Family, church advocate for fair treatment in case of 11-year-old KCK girl who was assaulted

An alleged racially motivated assault on an 11-year-old Kansas City, Kansas, girl is at the center of a controversy over fair treatment by the judicial system.

The 11-year-old girl was at an apartment complex visiting friends in Shawnee, Kansas, on Aug. 28 when a 12-year-old boy called her and her friends racist epithets. Then the boy threatened the girls with a knife, and later used a steel pole to hit the 11-year-old girl on the head, according to reports. The girl in the case is black, while the boy is white.

The girl was unconscious for three minutes and had to go to the hospital, where she had eight stitches in her mouth, according to reports. She had a concussion and had to spend the night at the hospital.

Pastor Terry Bradshaw Jr. of the Empowerment Temple in Kansas City, Kansas, said he’s known the girl for years, and she is a “sweet girl, excellent student, loving, bold and honest. All she said was ‘My black is beautiful’ and ‘Black Lives Matter,’” he said.

Right now the 12-year-old boy in the case is on house arrest, he said. The boy used hate speech and racist epithets, then physically attacked her, he said. According to Pastor Bradshaw, house arrest is a cushion that many other juveniles don’t receive after committing a violent crime.

Pastor Bradshaw pointed out that he has seen many minority youth here who were picked up immediately after a similar incident and were sent to a juvenile center to await a trial. He is asking that the boy in this case be sent to a juvenile center to await a hearing, and he is also asking that the boy be charged with a hate crime.

“Right now people are pretty upset and tired, exhausted, ready for change, and this is just a further confirmation that equality must happen for the black community,” Bradshaw said. “We are ready to fully pursue justice, to fully pursue equality. It is time for real change to happen.”

Often in America, there are two sets of rules for blacks and whites, especially those riddled by poverty, he said. Many times blacks are treated as less than human.

“We just want the same rights, we want equal justice,” he said.

“What happened is further confirmation that racism and bigotry is running rampant in our community,” Bradshaw said. “We must have no tolerance for racism and bigotry. We must extinguish hate.”

There must be equality and change and justice across the board, no matter who it is, Bradshaw said. He added the parents of the boy should take a great level of responsibility and be held accountable, also.

“All I want is justice for my daughter,” the girl’s mother said in a statement. “She didn’t do anything to provoke this boy. Clearly, he needs help, and we want to make sure he gets the help he needs. The hate needs to stop, and we can all do our part to end it by having talks with our children about racism.”

The family and their attorney are monitoring the case, which is in Johnson County, to make sure justice is done, according to the statement.

Saliva is making it possible to quickly test tens of thousands of Kansans for coronavirus

State officials hope two labs in Johnson County could help Kansas boost its testing capacity dramatically for schools, nursing homes and asymptomatic people.

by Celia Llopis-Jepsen, Kansas News Service

Lenexa, Kansas — One lab has helped seven Kansas universities test tens of thousands of students, faculty and staff for COVID-19 for the fall semester. And all anyone needed to do was spit.

Saliva lab work has the potential to dramatically increase testing of asymptomatic Kansans with no known COVID-19 exposure, state health officials say. That’s a critical ingredient for stopping the pandemic.

Last week, Kansas health secretary Lee Norman suggested the state partner with labs such as Lenexa-based Clinical Reference Laboratory and a second Lenexa company that does saliva and other COVID-19 testing for major hospitals, MAWD Pathology Group.

“Anybody can spit into a tube. That would be a game changer,” Norman told a state task force. “That would really open up the floodgates.”

He suggested tapping the labs to help the state’s nursing homes and schools, and to regularly test large numbers of Kansans without symptoms, not just patients who turn up at doctor’s offices feeling sick.

Collecting saliva holds a few advantages over swabs that dip deep into one’s nasal passages. Most people can spit into a tube without help from a nurse or other medical professional decked out in protective gear.

Already, Kansas has surpassed its target of testing more than 60,000 people per month three months in a row, but Norman said “it’s not enough.” The state has focused largely on people with symptoms or exposure to known COVID-19 outbreaks — a triage level of testing that epidemiologists widely agree falls short of what’s needed.

To dramatically slow viral transmission, the Harvard Global Health Institute said last month that Kansas must more than triple the number of people tested daily to nearly 13,000, while keeping up social distancing and mask-wearing. Only five states are testing enough people to suppress the virus.

The state may already have the capacity to top that, MAWD president Samuel Caughron said. His lab can handle 10,000 to 15,000 tests daily, but doesn’t use its full capacity.

“We’ve been seeing, as other labs have, our volumes declining,” he said. “There is something of a disconnect between what could be, and what’s happening.”

The challenge for Kansas, he said, is creating a process that links organizations in need of mass testing to labs that can return results within a day or two.

Stocking up

Harvard experts have warned saliva testing could face supply shortages, too, just like tests that use nasal or throat swabs.

While waiting months for the U.S. Food And Drug Administration to authorize its tests, Lenexa’s Clinical Reference Laboratory used the time to install hard-to-get liquid-handling robots and squirrel away as many supplies as it could. Authorization came through July 30.

