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Get Alaska statewide news from the stations of the Alaska Public Radio Network (APRN). With a central news room in Anchorage and contributing reporters spread across the state, we capture news in the Voices of Alaska and share it with the world. Tune in to your local APRN station in Alaska, visit us online at APRN.ORG or subscribe to the Alaska News podcast right here. These are individual news stories, most of which appear in Alaska News Nightly (available as a separate podcast).
Updated: 51 min 50 sec ago

Investigation Finds 7 High Schoolers Responsible for Hazing

Thu, 2014-08-28 17:40

After concluding an investigation into an alleged hazing incident, the Juneau School District has identified seven high school seniors who participated in the paddling of six incoming freshmen. The incident took place shortly after school ended in May.

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The district announced this at a press conference Wednesday, but it’s not naming any of the students involved or what punishments they could face.

During a press conference Wednesday, superintendent Mark Miller says seven high school seniors paddled six incoming freshmen. Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO.

Jim Bradley is the father of one of the victims. He says his son, a basketball player, was hit with a paddle about seven times and came home with huge welts.

“I found out through other people that it happened because he didn’t want to have it made anything of. He wanted it to disappear and go away and just call it the tradition of entering high school,” Bradley says.

The concept of initiation isn’t new to Bradley. He went through hazing himself as a student.

“When I was initiated I was, you know, eggs on my head, shaving cream, go swim in the lake or something like that, but never physically or mentally abused like these kids were,” he says.

Bradley and his son are dealing with the situation differently. Bradley’s son, who he doesn’t want to name, didn’t participate in the district’s investigation. Bradley did. He wants justice for his son.

“He’s had to deal with it ever since then. He’s had to be scared. He’s had to walk around the school and see his friends and he’s had to hide this from his friends and family, you know, the fact that he got hit,” Bradley says.

Superintendent Mark Miller says what happened at the end of May is not an isolated case. The investigation found that paddling as a form of initiation has been going on for at least ten years; other types of initiation for much longer.

“Apparently some of these seniors were actually hazed in a similar manner when they were freshmen so this is a pattern, a recurring violence that we have seen over time. One of the things that actually came out is, apparently, one of the paddles was passed down from one student to another,” Miller says.

Hazing is considered one of the most severe violations of board policies and school rules. The district’s high school discipline plan calls for a minimum penalty of one to 10 days of suspension. The maximum penalty is permanent expulsion.

All forms of initiation by school or non-school sponsored groups are also prohibited.

The seven seniors involved in the paddling attend various high schools. Four are athletes, but Miller says the hazing wasn’t related to any particular sport.

Attorney John Sedor, who was hired by the district for the investigation, went through emails and old postings on social media sites to uncover how the victims were chosen, but Miller says it’s still unclear.

He says the victims likely weren’t surprised that they were picked.

“Students generally, I believe, knew something like this was coming because, again, it’s been going on for so long that it’s a pattern. Everybody knew,” Miller says.

When asked if the students were taken against their will, Miller says, “I don’t think anybody wants to be taken out to the woods and paddled, but it was a rather complex social interaction.”

Miller says details of the investigation and names of the students are confidential due to student privacy issues and attorney-client privilege. The district is addressing the problem through disciplinary action, education and restorative justice.

“We’re still exploring exactly what it looks like, but the implementation of an anti-bullying curriculum with an advisory is something that we talked about working with our counselors to make sure that the message gets through to everybody – This is not OK. This needs to stop and everybody knows it needs to stop,” Miller says.

Bradley says he’s glad the district is punishing the students who did the paddling and trying to change the culture of hazing. He doesn’t want it to happen to next year’s incoming freshmen.

“And I also want to make sure that my son doesn’t feel entitled to do this in three more years. I’m not going to allow him to turn around and do this to anybody either,” Bradley says.

Since the paddling, Bradley’s been thinking about it every day. Now that something’s being done about it, he hopefully won’t have to.

Categories: Alaska News

ENSTAR strike ends without a new contract

Thu, 2014-08-28 17:39

The ENSTAR operating employees strike is over, but the workers do not have a new contract. After two and a half weeks, they voted to return to work today.

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Greg Walker with Local 367 says not all of the employees wanted to go back, but he says they didn’t want the community to suffer.

“There’s a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done in the state. I know that the developers, many of the people who have new construction and are looking for gas service to be put to those homes, are way behind schedule. And we don’t want the community to suffer in this strike.”

