Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Saying knife at school was ‘honest mistake,’ Wells family argues expulsion is too severe

ALSO: All held after Mankato slaying are released; Chris Kendall wins Winona poetry contest; heroin busts nets 41 in St. Louis County; and more. 

Alyssa Drescher faces expulsion from United South Central High School over a knife found in her purse.

Last week, Alyssa Drescher was planning to do a little tanning in preparation for prom. The 17-year-old United South Central student from Wells had some perfume and lotion in her purse, which likely was what caused the drug dog to target her purse during a schoolwide lock down and drug search last Tuesday. Unfortunately, Drescher also had a knife in her purse – a gift from her father that she had used the previous weekend to help cut hay bales at her boyfriend’s family’s farm. Now, Drescher faces expulsion, according to a story by Sarah Stultz in the Austin Daily Herald. Wells police Chief Jim Ratelle indicated the search was routine and said no drugs were found. Her father, Rick Drescher, said the school could have given her a three- to five-day suspension, but now she faces a 12-month expulsion. “She has never had detention. She’s never been scolded. She’s as perfect of a student as you can get,” he said. Alyssa is on the honor roll, is on the school’s varsity volleyball team and has also played softball. “Last week at this time, we were making a plan of which colleges we were going to visit, and now we’re sitting here thinking she may not even be able to go to college,” Rick said.

During a scuffle last weekend at the Kato Ballroom, tempers flared, shots were fired, one man is dead and several were wounded. Police made some arrests, but without being able to charge anyone, they are now free to go, reports Dan Nienaber of the Mankato Free Press. “Dilang Nhial Dat, 20, and Kim Tong Yik Doluony, both of Omaha, Neb., were released Monday afternoon. A Mankato woman, Nyeyoup David Gach, 18, also has been released. … Dolouony was arrested for carrying a weapon without a permit. Dat and Gach were arrested for obstruction of the legal process. … ‘We still don’t know who did what to whom,’ said Pat McDermott, assistant Blue Earth County attorney,” Nienaber wrote. The victim hasn’t been positively identified, but a friend says it’s Poth Acouth, 22, of Omaha. Mawut “Ater” Mayen said he and Acouth both left Sudan for refugee camps when they were about 5 years old and grew up together in Omaha. “I was there,” Mayen told Nienaber. “I was the one shot in the foot. [Acouth] wasn’t even part of the altercation. When we were walking out, everything was already happening. He was shot in the back.” The event at the Kato Ballroom was to raise money for people in South Sudan. “That’s the thing people don’t get about this,” Mayen told Nienaber. “Everyone was thinking this was about gangs. We all had no idea what was going on. The fundraiser was our way of saying we’re not about that. We want to help people.”

The Winona Daily News has announced the winner of its second annual poetry contest. Chris Kendall’s poem “Silver Skin” took the prize and can be read at the link above. This year’s theme was bridges. The paper and The Book Shelf sponsored the contest, and The Book Shelf will host a party at 7 p.m. tonight where the winner, finalists, Winona’s poet laureates past and present and all who entered the contest can recite their work. Other poems are available here

St. Louis County was well-represented in a statewide heroin bust last week, reports the Duluth News Tribune. “Operation Exile” involved local, state and federal agencies from Duluth, Rochester and the Twin Cities metro area and resulted in “more than 150 warrants issued statewide, with 41 charged in St. Louis County, a news release from the county attorney’s office said.” The story noted the huge influx of heroin in the state and its effects: In Duluth alone, the number of people admitted for treatment of heroin addiction went from 23 in 2009 to more than 400 in 2013. County Attorney Mark Rubin spoke of the ripple effect of the drug: “The ugly reality of the heroin use and trafficking in our area is not just the individual addictive nature of the drug but the consequences — including increased property crimes and heightened dangers for children in homes where the drug was used,” he said.