“Honestly, we’ve just been building inventory since the day this started,” CEO Bob Thompson said. “So we’re feeling really good about our supply chain.”

The company currently provides test results within 1-2 days.

Saliva tests (and saliva-sputum tests that require the person to cough before spitting) detect genetic material — RNA — from the coronavirus. That’s the same science used with deep nasal swabs, but collecting saliva is quicker in large populations like prisons, schools and colleges. It saves precious masks and gloves, and it’s a less unpleasant option for people who have to take the test repeatedly, such as nursing home residents, athletes and health care workers.

At the University of Kansas, saliva tests have detected more than 200 cases of COVID-19 so far, and revealed higher rates of the virus among fraternities and sororities. This week Douglas County health officials ordered residents of nine fraternity and sorority houses into two-week quarantine.

CRL in Lenexa has already processed 30,000 tests for seven Kansas schools, including KU, Emporia State University, Wichita State University, Fort Hays State University and Benedictine College — as well as 4,000 tests for four in Missouri.

The lab said it could handle several more thousand tests per day for Kansas. The company currently processes about 10,000 a day, with a focus on the Kansas and Missouri markets, and expects to reach 20,000 a day by mid-September.

It’s in talks with Kansas school districts, too, and recently inked a deal with Los Angeles Unified School District to join a bevy of labs assisting its 600,000-student school system. Minnesota is providing saliva tests (which aren’t from CRL) to all its schools, and announced this week it will spend nearly $15 million on a new lab for saliva samples.

The state lab in Topeka also plans to start processing saliva samples in-house, a Kansas Department of Health and Environment spokeswoman said Friday. It has the right equipment, but must first complete legwork to ensure its results would be valid.

For mass testing of largely asymptomatic people at places like colleges, CRL pools material from five people at a time to speed up the process. When a combined sample contains the virus, CRL then retrieves the five vials to retest each person’s saliva individually and pinpoint the source.

While CRL received FDA authorization, not all COVID-19 tests — saliva or otherwise — have that.

The backlogged agency allowed many tests onto market while awaiting review, and last week the Trump administration axed the requirement for federally regulated labs with advanced capabilities to undergo FDA scrutiny.

MAWD’s test, a variation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention method, does not have FDA authorization yet but the company may still pursue it.

Pittsburg State University uses Cytocheck, a lab in Parsons, but didn’t answer questions about whether the FDA has greenlighted its tests. Cytocheck wouldn’t speak to the Kansas News Service about its product.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen reports on consumer health and education for the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @celia_LJ or email her at celia (at) kcur (dot) org. The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.
Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

See more at https://www.kcur.org/news/2020-08-28/saliva-is-making-it-possible-to-quickly-test-tens-of-thousands-of-kansans-for-coronavirus.

Crowded GOP field for Kansas’ 3rd District charges toward primary with a focus on issues, money

Two of the five candidates are clearly ahead in the fundraising race ahead of the Aug. 4 election, but voters indicate they’re looking for the person who can beat U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids in the fall.

Four Republican candidates for the Kansas Third Congressional district debated at a July 14 event organized by the Johnson County Republican Party. (Photo by Aviva Okeson-Haberman, Kansas News Service)

by Aviva Okeson-Haberman, Kansas News Service

A global pandemic and protests over police brutality have helped shape the message and direction of the crowded Republican primary in Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District.

While the five candidates are still talking about issues like health care and the national debt, they’re also now fielding questions about the role of the federal government in a public health crisis and their support for law enforcement.

Though Amanda Adkins and Sara Hart Weir have a clear fundraising advantage in the Aug. 4 GOP primary, they still lag behind the woman they’re trying to unseat, Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids. Plus, Adkins’ and Weir’s money hasn’t stopped some voters from coalescing behind the other candidates: Mike Beehler, Adrienne Vallejo Foster and Tom Love.

Sara Hart Weir, right, walked in an Olathe subdivision during a July 11 canvassing event. (Photo by Aviva Okeson-Haberman, Kansas News Service)

Policing in the spotlight

Policing and fiscal conservatism are the two key issues shaping Henry E. Lyons’ vote. The real estate developer and president of the Olathe, Overland Park, Leawood NAACP describes himself as an independent who is “leaning more toward the Republican side.”

The question of policing resurfaced in May, after George Floyd, a Black man, died after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes. His death and others led to weeks of protests over racist policing tactics and calls for cities to pull back on heavily funding police departments. Close to home, Kansas City, Missouri, is looking to regain local control of its department from the state.

Lyons, who plans to vote for former Roeland Park Mayor Foster, said “there are some bad apples as there are in any business, but I don’t think (the police) should be defunded.”

Tom Love

Earlier this month, all candidates but Love participated in a debate sponsored by the Johnston County GOP debate. And each candidate said they support law enforcement officers and do not want to defund the police.

“I call 911, I want lights and sirens coming to my house,” Beehler said to applause.

