every teacher should have the resources and training needed to keep them safe,” Nixon said. “This is an important piece of legislation that can improve and save lives.”

In announcing the changes, Nixon stressed how the new law will work in partnership with 31 community mental health liaisons that been placed across the state to work with law enforcement and court personnel to connect people in behavioral health crises to treatment.

Our one lament is this law has been pushed aside by the legislature more than once in recent years - including a year ago - and is a belated reaction to a serious problem.

For some time now, it has been clear that bullying is an abusive act that elevates in seriousness with the application of social media and the cruelness it can spawn.

____

The Springfield News-Leader, June 18

City healthier with EPA cooperation

The relationship between the city of Springfield and the Environmental Protection Agency is not perfect.

The turmoil that exists stems mostly from mandates handed down by the agency without additional funds to carry out those mandates - it’s not an issue reserved just to our community.

However, in recent years we’ve seen the good that can come of the city working with the EPA.

That was on display last week when the agency came to town to praise the city for its redevelopment work with brownfields - areas contaminated by past industrial operations.

In 17 years, the city has received more than $7 million from the EPA, which has led to another $460 million in public and private investments.

Jordan Valley Park, Hammons Field and the History Museum on the Square are all examples of brownfields projects.

The city next plans to use those federal funds to offer training and development for local workers to get environmental jobs.

The city has even found a way to make the best of those troublesome mandates handed down in the form of consent decrees - lawsuits that force the city to play ball.

Local officials have said the EPA’s action is in response to communities that were negligent in protecting their water. Springfield, on the other hand, was making steady improvement with a small stormwater sales tax that expired in 2012.

Funding the new requirements, expected to be $200 million over 10 years, will be too expensive to keep with the status quo, and the city has been discussing funding options.

But the city and county are in better shape than they could be, thanks to the integrated planning model they got the EPA to agree to back in 2014.

The model allows local officials to consider stormwater needs alongside all other environmental issues, and it lets them spend a little money now to avoid bigger bills in the future. The EPA has been suggesting Springfield and Greene County’s model for communities across the country.

In the case of this area’s valuable natural resources, that ability to cooperate will mean cleaner water, air and land; all while keeping costs manageable.

We like local control here, and will continue to lobby for it, but we can’t ever expect 100 percent autonomy.

It’s good to know local officials can find ways to retain some control and find common ground when the federal government has mandates.

And it’s important that the federal and state government listens when our local leaders want to talk. They’ve shown a willingness to find solutions on environmental issues and should continue to be viewed as partners.

____

The Columbia Daily Tribune, June 20

Click, redux. One last visit?

Amid a world full of controversial happenings, shall we take one more look at the Melissa Click affair? Well, yes, with the censure by the American Association of University Professors, issued Saturday at the organization’s national meeting.

First we wonder what the action means. I think University of Missouri interim Chancellor Hank Foley had it about right when he said he would rather not be on the list but is not sure what the university can (he might have implied “should”) do to get off.

The heart of the AAUP censure is undeniable: UM curators fired Associate Professor Click because of outside political pressure. If there is an essential no-no for the AAUP, this is it, and UM will be unable to deny the allegation. The raging debate is not whether “outside political pressure” occurred in the Click case. It did. The question, long since decided in the court of public opinion as the curators see it, is whether the political pressure was good reason to fire the professor.

The curators decided Click’s public behavior immeasurably harmed the university and warranted termination. Hmm.

The AAUP opined that Click’s academic freedom had not been hindered, as indeed it had not at the time of her firing. She had applied for tenure but had not yet been denied. In a real sense, violation of her academic rights would have been more definitive had she been denied tenure, a clearer academic link to her protest activities than her firing for “outrageous” opposition to student reporters and police on public property.

In an odd sense, the curators are on firmer ground firing Click as they did, but the AAUP obviously doesn’t see it that way. They equate Click’s public behavior as free speech, for which university officials should not fire a professor.

We’ll never know how important it is that the curators fired Click when they did. Clearly an outspoken contingent of the public - including many in public office with the ability to harm the university politically - was having a heyday, and Click was the focus. In this space I said her action was “stupid” but was not a “hanging offense.” The curators finally decided professional hanging was the right punishment.

Many citizens, maybe most, agreed with the curators. Now that the professors’ union has registered its complaint, so what? Many at the university who think the curators overreacted also will regard the AAUP censure with disdain. In past instances when the association has censured this and other universities, the result has been nil. The worst implication is a lessening of institutional reputation intended to cause prospective faculty to shy away from job offers from a censured organization, but one is likely to believe this means little compared with the appeal of the offered job.

Nothing Hank Foley or anyone else on campus can do will denounce or mitigate the action of the UM Board of Curators to please the AAUP. Nothing indicates Foley or interim UM System President Mike Middleton is of such a mind.

So, the nature of the Click episode remains unchanged. Her removal was controversial but politically popular. The AAUP made an understandable complaint. University of Missouri officials respond with appropriate lip service but will do nothing substantial to comply, thus leaving the restless but sleeping dog quiet.

The next resident of the university system will be glad the former administration fielded this leaky bag. At least for a while, he or she will have a relatively easy time of it. No wonder good applications are coming in at a faster rate than anticipated.

_____

The Warrensburg Daily Star-Journal, June 20

Nixon takes stand against dumb fines

Good for Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, and the Republican-dominated General Assembly, for saying no to Pagedale and other Missouri communities that seem hell-bent on raising revenue by doling out traffic and other types of citations under ridiculous circumstances.

A police officer has every right to pull over and issue a ticket to a driver who is doing 39 miles per hour in a 25 mph zone, but to pull over a driver doing a couple of miles over the speed limit had become ridiculous, and common, in some communities. So had tall fines for tall grass and other minor infractions. In Pagedale, covering just 1.19 square miles of St. Louis County, residents could be fined for just about anything imaginable, from having a hedge that is more than 3 feet tall to holding a barbecue in the front yard without justification of a national holiday.

The system of creating petty crimes that bring in revenue from fines to fatten city coffers perverts the idea of justice and the purpose of municipal courts. Such crime and punishment places the courts on equal footing with gangland thugs who extort funds from the little guy in what amounts to a protection racket that perverts police power.

The legislature put a heavy, well-deserved boot on the neck of oppressive government by passing Senate Bill 572, which Nixon signed Friday.

“The purpose of municipal courts is to protect our communities, not profit from them,” Nixon, a former Missouri attorney general, stated when signing the legislation. “This bill builds on the landmark reform legislation (against traffic fines) I called for and signed last year, and will help ensure all our municipal courts operate with fairness, openness and accountability.”

In addition to lowering the cap on fines and costs for minor traffic violations, the bill extends protections provided previously against excessive fines for traffic violations to other municipal ordinance violations. Under the bill, court fines and fees for certain nuisance, building and zoning ordinance violations will be capped at $200 for the first offense, and defendants will not be able to be jailed for nonpayment, based on information from Nixon’s office.

“Extending these protections to municipal ordinance violations is a common-sense step that will help us continue to restore trust, improve safety and strengthen our communities,” Nixon said.

Fines to regulate behavior for the overall good of society are necessary, but fines levied for the purpose of raising money is morally bankrupt.

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