Morning Brief - Sept. 21, 2023: Ellison issues clarifying legal opinion on school disciplinary law
Plus more on a contract cancellation affecting mental health treatment in Itasca County, a Brainerd School District decision on a challenged book and a Superior National Forest project seeking to improve oak wilt treatment.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is hoping school districts and law enforcement agencies in the state have more clarity when it comes to a new law governing school discipline.
Ellison issued a supplemental legal opinion outlining the intent of the law, which sought to limit the use of prone restraints on students in disciplinary situations.
In the legal opinion, Ellison said school employees and school resource officers may use force to prevent bodily harm or death, but the force must be reasonable in those situations.
They also may make physical contact to address nonviolent behavior, as long as they avoid the restraints outlined in the new law, including chokeholds or other holds restricting breathing or communication.
Ellison said while the supplemental opinion does not draw new conclusions compared to the original, he noted good faith questions from law enforcement and school officials prompted him to issue the clarifying follow-up.
The school districts of Brainerd, Pequot Lakes, Virginia and others in the region saw school resource officer contracts canceled while officials grappled with conflicting interpretations of the law.
Some argued the law was too restrictive and exposed districts and police departments to liability issues.
Book challenge in Brainerd
A fantasy novel challenged by a community member in the Brainerd School District will remain in the high school library.
TheBrainerd Dispatchreported a committee established for the purpose of reviewing the Sarah J. Maas novelEmpire of Stormsunanimously agreed the book should remain as choice reading material available to high school students.
The challenge raised concerns about sexual content in the book, which is the fifth in a series. Committee members were tasked with reading the book and walking through a series of questions about its value as a resource for students. Children's Book Review, the book publisher Bloomsbury and Common Sense Media all rated the book for ages 14 and up.
As part of the examination, district officials shared that the book has been checked out just three times in its history in the high school library.
The committee decided to apply its ruling to all of the books in Maas' "Throne of Glass" series, some of which are facing separate complaints.
Challenger Shirley Yeager has a right to appeal the committee's decision to the full school board. She told the Dispatch she doesn't know whether she'll appeal this decision, but said she intends to fight the recommendation about the rest of the series.
IM Care-Lakeview contract woes
As the contract termination between Itasca County's public health insurance provider and Lakeview Behavioral Health will be effective at the end of this year, about 700 IM Care patients at Lakeview Behavioral will be affected.
Lakeview Behavioral Health issued a call-to-action regarding this contract termination decision by IM-Care, Itasca County's agency that handles insurance coverage for those who qualify for Medical Assistance or Minnesota Care.
In an interview with KAXE/KBXE, Itasca County Commissioner Terry Snyder said the contract termination is a legal issue, being contemplated by attorneys on both sides of the arrangement.
IM Care Director Sarah Anderson wrote in an email that the agency has a plan in place to make sure all enrollees have continuity of care with other providers, and enrollees are encouraged to contact IM Care Member Services for assistance.
Snyder acknowledged disparities in access to mental health care in Northern Minnesota and said the county is continuing to work toward improving that access.
Lakeview Behavioral Health offers out-patient mental health and substance abuse disorder services in their offices in Grand Rapids, Hibbing and Brainerd. Lakeview also operates Reflections Recovery Residences, an in-patient type of facility that promotes recovery with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.
KAXE/KBXE News is following this story and will continue to provide updates.
Oak wilt treatment research
Trained tree climbers in the Superior National Forest are testing a new technique to improve forest health against oak wilt disease, one of the deadliest diseases to red oaks in the Eastern U.S.
Oak wilt can spread in two ways: above the ground through the movement of fungal spores by sap-feeding beetles to wounds in oak trees, or below ground through the grafted roots of neighboring oaks.
Treatments for oak wilt disease are often costly and damaging. They involve cutting and removing trees with the disease, including many nearby uninfected trees and disrupting the root systems using heavy equipment.