Walker says the union is trying new tactics to come to a contract agreement with Canadian-owned ENSTAR over retirement benefits. He says they will continue to picket, and the strike sent the company a strong message.

“Did we make any progress whatsoever? We’ll only know that answer down the road,” he said.

John Sims with ENSTAR said in a statement that the company accepted the employees’ unconditional offer to return to work, and all offices are open for regular business.

The operating employees old contract is still in full force while negotiations continue.

Categories: Alaska News

PWI School District Finds Success With A 4-Day Week

Thu, 2014-08-28 17:38

The Southeast Island School District on Prince of Wales Island encompasses nine small, rural schools. Students in Thorne Bay, Kasaan, Coffman Cove, Port Alexander, Hollis, Nakuti Bay, Port Protection, Whale Pass, and Hyder started school Monday. Last year, the district implemented a four-day school week in all but one school. It worked so well that every school is running on a Monday through Thursday schedule this year.

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Southeast Island School District schools are tiny. Most have just two teachers and between 10 and 20 students spanning grades K through 12. They’re separated from each other by miles of land, or even by water in Port Alexander’s case. With such remote, rural schools, you have to be adaptable. Here’s Superintendent Lauren Burch.

“You know we’re trying to meet the needs of our families,” Burch says. “I mean you can’t have a basketball team in a school with ten kids but you can have an archery program.”

The 4-day school week is just another way the district has adapted to meet the needs of the families. Burch says the idea actually came from parents. They heard about rural school districts in the Lower 48 having success with the Monday-Thursday model. There was some hesitation at first, including from Nick Higson. He’s principal for all of the Southeast Island School District schools except Thorne Bay.

“We have to sometimes force ourselves to embrace change. I run with philosophy of if it’s not broken, why try to fix it,” Higson says.

But the push to try it out grew stronger, and in 2012, Superintendent Burch attempted to get approval from the State Department of Education.

“They had many legitimate concerns about our educational program that we had to satisfy before we moved on so… You know it’s counterintuitive that a four-day school week would be successful,” Burch says.

The idea didn’t pan out for the 2012-2013 school year. But for the ‘13-‘14 year, the school district submitted a more detailed proposal to the state. And it was approved. The next step was to get approval from the advisory councils at each school, which are made up of mostly parents.

The main concern from them? Childcare on Fridays. So, the district administration decided to organize Friday activities.

“We do things like artist in residence, where we bring in an artist and they come in and do silk screening with kids,” Higson says. “Or we do swim lessons with our kids. We do a number of activities where kids get this neat enrichment opportunity on Fridays that they wouldn’t necessarily  get on a block scheduled day.”

Some families chose to spend that extra day off with subsistence activities.

“You know people do hunt and gather here a lot. Hunting, fishing, mushrooms, berries. They do appreciate that time to get out and have a three-day weekend,” Burch says.

“The kids, not 100 percent of them, but a very high number of them absolutely love it,” Higson says. “It allows them to spend more time with families doing subsistence activities. It allows them to  go to the DMV or the dentist or the doctor on a non-school day so they don’t miss instructional time.”

It also cuts down on days students miss to travel for sports.

The support for the 4-day week isn’t completely unanimous. Principal Higson surveyed students and parents and put their anonymous responses on the school district’s website. Most of the feedback is positive. But some kids commented that the teachers give more homework because of the extra day off or that they felt they learned more in the five-day week.

For Higson, he sees the impact of the four-day week in the test scores.

“And the test data that we got back at the end of the year is phenomenal.”

Scores either went up or stayed the same. Nothing went down. And what about the teachers? Here’s Superintendent Burch:

“The teachers have been I think unanimous in support of it. I wasn’t really sure how that would go either because they’re working harder, longer. But on those Fridays, about half are work days. You can do professional development, you’re workin together, you’re grading papers. And it’s created much more collaborative time for teachers to work together.”

The four-day school week hasn’t saved money for the district. With Friday activities and the slightly longer days Monday through Thursday, Burch says it actually ends being a bit more expensive. But the shorter week fits with people’s lifestyles in these communities, and that is what has made it stick.

Categories: Alaska News

New Tanana Rec Site Not Thwarted By Rain

Thu, 2014-08-28 17:37

It’s been one of the rainiest summer’s on record in Fairbanks, but that hasn’t hampered the debut of new recreation area.

