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Education
What’s the punishment for bringing a knife to school?

TWIN FALLS — Can your child bring a knife to school?

Short answer: No.

“It’s a very strong stance, and we don’t take it lightly,” said Eva Craner, spokeswoman for the Twin Falls School District.

But in south-central Idaho, it’s fairly common to carry a pocket knife, and a child may forget to take it out of their pocket or backpack.

And while the school punishment is clear, the legal consequences can murky, depending on the type of knife.

The topic came up earlier this week when the Twin Falls Police Department responded Oct. 9 to two unrelated reports of students bringing a knife to school at Vera C. O’Leary Middle School and South Hills Middle School.

No threats were made at either school, Lt. Terry Thueson said.

Criminal charges will be filed against both students under a federal code, he said, likely a misdemeanor offenses.

So far this school year, Twin Falls police have received 17 reports of weapons on school campuses, Thueson said. Of those, eight resulted in arrest reports.

At least eight of the incidents involved a knife or box cutter, he said; one was a stun gun.

Deadly or dangerous weapons, including firearms, aren’t allowed at schools. That’s outlined in school district policies, state law and the federal Gun-Free Schools Act.

It’s against the law to bring a knife to school with a blade of any length. And under the law, the student must be expelled from school.

But it’s not against the law to bring a pocket knife with a blade less than 2 ½ inches long. It’s considered a weapon, but not deemed dangerous or deadly under the law, Craner said.

Students, though, could still face school disciplinary action.

“Knives are common weapons to be brought to school,” Craner said. “We really need parents to talk with their kids about why they can’t bring knives to school.”

On Oct. 9 at O’Leary Middle School, a student had a box cutter and another student saw it, Thueson said. The student with the knife took it out during class, dropped it, got scared and left it on the floor.

The student who brought the knife admitted he had it and knew he wasn’t supposed to bring it to school, Thueson said. The student, he said, found it in his pocket after leaving home for school.

At South Hills Middle School, employees saw security camera footage of a child passing a long, shiny object back and forth with peers.

The school principal asked the student about it, Thueson said, and the student admitted bringing a knife to school.

A deadly or dangerous weapon is a “weapon, device, instrument, substance, or material that is used for or capable of, causing serious bodily injury or death,” according to Twin Falls School District policy.

Any student who brings a deadly or dangerous weapon will be expelled — a requirement under state and federal law.

“Our policy isn’t just something we made up,” Craner said. “If we don’t follow those rules, we would be breaking a federal law.”

When a student is expelled, the school board decides on the length of how long the student will be gone.

“A lot of times, people will think they’ll be out of school forever,” Craner said. “That’s not really the case.”

A student’s expulsion typically ranges from one day to a year. “Schools and the district have a little bit of flexibility to take into account the surrounding circumstances,” Craner said.

In the meantime, students receive their coursework to ensure they don’t fall behind in their classes.

School security is a hot topic nationwide, with many schools moving to control building access points and take measures such as installing new high-definition security cameras.

In May 2016 in Twin Falls, three students were arrested after what police called an “accidental discharge” of a handgun in a classroom at Robert Stuart Middle School. No one was injured.

As a result of the incident, school officials boosted security measures, including prohibiting students from bringing backpacks for the rest of that school year.

The big takeaway: Don’t bring weapons to school. It’s important for children to check their backpack and pockets before leaving home, Craner said.

It’s a matter of school safety, she said. “We don’t know what their intentions are until something happens. Better safe than sorry, really.”


PAT SUTPHIN, TIMES-NEWS FILE PHOTO  

Student Resource Officer Steven Gassert talks about how he educates students about drugs and alcohol in September 2017 at South Hill Middle School in Twin Falls.


Idaho candidates talk transparency in buildup to 2018

BOISE — As the buildup to the 2018 election begins to accelerate, Idaho’s 30-year-old ethics laws are facing scrutiny as top candidates wrestle with how much of their finances they should disclose to voters.

Idaho is one of just two states that don’t require elected officeholders to disclose any of their personal financial information. This means the state’s elected officials can weigh in on public matters without sharing whether their wallets might benefit from them.

Overhauling the system has become just as elevated as other traditional talking points—such as health care, education and job creation—in the race for governor. With Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter announcing he won’t seek a fourth term, the race is expected to be Idaho’s most competitive of 2018.

Political newcomer and GOP gubernatorial candidate Tommy Ahlquist recently released his economic assets to fulfill a campaign promise that he would disclose any potential conflicts of interests. The release wasn’t as detailed as federal economic disclosure requirements, but the move was still considered significant because Ahlquist is the first Idaho candidate in recent history to voluntarily hand over financial information.

Ahlquist has vowed Idaho’s lack of disclosure requirements will come to an end if he’s elected.

Opponent U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador has been quick to point out Ahlquist failed to mention possible liabilities—which is required for congressional members. Labrador has been required to submit a much more vigorous personal-asset disclosure since being elected to the House in 2010.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Brad Little’s campaign team confirmed Thursday Little plans to release his economic assets in the coming weeks.

Little and Labrador have voiced support for more transparency in government, but neither has specifically championed changing Idaho’s personal disclosure laws.

