The Champaign school district's Consent Decree has been extended a few weeks past its scheduled June 30th expiration date --- due to scheduling problems with the judge overseeing the case. Federal Judge Joe Billy McDade has extended the racial equity decree until he can schedule a hearing on motions filed by plaintiffs in the case. School Board President Dave Tomlinson says McDade had no open dates in June --- and the hearing may not be held until July 20th or later.
Tomlinson and plaintiffs attorney Carol Ashley says this extension of the Consent Decree is only due to scheduling problems. Ashley is seeking a multi-year extension until the Unit Four school district works out problems she says remain with achieving goals set by the decree. But Tomlinson says the district has made a good-faith effort towards all the Consent Decree goals.He says the district's objections to the extension were overturned.
A federal judge has turned down a request from the plaintiffs in the Champaign Unit Four Consent Decree case for more hearings.
Attorneys for plaintiffs in the racial equity case had requested hearings on its motions to extend the Consent Decree past June 30th. They also wanted a comprehensive hearing on whether the Champaign school district had been acting in good faith in all its actions to meet the requirements of the decree. But Judge Joe Billy McDade ruled Monday that the decree does not require such hearings.
Unit Four School Board President Dave Tomlinson says he's pleased with the judge's decision. He says the move will limit hearings in the Consent Decree case to whether the district has met specific requirements in special and alternative education and building new classrooms on the north side of Champaign. He denied charges from the plaintiff's attorney that opposing a comprehensive hearing was an attempt to shut out public comment. "This is a court document and we have to fight this in court," Tomlinson said.
Plaintiffs' attorney Carol Ashley could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.
The family of a medical student from Texas shot and killed by sheriff's police near Oakwood early this month is accusing authorities of racial profiling.
Speaking in Urbana Wednesday, the parents and brothers of Oluwatofunmi Kaiyewu also say his death on the evening of April 6th was the result of a cover-up. The 23-year old man known as Toto was initially pulled over by a Villa Grove police officer, who said he was investigating a suspicious vehicle. The officer said he tried to strike him with the car... and a pursuit began on Interstate-74 that included sheriff's police from Champaign and Vermilion Counties, and the University of Illinois. After stopping the car, officers say they fired at Kaiyewu when he came at them with a machete and hunting knife. His mother Abbi says the vehicle was called 'suspicious' solely because a black man was behind the wheel. She calls her son a non-violent person only trying to study that night. "You don't take a machete to the library," says Mrs. Kaiyewu. "He was not expected to have this encounter. He was not expecting to die. He was just going to the library. He was not going to the war zone. So why would he take a machete and a hunting knife from his room to go to the library? It doesn't make sense."
Abbi Kaiyewu notes that police haven't been able to produce a video of what occurred after her son was stopped near Oakwood. Illinois State Police are still conducting an investigation, but in a press release issued by the agencies involved, Champaign County Sheriff Dan Walsh cites video evidence of Toto Kaiyewu physically assaulting the Villa Grove officer and holding the machete after the vehicle was stopped. And he dismisses any claim of racial profiling, saying there was no intial reason for an old Toyota to appear suspicious.
"I think the particluar facts, when they all come out, are actually going to be that the (Villa Grove) officer was behind the vehicle, and the gentlement stopped in the roadway and went back to the officer," says Walsh. "The gentlemen stopped before the officer turned on his lights or anything like that." Part of the joint statement released by the agencies involved in the shooting reads 'it is sad and horrible for Mr. Kaiyewu's family that things ended as they did, but Mr. Kaiyewu's actions controlled the outcome.'
The Kaiyewu's attorney, Jan Susler of Chicago, says Freedom of Information requests have been filed with all police departments for all evidence related to the incident, but adds a lawsuit could be filed at any time.
The words "at risk" are often pinned on African-American males for several reasons. They're considered less likely to finish high school, more likely to have been in prison, and subject to greater health problems and shorter life spans. Now, recently signed legislation has set up a state task force to study these problems and report on possible solutions. And for the past four weeks, Illinois' Task Force on the Condition of African-American Males has been gathering community input at town hall meetings around the state. The task force held one of its meetings in Urbana. AM 580's Jim Meadows reports.
The next director of American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois says the debate over Chief Illiniwek severely hampered the program in the past. Robert Warrior (left), currently an English professor at the University of Oklahoma, says the symbol's retirement brings a unique opportunity when he takes over the program this fall. He told AM 580's Jeff Bossert that the change at the UI led him to accept the job.
For the sellout crowd at the Assembly Hall in Champaign February 21, the big highlight wasn't Illinois' victory over Michigan, but the last appearance of Chief Illiniwek. The Chief has plenty of critics -- but at the game, supporters showed how much they loved him. AM 580's Jim Meadows reports.
A Decision on Chief Illiniwek
The chair of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees has retired the tradition of Chief Illiniwek. The last halftime dance for the Chief will be Wednesday, February 21st, during the final men's basketball home game of the season. Larry Eppley says he is a fan of the Chief, but his decision was in the university's best interest. AM 580's Jim Meadows talked to him, along with Ted Land from the student-run television channel UI-7.
A forum on racial and ethnic tensions on the University of Illinois campus brought together top university officials and a student group. The event was entitled "Racism, Power and Privilege on the UIUC Campus." The student group confronted the administration in the wake of a fraternity/sorority party last fall, in which students dressed as offensive Mexican stereotypes. But the "tacos and tequila" party was just part of the discussion. AM 580's Jim Meadows reports.
A recent newspaper report said the University of Illinois had made tentative plans to transfer ownership of the Chief Illiniwek symbol to a group of alumni who had portrayed the Chief. All sides deny that any agreement is in place but confirm that "informal" talks have occurred. The former student quoted in the report, Steve Raquel, remains hopeful that Chief supporters and opponents alike can find a way to see beyond their differences. AM 580's Jeff Bossert spoke with him.
The University of Illinois Board of Trustees votes on a resolution that neither retires nor specifically preserves the controversial symbol, but calls for all sides to come to a consensus. As AM 580's Jim Meadows reports, it will be very difficult to find an outcome that would end such a polarized debate.