October 25, 2014

College students charged, fraternity suspended in wake of freshman death

Seven people have been charged and a fraternity has been suspended after an investigation into the death of a freshman at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

UNL police arrested four members of the Farmhouse Fraternity and issued citations to three others in connection with the death of 18-year-old Clayton Real in early September.

In response to the investigation, university officials announced it has suspended the Farmhouse fraternity chapter at UNL.

“We have taken appropriate action, given the seriousness of the matter,” Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Juan Franco said in a written statement released by the university. “We have suspended this chapter.”

The indefinite suspension takes effect immediately. Freshman members of Farmhouse will not be allowed to reside in the fraternity house at 3601 Apple St., but will have to live in the dorms.

UNL police report alcohol flowed freely at a September 4th “frosh” party at 2009 South 16th Street in Lincoln, hosted by the Farmhouse fraternity. Fraternity officers and members provided the alcohol, including to underage members of the fraternity.

Real passed out from intoxication and was taken back to his room at Farmhouse, where he died in the night. An autopsy concluded that Real died of acute alcohol intoxication, with a blood alcohol content of .378.

Four students have been charged with the felony of procuring alcohol for a minor resulting injury or death:  21-year-old Vance Heyer, Farmhouse Fraternity Vice President; 19-year-old Thomas Trueblood, Farmhouse Fraternity Freshman Social Chair; 21-year-old Cory Foland, Farmhouse Fraternity New Member Educator; and 22-year-old Ross Reynolds, Farmhouse Fraternity member.

Three students have been charged with misdemeanor procuring alcohol to a minor:  21-year-old William Miller, Farmhouse Fraternity member; 20-year-old Marin Hartfield, UNL student; 20-year-old Lauren Williams, UNL student.

No other charges are expected at this time, according to UNL police, who add that the activities do not appear to meet the elements under the state statute against hazing.

Real, an Agricultural Economics major from Grafton, won a scholarship to UNL from his local chapter of the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association.


“Boy and girl” controversy goes local in comments to Lincoln School Board

It became a national topic of conversation last week.

Now, local opinions have been expressed about the controversy that flared up in Lincoln over gender-inclusiveness training at a middle school.

Dozens addressed the Lincoln Public School Board and school officials during the public comment period prior to the regular school board meeting Tuesday evening.

Lincoln Public Schools Superintendent Steve Joel dismissed suggestions the school district is discarding the use of the terms “boys” and “girls” in favor of gender-neutral terms for students, during a news conference last week. He accused national news media outlets and social media of misrepresenting the issue and failing to base reports on facts.

The issue arose from training material handed out during a teacher meeting at Irving Middle School as teachers sought to better understand and address transgender students.

Irving teacher Julie Hunter told the board the training is necessary.

“Teachers have to have this stuff on their radar, not because we’re going to change society and we have this agenda, because society is changing before our eyes,” Hunter said.

But parent Courtney Criswell contended the training documents handed out at Irving go too far.

“This is not the new normal,” Criswell said. “We’ve been told that the school board will not be held hostage by those of us with different opinions. That’s not reflective of the inclusive culture that LPS wants to provide; quite the opposite. It is the parents who are being held hostage here.”

Parent John Cosby told school board members he wants more transparency about the training.

“LPS policy is to foster and facilitate parental information on the education of children,” according to Cosby. “However, LPS has made it abundantly clear that the LPS training materials on gender were not meant for parents.”

Lincoln public school teacher Todd Tystad said he doesn’t view training materials such as those on gender-inclusiveness as mandates, referring to one of the aspects of the training that caught national attention.

“I am not going to refer to my students as purple penguins, because that’s not the language that suits my style of communication,” Tystad said. “I’m fortunate enough to work for a school district that does not dictate how I shall refer to my students, but rather trusts my professional capabilities.”

The Lincoln public schools have 39,000 students. Superintendent Joel has said the district has issued no mandates or policy on the subject.

Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN contributed to this report.

