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Local
Doctor near Snake River Canyon rim takes a stray bullet ricochet to the chest

JEROME — A Magic Valley man is lucky to be alive after being hit in the chest Sunday by a ricocheting bullet near Devils Corral.

“I’m feeling very lucky,” Dr. Andrew Schweitzer said Monday morning. “It was a scary thing.”

Schweitzer, a third-year medical resident, and Dr. James Irwin, who works at St. Luke’s Jerome, were loading mules into a trailer after riding in the Devils Corral area when he felt a sting several inches below his throat. Luckily, he was wearing layers of clothing plus a vest that absorbed much of the blow.

“The crazy thing about where the ricocheting bullet struck me is that my aorta lies right beneath that location,” Schweitzer said. “Had it gone through, I would be almost assuredly dead.”

Irwin is a frequent visitor to the Snake River Canyon — either recreating or picking up other folks’ trash. It was Schweitzer’s first trip. No one was around when they had parked at the fork in the road above Devils Corral. But when they returned from their ride, they could hear shooting all around them.

“I heard a bullet ricochet,” Schweitzer said. “Then I felt something hit my chest. I was in total shock.”

DREW NASH, TIMES-NEWS 

Dr. Andrew Schweitzer pauses for a portrait Monday at St. Luke's Magic Valley Medical Center in Twin Falls. Schweitzer was struck by a stray bullet near Devil's Corral on Sunday. Schweitzer quickly took cover alongside a fellow doctor, who checked to make sure the bullet hadn't penetrated his chest.

Irwin had a strong opinion about restricting shooting north of the canyon even before Schweitzer was hit. “People shouldn’t be shooting along the rim,” he said.

“We were unsaddling the mules,” Irwin said. “All the sudden, (Schweitzer) grabbed his chest and he goes down. That scared me.” He called the Jerome County Sheriff’s Office and left a message to report the accident.

The Sheriff’s Office told the Times-News they had reached Schweitzer on Monday to arrange for him to file a report.

Schweitzer and Irwin found a man and woman shooting pistols on the other side of a berm from where they had parked.

“We talked to them and explained what had happened,” Schweitzer said. “They were very apologetic; they’d never shot there before.”

But Irwin said they couldn’t tell exactly where the bullet came from.

Jerome County wants to establish a safe shooting zone in its 4,000-acre Canyon Park near where Schweitzer was shot and, in December, sent a letter to the Idaho Department of Lands asking the agency to restrict shooting on its endowment lands along the rim.

“I was sincerely hoping something like this would not happen before we could locate shooting in a safer place,” County Commissioner Roger Morley said in an email Monday.

Commissioner Cathy Roemer agreed.

“I am concerned as well about the safety in this area,” Roemer said in an email, “and (I) support actions to protect the people who are recreating out there.”

“It’s a cool area, and it would be great to improve the safety there,” Schweitzer said.

People shouldn’t have to dodge bullets when recreating, Irwin said.

“Bullets fly a long way. We’ve got to do something about this before someone gets killed.”

“I heard one bullet ricochet. Then I felt something hit my chest. I was in total shock.” Dr. Andrew Schweitzer, a third-year resident in family medicine

Education
Choosing a ‘mate’: Idaho legislature seeks to update 48-year-old sex education law

TWIN FALLS — Idaho’s 48-year-old sex education law emphasizes helping youth cultivate good values before choosing a mate, controlling sex drive and understanding sex in relation to the “miracle of life.”

State legislators want to update the 1970 law with more contemporary language. A bill introduced Jan. 25 by House Education Committee chairwoman Rep. Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree, would repeal several outdated sections of Idaho Code and replace them with a new one.

Beyond language changes, a new law wouldn’t lead to any significant differences in what public schoolers learn in Magic Valley classrooms — or in local school boards deciding whether sex education will be taught.

“The biggest change I noticed was just taking out all the language related to home, family and church,” said L.T. Erickson, director of secondary programs for the Twin Falls School District. “As far as how it would change our instruction, it wouldn’t change the way we teach it, necessarily.”

