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AM NewsBrief: Mar. 15, 2024

This is the KGOU AM NewsBrief for Friday, March 15, 2024.

Family Issues Statement On Teen’s Reported Suicide

The family of Nex Benedict released a statement Thursday calling for an end to hate and bullying in schools.

Benedict, a self-described non-binary 16-year-old Owasso High School student, died in February the day after a fight with other students in a school bathroom.

Part of the medical examiner’s report released Wednesday said Benedict’s death was a suicide involving prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

The statement from Benedict’s family said the full report showed the teenager had contusions near their right eye socket, blood in their eye and cuts on their face.

The statement also claims Benedict had contusions on their torso consistent with a resuscitation attempt.

While the statement lists these injuries as non-lethal, Benedict’s family said they wanted to counter claims that the fight was insignificant.

Vigils and demonstrations have been held across the country in honor of Benedict.

Investigation Alleges Unauthorized Financial Payments to Tulsa Public School Administrators

A new report says administrators at Tulsa Public Schools were paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in donated money without approval from the school board.

According to the Tulsa World, the payments from nonprofit Foundation for Tulsa Schools were made directly to more than 24 TPS administrators.

Described as "bonuses" in financial paperwork, amounts ranged from five to $35 thousand dollars.

Former TPS employee Devin Fletcher, who last year pleaded guilty to wire fraud in connection with an embezzlement investigation, oversaw many of the payments.

But former Superintendent Deborah Gist told the newspaper there was nothing nefarious about these donor-funded bonuses, though she said there could have been more transparency in how they were paid.

Current Superintendent Ebony Johnson said any future payments will be done in a more deliberate way.

Legislators Propose Measure To Attract Teacher Retirees

Lawmakers are looking for more ways to get teachers into Oklahoma classrooms.

House Bill 2320 would put a moratorium on the limit of post-retirement earnings for Oklahoma Teachers’ Retirement System participants.

That means retirees could double dip from their retirement payments and teaching salary if they choose to come back to the classroom.

Retirees would still need to wait at least 60 days from officially retiring to returning to teach.

Opponents say the bill could encourage teachers who have been holding off on retiring to go ahead and retire so they can double dip. That could strain the retirement system.

To address this concern, the bill’s author agreed to make the scope of the measure a three-year trial.

The Fort Sill Apache Tribe Receives Air Quality Monitoring Funds

The Fort Sill Apache Tribe is getting $66,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to install three air quality monitoring sensors across its land in Southwest Oklahoma.

The sensors can measure multiple types of pollution, including smog particles that can harm people’s health.

These kinds of pollutants can be kicked up from roads, spewed from fires or generated by power plants and cars.

The EPA says this grant will also fund outreach to help residents learn more about the air they breathe.

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