School official denies Lincoln moving to gender-neutral classrooms (AUDIO)

Lincoln Public Schools Superintendent Steve Joel dismisses suggestions the school district is discarding the use of the terms “boys” and “girls” in favor of gender-neutral terms for students.

Joel has addressed the topic after a resource used at a Lincoln middle school surfaced that advocated such an approach.

Joel accuses national news media outlets of greatly distorting the issue.

“There’s no policy. There’s no procedure. There’s no changes being made to bathrooms in schools,” Joel tells reporters during a news conference to address the issue. “This was about adults, professional educators, who care deeply about trying to reach and establish relationships with children, looking for strategies on how they can be more effective in their classroom.”

Joel says school officials have been inundated with emails and phone calls after the story went national, both through social media and national cable news.

The superintendent explains that teachers at a middle school reviewed numerous documents as they sought to better understand and relate to transgender students. One document suggested doing away with using “boys” and “girls” to address students and, instead, creating a gender-neutral classroom.

“And the suggestion wasn’t to use any one particular name that we’re hearing on a regular basis, right now happens to be purple penguins, but what was suggested was to think about gender-neutral phrases that could be used: scholars, students, kids, Wildcats, whatever,” Joel explains. “And that’s been in practice in America for a lot of years.”

The Lincoln public schools have 39,000 students. Joel says the student population is becoming increasingly diverse. Teachers and administrators, according to Joel, are using a variety of resources in an effort to better relate to different students and to create an inviting environment for education.

Joel says the district has issued no mandates or policy on the subject.

Joel says the efforts by one middle school has nothing to do with politics or religion as some have suggested.

“It’s about creating an understanding and giving our teachers and our administrators the skills and the tools that they need to be successful with these students,” according to Joel.

Joel accuses national news media outlets and social media sites of misrepresenting the issue and failing to base reports on facts.

AUDIO:  Lincoln Public Schools Superintendent Steve Joel addresses “boys” and “girls” controversy. [9 minutes]

Report: Teens who skip driver’s ed more likely to have crashes, convictions

A new study finds young people who don’t take driver’s education courses are more likely to be involved in collisions and they’re much more likely to get ticketed and be found guilty of traffic law violations.

Gail Weinholzer, spokeswoman for AAA-Nebraska, says vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for teenagers, both in Nebraska and nationwide.

“Children under the age of 18 who do not participate in a driver’s education class are more likely, not only to be in crashes, but to receive convictions,” Weinholzer says. “We’ve got 30 states across the country that require driver’s education in some form and 20 states that do not.”

Nebraska is among the states where driver’s ed is -not- required. Some school districts offer it as a regular course, while other districts direct students to use a private, professional driver’s training company.

“They still have to pass a knowledge test and a behind-the-wheel test but how they acquire that information, that knowledge, that skill base is entirely up to the family,” Weinholzer says. “They can certainly choose to put their child through a driver education course or perhaps parents do it themselves.”

The motor club report found students who took driver’s education courses saw a reduction in crashes by 4.3% and a drop in convictions by nearly 40%. It also found that teens who completed driver’s ed scored higher on the driving exam and demonstrated better knowledge over their peers who had no formal training.


University of Nebraska enrollment tops 51,000

Enrollment at the four campuses of the University of Nebraska has topped 51,000, the largest student body since 1993.

The university today released the enrollment numbers for the four campuses as well as at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis as 51,215. That is a one percent increase over last year.

The Lincoln campus led the way with a 2.3% enrollment increase, pushing just past 25,000 students. The University of Nebraska at Omaha held steady at 15,227 students. The Kearney campus saw a 2.1% increase, pushing its enrollment to 6,902. The University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha nudged up a bit; a .4% increase to 3,696. The Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture saw a big jump; up 28% to a total of 384 students.

Enrollment of freshmen rose 2.2%. Overall undergraduate enrollment grew .9%. The number of graduate students also rose, according to the university.