Kyle Hodges, school nurse for the Cassia County School District, said the current law is “kind of comical to see” and she plans to put a copy up on her wall. She hadn’t heard about the legislation seeking to update the law.

It’s always surprising statutes and policies for a variety of institutions aren’t updated regularly, she said. “I think everyone would be surprised and astounded with what’s still on the books.”

Idaho’s sex education law falls into that category, Hodges said. She was particularly surprised to see gender references to “he,” and a sentence about the knowledge and power of sex drive and controlling it using self-discipline.

The sex education law is different than the state’s content standards for health education, which public high schoolers must meet them in order to graduate. Parents can opt their children out of sex education lessons.

The content standards dictate what public kindergarten through high schoolers learn. They were created in 2016 and adopted last year.

Under the bill introduced in the state legislature, a new section in state law would define sex education as “the anatomy and physiology of human reproduction” and “the development of healthy relationships.”

If it’s taught, sex education must be “medically accurate according to published authorities on which medical professionals generally rely” and adhere to the state’s content standards for health education, according to the bill.

It would mostly scrap outdated language. The existing law from 1970 says instruction should focus on helping youth “acquire a background of ideals and standards and attitudes which will be of value to him now and later when he chooses a mate and establishes his own family.”

The Legislature believes the primary responsibility for family life and sex education “rests upon the home and the church,” according to the law.

The law also states: “The program should supplement the work in the home and the church in giving youth the scientific, physiological information for understanding sex and its relation to the miracle of life, including knowledge of the power of the sex drive and the necessity of controlling that drive by self-discipline.”

Some things wouldn’t change under the legislation. Local school boards would still decide whether to include sex education in school curriculum. School districts would still involve families and community groups in developing sex education instruction. And parents could still excuse their child from sex education lessons.

Opting out of sex education happens in the Twin Falls School District, Erickson said, but “I don’t think it’s very common.” Schools notify parents in advance of when it will be taught.

Once a year, Twin Falls health teachers meet to discuss curriculum and review it, but there haven’t been any major changes in recent years.

Erickson said he has sat in on a middle school class to see how sex education is being taught. The approach, he said, is already consistent with language in the state’s new bill.

Eighth grade and 10th grade students take a semester-long health class. At elementary schools, school nurses conduct health-related lessons throughout the school year.

In Cassia County, Hodges teaches maturation to fifth and sixth-grade students, which focuses on puberty. Students also learn about anatomy and physiology, and healthy relationships, but not human reproduction or sexual relationships. Sexting is a topic that arises, though.

“It’s pretty much standardized with what the state expects at grade level,” she said.

Lessons move forward incrementally at an age-appropriate level into junior high and high school health classes, Hodges said. By the time students are in high school, they’re learning about topics such as preventing sexually-transmitted diseases.

Idaho sex education bill

Crime-and-courts
ISP: Trooper finds credit card machine, cards and a book of credit card numbers in Burley traffic stop

BURLEY — Two people have been charged after police found a credit card manufacturing machine, numerous credit cards and a book with thousands of credit card numbers in it in the back seat of a vehicle after the driver was pulled over for failure to use a turn signal.

Jonathan Dominic Coons, 39, from Oregon, and Samantha A. Rudd, 23, from Washington state, are both charged with felony criminal possession of a financial transaction card and fraudulent misappropriation of personal identifying information for purchase or credit valued over $300.

Laurie Welch Times-News / COURTESY MINI-CASSIA CRIMINAL JUSTICE CENTER 

Coons

On Jan. 19, Rudd, who was driving a rented Ford SUV with Coons as her passenger, was pulled over by an Idaho State Police trooper after police say she failed to use her turn signal to merge onto Overland Avenue from Interstate 84 Exit 208.

The trooper approached the passenger’s side of the vehicle where Coons was sitting with the back of the seat leaning back, the police report said. The officer said the window was only rolled down about five inches and Coons appeared to be hiding his face with the door frame and not making eye contact with the trooper.

Rudd told the officer she did not have a driver’s license and the vehicle was a friend’s rental, and she provided the trooper with a rental agreement in another woman’s name.