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The Fairbanks North Star Borough’s opened the new Tanana Lakes Recreation site in June.  It offers a swim beach, picnic area and launches for motorized and paddle boats along the Tanana River in south Fairbanks.  Borough Project Coordinator Steve Taylor says despite this summer’s mostly cool wet weather, the area has been popular.

“On the days when the sun is shining, we’ve had —  just from our own expectations — pretty solid use down there.”

Taylor cites numerous days when the beach parking lot overflowed.  There are no admission or parking fees at Tanana Lakes, and Taylor points to the area’s location at the end of South Cushman Street, as another key to its popularity.

“It’s so close to town,” Taylor says. “It’s just a quick jaunt for folks to get down there, that I think that’s made it really appealing. And it’s just a beautiful area too, it really has a lot of [good] qualities that can attract people.”

Under development since 2008, more than $3 million of federal, state and local funds, plus private grants, have been invested in Tanana Lakes, transforming a part of south Fairbanks that was a common spot for crime and partying.

Taylor says having staff on site nearly round the clock this summer helped keep the area safe. He says staffing will continue through moose hunting season, during which the area is also expected to get a lot of use. Tanana Lakes is still under development. Taylor says immediate plans call for more basic infrastructure.

Taylor says the borough has received a 62 thousand dollar grant for trail work, and will pursue money for additional projects. Borough Parks and Recreation Department is holding public meetings to gather input on Tanana Lakes following the rec sites first summer .

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: August 28, 2014

Thu, 2014-08-28 17:34

Individual news stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn

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Shell Oil Files Exploration Plan for Chukchi Sea

Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB – Unalaska

Shell Oil took its first step toward returning to the Arctic on Thursday morning. The company filed a new plan to explore the Chukchi Sea with federal regulators in Anchorage.

Parnell Vetoes A Bill Curbing Record Access

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Anchorage

Gov. Sean Parnell has vetoed a bill that would have scrubbed Courtview — the state’s online criminal records database — of any charge that did not result in a conviction.

Alaska Mayors Group Rallies Against Pot

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Anchorage

The Alaska Conference of Mayors has come out against a ballot initiative that would regulate marijuana like alcohol.

Senate Candidates Stake Ground In Unconventional First Debate

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Anchorage

Wednesday night the conservative umbrella group United for Liberty hosted the first Senate debate of the general election season. Democratic incumbent Mark Begich and Republican challenger Dan Sullivan squared off in an Anchorage auditorium and used the event to establish some of the themes of their campaigns.

New Study Sheds Light On How the Arctic Was Populated

Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage

Archaeologists have been arguing for decades about how human beings got to the new world, and genetic research released today deepens the mystery. An article published in “Science” magazine shows that there must have been at least four pulses of migration from Siberia through Alaska since the last Ice Age, and the Yupik and Inupiat people now in Alaska actually replaced an earlier population.

Investigation Finds 7 Juneau High Schoolers Responsible For Hazing

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

A Juneau School District investigation finds seven high school seniors responsible for the paddling of six incoming freshmen. The incident took place shortly after school ended in May.

ENSTAR Strike Ends Without A New Contract

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

The ENSTAR operating employees strike is over, but the workers do not have a new contract. After two and a half weeks they returned to work today Thursday.

Prince Of Wales Island Finds Success With A 4-Day School Week

Emily Files, KRBD – Ketchikan

The Southeast Island School District on Prince of Wales Island encompasses nine small, rural schools. Last year, the district implemented a four-day school week in all but one school. It worked so well that every school is running on a Monday through Thursday schedule this year.

New Tanana Rec Site Not Thwarted By Rain

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

It’s been one of the rainiest summer’s on record in Fairbanks, but that hasn’t hampered the debut of new recreation area.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Mayors Group Rallies Against Pot

Thu, 2014-08-28 16:43

The Alaska Conference of Mayors has come out against a ballot initiative that would regulate marijuana like alcohol.

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The coalition passed a resolution opposing Proposition 2 out of concerns over cost and safety at their summer meeting on August 13, and signed the document on Wednesday. The organization is also donating $5,000 to the political action group Big Marijuana Big Mistake to help their campaign.

The Alaska Conference of Mayors represents nearly 100 communities across the state. The vote on the resolution was unanimous, but only a quarter of members were present for it. The Mat-Su Borough and the cities of Fairbanks, Kodiak, Bethel, Wasilla, and Sitka were the largest communities to give an affirmative vote on the measure.

Proposition 2 spokesperson Taylor Bickford called the decision “unfortunate,” given that alcohol is already sold in many of these communities.

Categories: Alaska News

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