Illinois Public Media News
Protecting gay, lesbian and transgender students at school was the topic of a forum that drew over 300 people to Parkland College in Champaign last night.
A panel of teachers, school administrators, counselors and students discussed the impact of anti-gay bullying, and efforts --- both successful and unsuccessful --- to deal with it.
Panelist and teacher Stacy Gross helped found the Gay-Straight Alliance student group at Champaign's Centennial High School. She says the group struggled to win official school recognition --- and that its first promotional flyers were quickly torn down by opponents.
"Ultimately though, GSA just wove itself into the fabric of our school", said Gross. "And it became a normally accepted club. Now our flyers stay up way too long and we have to really make an effort to take them down."
Gross says she was inspired to act after mentoring a student who faced anti-gay harassment at Centennial. She says she still often hears anti-gay remarks from students, and notices teachers allowing them to go unanswered.
"Kendall J", one of the students on the panel, says he's openly gay at his high school, and also the senior class president. Still, he says he and his boyfriend were physically attacked by other students when they attended prom together. Other students came to their defense. To this day, Kendall says "I still endure ridiculous judgments and hateful glances by those who don't approve of my 'chosen lifestyle'. And I still hear how 'that's gay' and that comment is 'no homo' or how that guy in the tight shirt is a faggot. All these are reasons to make school safer for everyone". (None of the students on the panel gave their full names or identified their schools).
Illinois Superintendent of Education Christopher Koch opened the discussion by calling on the audience of educators, students and parents to check up on what their schools do to keep students safe, whatever their sexual identity.
"Make a point to check whether your anti-bullying policies include protection for youth on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity", said Koch. Make a point to ensure that all faculty and staff are aware of the policies, and are trained on how to enforce them".
Last night's forum was sponsored by the East Central Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, part of a statewide Safe Schools Alliance which has held similar forums in Peoria and Bloomington-Normal.
The union representing workers at the Champaign County Nursing Home says the county board needs to take account for the behavior of management at the facility.
Nurses and other home staff represented by AFSCME Local 900 have submitted a petition with the signatures of nearly 100 employees. They allege areas like nursing, dietary, and housekeeping are often short-staffed and reprimanded for not finishing work on time. The union also says managers have failed to honor a 2-year contract that the County and union agreed to in July to cut down on the number of agency nurses.
Tara McAuley, a staff representative with AFSCME, said,"Something needs to be done, and if nothing else maybe the voters need to understand that the county board which has overseen this nursing home has sat on its hands and not done enough to improve this situation. And if that's what it takes, to appeal to the voters and get a new county board, then that's what we're going to do."
AFSCME members are also calling for the removal of Nursing Home Administrator Andrew Buffenbarger. The union says grievances against nursing home management are being filed almost daily, many over nurses and other staff who have lost their jobs. AFSCME says many nurses and Certified Nurse Assistants have quit out of fear of being fired.
Champaign County Board member and Nursing Home Board member Alan Nudo says he can't comment until he studies the charges further.
Researchers at the University of Illinois are part of an international group of scientists that's decoded the DNA of the domestic pig.
Their research may one day prove useful in finding new treatments for both pigs and people, and perhaps aid in efforts for a new swine flu vaccine for pigs.
Larry Schook is the U of I biomedical science professor who led the project. He says the pig is the ideal animal to look at lifestyle and health issues in the United States. That's because pigs and humans are similar in size and makeup, and swine are often used in human research.
Researchers announced the results of their work today at a meeting in the United Kingdom. Schook says they'll spend the meeting discussing ways to use the new information.
A substance abuse treatment facility in Urbana is about to take clients for the first time in four years.
A federal grant will enable Prairie Center Health Systems to open the doors to its renovated Day Treatment Program, which had been closed in 2005 through cuts in state funds. CEO Bruce Suardini says the $476,000 will provide a year of therapy and related services to 100 clients. He says the money is not only for helping addicts recover but to help them rebuild lives and relationships:
"It affects the whole family. It affects the whole psyche of a person," Suardini said. "So part of the things we try to do is wrap around the other services because it might be finding a job for a person that really starts the catalyst of changing the alcohol abuse or the drug abuse. We look at education, getting people some credentials. We look at employment. We might be looking at housing."
Prairie Center Clinical director Mary Evans says without day treatment, clients for what services the facility could provide wound up on its waiting lists, in the court system, or hospitals.
The Day Treatment Program will open next month when staff has completed its training. Prairie Center will treat its clients five days a week and provide transportation.
A monthly gauge of the Illinois economy has made a bit of a rebound.
But the University of Illinois Flash Index cautions about putting too much into an October reading that jumped seven tenths of a percent above the previous month. Economist Fred Giertz says the first substantial improvement in the index in two years is evidence of an improving economy. But he says future months may show a much slower recovery, especially if employment doesn't rebound as well.
"Productivity has been increasing even during the downturn, so when demand starts going up again and people start buying more things it's going to take awhile before we start hiring back a lot of people because firms have become more productive, more efficient in the interim," Giertz said. "They don't need as many people as they used to, so it takes a little bit longer."