The officer called the Cassia County Sheriff’s Office to ask for a K9 officer at the scene and the dog alerted officers to an area between the front and rear doors at the door seam. When the door was searched, officers noticed different types of credit cards inside the door pocket. They found more credit cards underneath the seat along with an Oregon driver’s license for the woman listed on the rental vehicle and credit cards and gift cards with Coons’s name on them.

They also reported finding a Washington state driver’s license and more credit cards along with expensive items including two $650 jackets that appeared to have been recently purchased. On top of the rear seat they reported finding a gray backpack, which contained a credit card manufacturing machine, blank credit cards and a book with thousands of credit card numbers, some which had been crossed out.

Dates in the book went back to June 2017 leading officers to believe the pair had been involved in an ongoing operation. Police said there were two different writing styles were found in the book with different colored ink. Two driver’s licenses found in the vehicle, including the one used to rent the vehicle; police say they both resembled Rudd.

ISP received an email from the Vancouver Police Department stating they had an open investigation on Coons for financial transaction card fraud in Washington.


Markets waiting a while for a pullback. Then, pow!

NEW YORK — The long, smooth, record-setting ride on Wall Street is over. The stock market pullback that experts had been saying was long overdue has finally come.

Investor fears about higher interest rates escalated into rapid, computer-generated selling Monday that wiped out all the market’s gains for the year. At one point, the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 1,000 points in less than an hour, and it ended with its worst day in more than six years. The Standard & Poor’s 500 is now down nearly 8 percent from its record high, set a little more than a week ago.

Market professionals warn that the selling could continue for a bit. But many are also quick to say they see no recession looming, and they expect the strengthening global economy and healthy corporate earnings to help stock prices recover.

“The reasons for the increase in rates is the stronger economy,” said Ernie Cecilia, chief investment officer at Bryn Mawr Trust. “The reasons are positive. It’s not as if something like 2008 or financial Armageddon is coming.”

The trigger for the sell-off came at the end of last week when a government report showed that wages across the country rose relatively quickly last month. While that’s good for workers, traders took it as a signal that higher inflation may be on the way, which could push the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates more quickly than expected. Higher rates not only make it more expensive for people and companies to borrow, they can also drive investors away from stocks and into bonds.

The sell-off Monday was so steep that some market-watchers blamed automated trading systems. These systems are programmed to buy and sell based on several variables, and they may have hit their sell triggers following the first wobble for stock prices after an unusually placid run.

That may mean even more volatility in the coming days, something that investors haven’t had to deal with during a blissful year-plus of record-setting returns. Before Monday, the S&P 500 index had gone a record period of time — roughly 400 trading days — without a drop of even 5 percent.

Monday was also the first day in office for the new chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, and investors are wondering how closely he will stick with the low interest-rate policies set by his predecessor, Janet Yellen.

Still, many market-watchers said they remain optimistic that stocks will recover.

Despite worries about interest rates, they still see a recession as a long shot. With economies growing around the world, profits for U.S. businesses are expected to continue rising, and stock prices tend to follow the path of corporate earnings over the long term.

“The rate worries have been the trigger” for the stock market’s swoon, said Melda Mergen, deputy global head of equities at Columbia Threadneedle. “But fundamentally, we don’t see any new news. It’s earnings season, the time that we get more direct feedback from our companies, and we don’t see any concerns.”

More than half the companies in the S&P 500 have told investors how they performed in the last three months of 2017, and most have topped analysts’ expectations, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. Even more encouraging is that more than three quarters of them made more revenue than expected, which means it’s not just cost-cutting and layoffs that are allowing companies to earn more.

The White House cited some of those trends Monday and said “long-term economic fundamentals ... remain exceptionally strong.”

President Donald Trump has frequently commented on gains by the market during his first year in office. He has stayed silent in the face of market gyrations over the past week.

If the stock market does indeed bounce back, though, many market-watchers expect returns to be more muted than in prior years because prices have already climbed so high. The S&P 500 is up nearly 292 percent since bottoming in early 2009.

