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Violence in St. Paul schools called ‘public health crisis’

Plus: putting the state budget surplus into context; why Minnesota state forests are so important to Christmas; settlement reached in case involving Rogers teen suspended for tweeting about teacher; and more.

“Not much they can do,” is not something parents and faculty members want to hear. Jon Collins and Tim Nelson at MPR say, “Stunned by news of another assault in St. Paul Public Schools, officials Tuesday vowed to act but conceded that there isn’t much they can do on their own to stop violent student behavior. Ramsey County Attorney John Choi and St. Paul Schools Superintendent Valeria Silva unveiled plans for a task force to find solutions to the trend of violence that’s spilled across the city’s high schools. Choi called it a ‘public health crisis’ that requires ‘public intervention’ and said it wasn’t just an urban problem.”

Rachel Stassen-Berger of the Pioneer Press says that budget surplus isn’t everything it appears to be. “Current state law dictates $71 million of the bounty should be automatically subtracted to pay back environmental funds the state borrowed from. Another $594 million will quickly disappear: State law requires paying one-third of any November forecast into the state’s reserves that are sort of a savings account to ward off state budget problems when things turn bleak. That leaves the state with a $1.2 billion surplus. A big number, yes, but it represents only about 3 percent of the state’s $41.8 billion two year spending. To put that in context, if you made $50,000 a year and had 3 percent more money than you expected, you’d have a surprise extra $1,500.” Killjoy.

Joe Soucheray is mighty displeased at the way his tax dollars are coddling kids (I believe the word he uses is, “thugs”) at Central High School. Says Soucheray in the Pioneer Press: “It would seem to stand to reason that if a kid beats up a science teacher to the point of that teacher passing out, the kid had been sending signals that he was unwilling to follow the rules of the classroom, much less civil society. … The St. Paul Public Schools are adhering to some ridiculous nonsense that have St. Paul taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars paid to a consultant, The Pacific Education Group. In a nutshell, it is a policy that attempts to convince school administrators to be, well, extra lenient on disruptive students on the grounds that the students are themselves the victims of some sort of systemic deprivation. Often, disruptive kids are simply hauled off to the gym and allowed to play basketball until they cool off.” 

Says the Forum News Service: “A Washburn County man died after brandishing weapons and ignoring commands to leave a residence he intentionally set on fire late Monday, authorities said. The Washburn County sheriff’s office reported that 37-year-old Gerold B. Featherly perished in the incident … . Authorities said two females fled the house, but Featherly refused to leave. He reportedly brandished a knife and was seen setting fires in multiple locations.The Minong Fire Department arrived on  scene and extinguished the fire. Featherly’s body was later recovered from the burned-out structure.”

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We make everything more festive. A Brainerd Dispatch story says, “Minnesota state forests are one of the primary sources of balsam fir boughs and branches used to make holiday wreaths and swags, according to the Department of Natural Resources. … Each year, about 734,000 pounds of balsam boughs are harvested from state forests between late September and early December. A good day’s picking can yield up to 1,000 pounds of boughs—enough to make 200 wreaths, each 25 inches in diameter.”

What’s legal in Minnesota but not Wisconsin? Chao Xiong of the Strib covering the trial in last summer’s fatal stabbing up at Interstate Park says, “The late revelation of a prosecution strategy threatens to sink a Minnesota man’s defense against homicide charges in the killing of a fellow fisherman. … On Tuesday, the second day of [Levi] Acre-Kendall’s trial in Polk County Circuit Court in Balsam Lake, it was revealed that the prosecution believes Acre-Kendall used a knife illegal in Wisconsin to kill [Peter] Kelly — a switchblade.”

The Glean

Small brewers don’t like the giant beer merger in the works. Says Angela Davis for WCCO-TV, “Anheuser-Busch InBev, Inc., intends to buy SABMiller. But before the deal can go through, it needs the federal government’s approval. At a hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar questioned beer industry leaders. The Democrat asked how Minnesota’s craft breweries could be impacted by the move. … The owners of craft breweries are concerned about a possible merger that would bring together two companies that produced more than 70 percent of all beer sold in the United States last year. The deal could affect the distribution of locally-made beer and prices.”

A bit more on the release of that expensive investigation into the U of M’s athletic department as well as the school’s own internal audit.  Stribbers Emma Nelson, Maura Lerner and Dan Browning say, “The audit criticized a number of individual expenditures Teague authorized. It cites one event in New York in December 2013 in which the U paid for ‘one official’ to stay at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel during an event hosted by the College Football Association. The room cost $663 a night, ‘well in excess of the allowable University limit.’”

The Strib’s editorial page says, “The second report was more troubling. It described a department that had become sloppy and even deceptive in accounting for purchases, particularly those involving entertainment. Justification for travel expenses was ‘routinely inadequate,’ the audit said.”

MPR’s Lorna Benson reports, “Many Type 2 diabetes patients are being overtested and overtreated, according to a new finding from Mayo Clinic researchers. Their study, published Wednesday in the BMJ medical journal, found that six out of 10 patients who don’t require insulin have their average blood sugar levels checked far more frequently than guidelines recommend, a practice that can lead to potentially harmful, excessive treatments. Most clinical guidelines for these patients recommend testing hemoglobin A1C, , which shows a patient’s average blood sugar levels over a three-month period, once or twice per year.”

Well, this ought to cover college, grad school and couple sports cars. Says Paul Walsh in the Strib, “A $425,000 federal court settlement has been reached in favor of young man who attended Rogers High School until he was suspended in 2014 for writing a two-word tweet, in which he joshed that he made out with one of the school’s teachers. Reid Sagehorn, 19, sued the Elk River School District, Superintendent Mark Bezek, Rogers Police Chief Jeffrey Beahen and others in June 2014, soon after the honors student and captain of the high school football and basketball teams was suspended.”