“It makes sense to put a focus on transparency as an outside candidate,” said Jaclyn Kettler, a Boise State University political scientist. “And while it puts some pressure on the other candidates, I think it’s important to look at the presidential election and see that voters still elected Donald Trump even though he didn’t hand over his tax returns.”

Unlike Idaho, most state legislatures have passed laws requiring elected officeholders to file some type of financial disclosure. Michigan is the only other state that lacks such rules after Vermont Gov. Phil Scott signed an ethics reform bill earlier this year.

Disclosure requirements typically involve revealing income sources, business associations and property holdings. The minimum amounts on what must be disclosed vary from state to state.

For example, Ahlquist’s campaign has pointed to Utah as its model of what Idaho’s disclosure laws should look like. Utah requires lawmakers to reveal employer information and job title, income sources of $5,000 or more annually, as well as investments worth $5,000 or more.

Idaho passed its Ethics in Government Act in 1990. The law directs lawmakers to declare a conflict of interest, but it does not ban them from voting on an issue that may personally benefit them. Failure to disclose a conflict is a civil offense that carries a fine of up to $500.

Separate from the political races, the Idaho Legislature has tasked a bipartisan panel with submitting recommendations on possible changes for lawmakers to consider during the 2018 session. The panel has focused on campaign finance reforms, but Republican Rep. Tom Loertscher of Iona has suggested legislation that would mimic Utah’s personal financial disclosure requirements.

The panel meets later this month to consider Loertscher’s proposal. But even if the Idaho Legislature advances a proposal in 2018, the law wouldn’t take effect until July—after the May GOP primary, the more competitive election in Republican-dominant Idaho.


If you do one thing

If you do one thing: Toddler Time activities will be held at 10:30 a.m. and children’s singalong will start at 4 p.m. at the Twin Falls Public Library, 201 Fourth Ave. E. Free.


Local
Trans IV Buses requests funds from city

TWIN FALLS — Anticipating less state funding and more expenses, Trans IV Buses is asking for the city’s financial support in the upcoming 2019 and 2020 grant years.

On Monday, the City Council will consider a request to provide matching grant funds of about $45,000 over both years to help Trans IV offset increased costs anticipated for employees, insurance and fuel, among other items.

Trans IV is managed by the College of Southern Idaho and has provided public transportation in Twin Falls since 1979. It offers scheduled demand response service to citizens, specifically aimed to help seniors, low-income individuals and people with disabilities.

Idaho Transportation Department, which funds Trans IV, has cut the program’s yearly grant amount by $101,000 per year beginning in 2016. Meanwhile, CSI has been losing money on the program due to sources for its matching funds drying up, city grant writer Mandi Thompson said.

A study the city commissioned last year determined that a fixed bus route is premature for Twin Falls, but the city should take steps toward public transportation, including additional funding for Trans IV.

In May, Trans IV Buses was a recipient of a Municipal Powers Outsource Grant from the city for $25,000.

The City Council meeting begins at 5 p.m. Monday at 303 Third Ave. E.

At the beginning of the meeting, Vice Mayor Suzanne Hawkins will read a proclamation recognizing Oct. 22 as the bicentenary of the birth of Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i faith.

Citizens regularly send in proclamation requests to the mayor, and they are approved at his or her discretion, Mayor Shawn Barigar said.

“It’s an opportunity to give some publicity and give attention to issues that are important to citizens,” he said.

This is the first time Barigar could recall the city has formally recognized the birth of a religious leader.

“I don’t really find it to be a religious proclamation,” he said.

The resolution recognizes that Baha’u’llah brought a message of “human dignity, capacity and oneness suited to the requirements of contemporary life.”

The proclamation urges all to “promote in themselves and in their relations with others those qualities and attributes that will help bring about the recognition of the oneness of humanity; to embrace diversity; and to work for unity in our local community, in our country, and in the world.”

Another proclamation to be read Monday will be in recognition of Oct. 20 as Breast Cancer Awareness Day in Twin Falls. Attendees are encouraged to show up in pink at the meeting.

Police officers and firefighters have been wearing pink this month and are supporting women in their lives to get regular screenings, city spokeswoman Joshua Palmer said.

Also on Monday’s agenda:

Recognition of firefighter Jeff Miller’s promotion to driver/operator; and driver/operator Dave Owens’ promotion to captain.

An update on the city/Urban Renewal Agency Main Avenue Project.

A request to award a bid to Rosenbauer for a new airport fire truck for $640,172.16 under an FAA grant.

A request to adopt an ordinance annexing 2.19 acres at 491 Canyon Rim Road with a residential zoning.

A request to adopt an ordinance vacating the Garnand Subdivision Conveyance plant, excluding dedicated easements and right-of-way, on property at 129 Eastland Drive.

A request to approve a records destruction resolution.

A request to rezone 2016 Addison Ave. from R-2 to R-2 PRO to allow for a professional office.

Adjournment to executive session to consider the evaluation, dismissal or disciplining of, or to hear complaints or charges brought against, a public officer, employee, staff member, individual agent or public school student.


Ahlquist