Article continues after advertisement

While homelessness has trended downward in southwest Minnesota, it’s still a problem, writes Anna Haecherl-Smith of the Marshall Independent. Justin Vorbach, with the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership, said homelessness went up from 2009 to 2012, likely caused by the economic crisis and federal funding cutbacks. The situation has gotten better since then, but as Haecherl-Smith points out, “The Refuge, a shelter in Marshall, opened in February 2010. Its six rooms have been consistently full for the last four years, with a waiting list.” Each year, the Minnesota Housing Partnership conducts a homeless count. This year’s took place on Jan. 22. In the 18 counties of southwest Minnesota, there 8 percent fewer homeless households than in 2013 and 32 percent fewer homeless households than in 2012. However, that tabulates to “115 homeless households, 75 of which included children. Of the 290 homeless individuals counted inside those households, 143 were under the age of 18, and eight of those were unaccompanied youth. … ‘People picture a homeless person as a guy with a big beard pushing a shopping cart,’ Vorbach said. ‘Only 10 to 20 percent of homeless people are chronically homeless and living outdoors. The other 80 to 90 percent are families with kids, the situational homeless who lost their job, got behind on rent or their car broke down and they couldn’t keep up.’ “

There’s big trouble in Hermantown after the school board agreed with the activities director to cut the cheerleader program, writes Jana Hollingsworth of the Duluth News Tribune.  The school board, facing lower enrollment and higher costs, was looking for a way to cut more than $250,000. Eliminating cheerleading will save about $2,500. “Superintendent Brad Johnson said the recommendation came from activities director Beth Clark, who was ‘adamant’ about the decision, he said, because of the amount of supervision required of the students. Clark did not return calls Monday.” Cheer supporters said the adviser has resigned but an assistant was ready to take on the responsibilities, and parents said if money was an issue, the board could simply cut funding and they’d find a way to fund cheerleading themselves. After hearing from parents, board members appeared to be open to their suggestions.

A judge in Moorhead is in hot water. Emily Welker of the Fargo Forum had the story. Clay County District Court Judge Steven Cahill “has been reprimanded by the Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards after its investigation revealed a string of failures to follow the law, chronic lateness to court hearings and other problems with the judge’s conduct. … (In one case), Cahill helped a defendant avoid a firearms conviction after the defendant pleaded guilty to violating a restraining order. Cahill did so because a firearms conviction could have cost the defendant his employment with the Minnesota National Guard, the board found, even though it was in violation of settled law, and over the prosecutor’s objections. … On Thanksgiving Day 2012, Cahill spontaneously decided to grant an inmate a 24-hour furlough, the board found. Cahill went to the courthouse, personally typed up the furlough and delivered it to the jail himself, with no notice to the prosecutor or to jail officials. The prisoner, who had not requested the furlough, assumed it was mistake and turned it down. … The board also found Cahill exhibited a pattern of extensive tardiness to court and related matters over the period from August 2012 to January 2013. Those events included arriving … late for court 18 or more times in a single five-week period in fall 2012. Electronic key card records showed Cahill was late 20 or more times during December 2013, which was almost every single court day that month.” The board recommended Cahill find a mentor who will report to the board six months after the reprimand.

Northland Community & Technical College students and staff will be flying drone aircraft over the skies of Roseau County, reports the Grand Forks Herald. The college announced Tuesday that the Federal Aviation Administration approved its application for a certificate of authorization, which gives the college permission to fly drones over agricultural areas in Roseau County as long as they have the permission of the landowners, fly lower than 500 feet and fly within sight of the operator. The college and landowners will use the information collected by the drones to help determine crop health and pest detection.

Here’s an item in the police blotter of the Albert Lea Tribune that cries out for more detail: “Car hits pig on I-35 ramp: A police report said a loose pig was hit while on the on-ramp for Exit 11 of Interstate 35 at 8:15 p.m. Thursday.”

Meanwhile, up in Bemidji, the City Council said no to a kickboxing event to be hosted by downtown sports bar Toasty Beavers in May. The bar’s owners wanted to block off part of Third Street and serve alcohol at the event.  “Mayor Rita Albrecht cited ‘numerous’ police calls and complaints regarding Toasty Beavers during regular operations as the likely reason the council was opposed to the request,” the Bemidji Pioneer story said.

The Spring Flood Run, in which motorcyclists mark the first day of motorcycling season with a drive from Hastings to Winona and the corresponding route on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River, drew between 20,000 and 30,000 riders last weekend, officials estimated in a story by Brett Boese of the Rochester Post-Bulletin. Money raised from this year’s event went to Gillette Children’s Hospital in St. Paul. The Flood Run is held on the third Saturdays of April and September. Those set dates may have played a role in reduced numbers this spring because it fell on Easter weekend.