And investors should remember that drops like those of the past two days aren’t a unique occurrence for stocks. They’re inherently risky investments, and investors should be prepared to see drops of 10 percent. Such declines happen so regularly that analysts have a name for them: a market correction.


Education
Shoshone School District says it's not to blame for student sex in computer lab

SHOSHONE — The Shoshone School District says in court documents filed Friday it knew about “sexual acts” between two teenagers in April in a school computer lab but properly investigated and didn’t kick the victim out of school, as has been alleged in a lawsuit against the district.

Attorneys for the district deny many claims made in the federal suit filed Dec. 27 in U.S. District Court by the family of a 13-year-old Shoshone Middle School girl who reported being raped by a 17-year-old classmate.

The complaint alleges the girl and her mother were told she could not stay at the school following what was described as a violent rape by a prominent student athlete.

The boy, who was a high school junior, pleaded guilty in November to eight counts of felony lewd conduct in juvenile court and continued to attend classes.

The lawsuit alleges the school district had a “deliberate indifferent response,” failed to appropriately investigate and respond, and subjected the victim to a “hostile environment and sexual discrimination that denied her an education in the District.”

The girl, who is now 14, lives in Gooding and is attending high school in the Gooding School District, according to her mother and lawyer.

Student safety is among the highest priorities of the Shoshone School District, the district said in its answer to the complaint. “When the District’s efforts in service of that mission are falsely maligned, the District must set forth the facts.”

The complaint from the family uses the words “rape” and “forcible rape,” which the district said are “allegations of specific crimes and highly charged words,” used as “merely an attempt to inflame and sensationalize this matter.”

Shoshone Superintendent Rob Waite told the Times-News on Tuesday the core allegation — “the idea that school district employees would discover a brutal rape caught on security cameras” but not respond or investigate — is “just preposterous.”

He said he understands it’s a very serious case. But the allegations, he said, are “offensive to our employees. I think it’s honestly offensive to victims of violence.”

The discovery process will begin soon in the case, Waite said, adding he looks forward to federal court proceedings because “I believe that as this case goes on, the facts will be vetted.”

He said he’s very confident that when the facts come out, it will show school employees acted appropriately.

About the school district's response in court documents, “they’ve just denied everything,” said E. Lee Schlender of Mountain Home, the attorney for the 13-year-old girl’s family. But that’s common, he said Tuesday.

Once discovery starts later this month — which will include interviews of school employees, and looking through records and emails — more information will surface, Schlender said. “The proof usually comes out.”

He said he hasn’t seen anything so far to suggest the school district “is not going to have to admit the basic facts. I don’t foresee there being a lot of denial once they’re under oath.”

In its response in court documents, the school district admits on the two days in question in April, the boy and girl “engaged in sexual activity in the computer lab at Shoshone High School and that the door to the computer lab locks automatically.” School officials say they viewed a video of the incident and contacted police.

The district denies other claims, including a statement in the complaint that the boy “violently without her consent, forcibly had sexual intercourse.”

The district also denies allegations the boy wasn’t jailed except for a short period of home detention and that the victim suffered severe physical and mental distress. It also denies a claim in the complaint that the girl was forced to leave the school and then not provided with weekly homework assignments.

Within 10 days of the incident in the computer lab, the school administrator held a meeting with the girl and her mother and presented two options for schooling, the lawsuit says: stop attending Shoshone schools “with no further remedial action of any kind” or be homeschooled, with the school providing homework assignments weekly.

The actions of the school district “do not rise to the level of a deprivation of a constitutionally protected right,” according to the response, and the district at all times complied with federal law.

The plaintiffs — the 13-year-old girl and her family — “may have been guilty of conduct at the time of and in connection with the matters, events, and damages alleged, which conduct proximately caused and contributed to said events and resultant damages, if any,” according to the response.

In the response, the school district asks for a jury trial, but “pray that Plaintiffs take nothing by this action,” and dismiss the lawsuit and pay for attorney fees.

A court date hasn’t been set.

*This story was updated Feb. 6 to include comments from the Shoshone School District superintendent and the 13-year-old girl's attorney, given after the original story was published.