To test the oak wilt rapid response treatment, researchers need to infect oaks with the disease. To accomplish this, climbers drill into the branch and add the fungal disease to mimic a natural infection.
Following artificial infection, forest health managers girdle the trees at predetermined times to prevent the oak wilt infection from advancing down from the crown into the roots and spreading throughout the root systems to other trees.
Girdling is when bark and some wood materials are removed from a ring around the tree’s trunk.
It has been shown in recent testing to be an effective means in stopping the spread of oak wilt into the tree’s roots and protecting other trees in that area.
The project includes several state and federal partners and is in effect in Michigan's Huron-Manistee National Forest and Wisconsin's Octonto River Seed Orchard as well.
The group will conduct one more summer of treatment, then monitor the select trees for five years for effectiveness.
Daily Brief - Dec. 8, 2023: Postal Service refutes claims of Bemidji mail delays, Amazon prioritizationAnd: Ely offers current and future police officers their own canoes; pristine lake ice conditions draw skating, iceboating enthusiasts; and Santa Claus is coming to Split Rock Lighthouse.
Janelle Greschner, director of business recruitment for the IRRR, said businesses are already interested in the planned industrial park in a city with very few manufacturing jobs.
Plus an update on the Bemidji school threat and a several swatting incidents reported across the state; Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan to serve as chair of party committee; and a project is focused on the intersection of climate change and aging.
Staffers from U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith's offices were on hand to hear testimony from postal workers, their families and anyone who sends or receives mail.
UPDATE: Credible threat closes Bemidji schools as BCA reports unrelated statewide swatting incidentsThe threat, according to Superintendent Jeremy Olson, was reported to the district by law enforcement around 9:45 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5. Numerous schools and Jewish facilities across the state were targeted with a separate swatting hoax.
And: Staffers from Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith's office held a roundtable discussion on issues at the Bemidji Post Office Tuesday, and the State Emblems Redesign Commission unanimously selected a new state seal depicting a loon and other Minnesota staples.
Daily Brief - Dec. 5, 2023: Rural electrical coop sues cryptocurrency miners for alleged power theftAnd: businesses prepare for new paid leave law, public comments being accepted on what state should do with $651 million in federal broadband money, Superior National Forest staff to host open house on prescribed burn project; and the state nursery seeks black spruce cone hunters.
Plus: A new lake litter law goes into effect; an appeal forces a second look at a challenge Brainerd school library book; and rural electrical cooperatives compete for dollars to support the green energy transition.
Daily Brief - Dec. 1, 2023: Mahnomen County vacates office of county attorney after license suspensionAnd: wildlife officials emphasize winter severity impacting deer hunter success in northeastern Minnesota as the wolf debate heats up; fire safety officials emphasize caution during the holiday season; and the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe is seeking applicants for their Cannabis Regulation Commission by Dec. 15.
The Minnesota Supreme Court suspended Mahnomen County Attorney Julie Bruggeman's license to practice law after a petition citing numerous instances of unethical misconduct.
The Minnesota State Fire Marshal reports home fires and other disasters peak during the winter months.
The grants from the Minnesota Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation are geared to support tourism and recreation.
The termination of the contract, effective at the end of this year, was expected to impact about 700 Lakeview Behavioral Health patients enrolled in Itasca County's public insurance provider.
The Encampment Minerals proposals, one near Hoyt Lakes and the other near Cotton, call for diamond drilling exploratory borings and geological surveys.
And: Elevated copper levels in Brainerd's water supply prompts warnings, new mineral exploration plans submitted for St. Louis County locations, and IRRR grants support tourism and recreation in area cities.
According to the sheriff’s office, the girl took instructions from a dispatcher on how to slow down the vehicle on her own because her mother was not responding.
Judge James E. LaFave says the company’s solution for storing waste at the site by lining a tailings pond with bentonite clay is not a “practicable or workable reclamation technique.”
Smith said millions of Minnesotans rely on the U.S. Postal Service to pay bills, receive prescriptions and conduct essential businesses.