The Flash Index measures tax revenue each month from corporations, income and sales. Any number over 100 indicates economic growth - the October index came in at 90.7.
Officials in Tippecanoe County in western Indiana want to create a computer-assisted map of the historic Tippecanoe Battlefield that could yield clues about archaeological remnants buried there.
The Tippecanoe County Historical Association plans to use a device to measure anomalies in the earth's magnetic field to find underground objects. It also might use ground-penetrating radar to find items if funding can be found.
Archaeologist Colby Bartlett says it would be the first professional investigation of the site.
The Tippecanoe Battleground borders the town of Battle Ground, a few miles north of Lafayette. It was the site of the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. American forces led by General and Indiana territory Governor William Henry Harrison held off an attack by warriors from a confederation of Indian tribes. The battle was part of an ongoing conflict known as Tecumseh's War, named for the Shawnee leader. But the battle is also seen as a precursor to the War of 1812, which pitted the U-S against Great Britain and its Indian allies.
Buried artifacts at the Tippecanoe Battleground could include prehistoric American Indian artifacts and artifacts from the November 7th, 1811 battle.
Executive director Kathy Atwell says the historical association hopes to have the work done before the battle's 200th anniversary in 2011.
A key government watchdog groups says it has agreed to a compromise on limiting the size of campaign donations in Illinois.
The announcement Thursday sets the stage for lawmakers to vote on the first campaign-donation caps in Illinois history.
The plan described by the group CHANGE Illinois would limit how much money individuals, businesses and political committees can give to candidates. The limit for individuals would be $5,000.
It would also cap donations from political parties and legislative leaders during a primary election but not during the general election.
Republican lawmakers oppose that exception. They wanted strict limits on donations by powerful parties and legislative leaders.
The Champaign County Zoning Board of Appeals is in favor of hiring a consultant to help the county consider claims about noise made by applicants from wind farm operators.
The Zoning Board endorsed the proposal from County Zoning Administrator John Hall Thursday night. Hall expects Champaign County will receive its first application for a wind turbine farm next month, from Chicago-based Invenergy. And when such applications come in, he wants the expert opinion of an outside consultant to check claims about potential turbine noise and the impact on nearby residents.
"We would be in sort of a predicament", Hall told AM 580 News, "if the neighbors raised valid questions about what the wind farm developer says, because we would have no way to respond to either party". Hall says the county doesn't have expertise about wind turbine noise issues on its own staff.
ZBA Board member Paul Palmgren agreed during Thursday night's meeting, saying he wanted the county to be on firm ground, to avoid possible legal action from wind farm opponents.
"I don't want to be in a court of law some place, trying to defend what we maybe should have done", said Palmgren..
A memo from ZBA Chair Doug Bluhm "strongly supporting" Hall's request for a noise consultant will go to the Champaign County Board's Environmental and Land Use Committee. That committee will consider the request November 9th. Hall says some members of the committee have questioned the need for a consultant --- they note that most Illinois counties with wind farm ordinances haven't hired them. The cost of a consultant is low enough that Hall doesn't need county board approval to hire one --- but he says he prefers to have county board support.
we would be in sort of a predictament if the neighbors raised valid questions about what the wind farm developer says, because we would have no way to respond to either party. So having a consultant who could advise the ZBA on whether what the neighbors raise are valid concerns are not, I think that would be good to have.
In three weeks, a key vote takes place as a site that once contained much of the Army's chemical weapons supply reverts to civilian use.
An agency has put together a plan to reuse the Newport Chemical Depot as the Army lets go of the one-time nerve agent plant and storage site. It sits on 11 square miles in Vermillion County Indiana, just across the Illinois border.
Bill Laubrends is with the Newport Chemical Depot Reuse Authority. He says the plan is the end product of public meetings and input from a wide range of community leaders.
"We've had stakeholder interviews, which include local residents,property owners, business owners, elected officials, representatives of major employers, local and state economic development groups, representation of conservation groups, soil conservation districts, local civic organizations, school districts, et cetera," Laubrends said.
A five member board will vote on the plan November 19th. It recommends the Army set aside nearly 35-hundred acres for industrial or commercial redevelopment. Another 12-hundred acres would remain farmland, and 24-hundred acres would be left as natural areas and parkland.
The war in Iraq has claimed another US solder from east central Illinois. The Defense Department says 35 year old Army Major David Audo of Saint Joseph was killed Tuesday in Baghdad in a non-combat related incident. A press release only says that the incident remains under investigation. Audo was a 1992 graduate of Saint Joseph Ogden High School.
Meanwhile, a soldier from western Indiana is among more than a dozen Americans killed in action this week in Afghanistan, with President Barack Obama taking part in the arrival transfer of his body at Dover Air Force Base.
Army Sgt. Dale R. Griffin was a 1999 graduate of Terre Haute South High School. His mother says he joined the Army soon after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Griffin was a state runner-up in wrestling as a high school senior. Griffin was among 18 U.S. military personnel and drug agents whose bodies arrived early Thursday at the Air Force base in Delaware. The flag-draped remains of Griffin were carried off a plane by six soldiers as Obama and others in a line of honor saluted.
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