Both Foster and Weir support additional training for police officers. Adkins said while a “strong police force is part of a vibrant community,” Republicans should also talk about the “importance of supporting the Black community.”

“I think that sometimes Republicans don’t comment on that enough,” Adkins said. “I think we should stand with Black businesses. I think we should stand with Black families.”

Adrienne Vallejo Foster knocked on doors in an Overland Park neighborhood in late July. (Photo by Aviva Okeson-Haberman, Kansas News Service)

The money

Fundraising is a key metric for the general election, since Davids has almost $2.5 million to spend already. The only 3rd District GOP candidate yet to report any fundraising is Tom Love, a real estate investor and former state lawmaker.

By the end of June, Adkins had raised more than $900,000 and had more than half a million left in the bank. She also has the support of a super PAC that has run ads attacking Weir for working for former Kansas Democratic Congressman Dennis Moore in 2004. The ads, which also portray Adkins as a “real Republican,” are funded primarily by Adkins’ father.

During a July debate, both Weir and Foster criticized Adkins for her father’s involvement.

“If my father were alive today, he would say, ‘Mija, if I had a hundred thousand dollars, I wouldn’t give it to you to try to win a race,” said Foster, who as a Latina is the only candidate of color in the GOP primary. “I taught you how to earn your own way.’”

Weir also went after Adkins for donating to Cerner’s PAC while she was an employee. That PAC has donated to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and the state line, including Missouri Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver and Missouri Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler.

“Your funneling of money to these liberal Democrats … goes against everything that we stand for as conservative Republicans,” Weir said.

Amanda Adkins defended her donations to Cerner’s PAC at a July debate. (Photo by Aviva Okeson-Haberman, Kansas News Service)

Adkins responded by noting she chaired the Kansas Republican Party for four years during the Sam Brownback administration and cofounded The Eisenhower Series, which encourages Republican women to run for office.

“The business that she is attacking is Cerner Corporation,” Adkins said, calling her large former employer “one of the best examples of innovation here in the Kansas City community.”

Marty Oehmler attended the debate and said afterward that he isn’t interested in the fights among candidates. He wants to hear more about how they’ll help businesses and where they stand on gun rights.

“I’m not interested in attacking each other. I’m more interested on what the issues are, how are we going to solve the issues?”

Oehmler said he hasn’t decided who he’ll support, but he likes Foster and former Burns and McDonnell vice president Beehler.

Economic and electability issues

In late June, at the first Miami County GOP meeting since the pandemic began, Beehler told the crowd of about 20 at a Louisburg restaurant that he thinks Republicans will take the 3rd District seat back on the “coattails of Donald Trump.”

Mike Beehler spoke about his experience as a former Burns and McDonnell executive at a July GOP debate. (Photo by Aviva Okeson-Haberman, Kansas News Service)

Beehler is pushing spending on infrastructure as the solution to economic recovery.

“Post-COVID-19, it looks like we’re going to spend $2 trillion dollars on the construction,” Beehler said. “So what a great opportunity to elect a United States Congressman that’s got a civil engineering degree and has been very successful in business.”

Foster during the debate criticized Beehler’s plan as too costly, and said she wouldn’t vote for additional coronavirus relief that gives money to “state, local or municipalities for the bad businesses practices that they’ve incurred.”

Meanwhile, Adkins told the debate audience she supports a payroll tax holiday to help businesses weather the financial effect of the virus. Her coronavirus response plan includes increasing testing and making sure health care providers aren’t reliant on a medical supply chain solely in China.

The desire to “rebuild our economy” is something Weir said she’s also hearing from voters. On a sunny Saturday morning in July, the former president and CEO of the National Down Syndrome Society crisscrossed an Olathe subdivision, knocking on doors and listening to Republican voters like Valeria Edwards.

“It’s the term limits and people in the Swamp and people who’ve been there too long, like hello … we need fresh faces,” Edwards told Weir.

Weir responded that she supports term limits and described herself as a political outsider with a track record of “actually getting things done.”

But, like in the contested U.S. Senate primary race in Kansas, it’s electability that some voters are looking for in a candidate to represent Johnson and Wyandotte counties, and a slice of Miami County.

Alex Dwyer, 23, is one of the voters still mulling his choices, though he’s narrowed it down to Foster and Adkins.

“I think there’s a couple of candidates who should recuse themselves and step down from the race to allow the two main contenders to go at it,” Dwyer said. “… This is a competitive race for the seat. And electability should be highly considered in a candidate.”

[Note: If you want to hear more about where the candidates stand on important issues, join KCUR for a Facebook Live forum with the candidates 7:30 p.m. Thursday. You can also read KCUR’s voter’s guide.]

Aviva Okeson-Haberman is the Missouri government and politics reporter at KCUR 89.3. Email her at aviva@kcur.org.
The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.
See more at www.kcur.org/politics-elections-and-government/2020-07-22/the-crowded-field-for-kansas-3rd-district-charging-toward-gop-primary-with-a-focus-on-issues-money