CLAY COUNTY — Law enforcement officials with Clay County Sheriff’s Office are urging families to speak with children about the dangers of counterfeit drugs and accessing medications from sources other than a licensed pharmacy.
“Counterfeit prescription pills made with fentanyl are an increasing threat in Clay County,” states a sheriff’s office release. “We are investigating many of these cases involving the deaths and overdoses of teens and young adults. For the first time since 2015, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has issued a public safety alert, and it’s about this threat.”
The DEA has seized more than 9.5 million of these types of counterfeit pills so far this year, an amount more than the last two years combined.
“These pills are widely available on social media and ecommerce platforms,” states the sheriff’s office release. “These pills look like genuine prescription drugs and cannot be distinguished by appearance alone. Please talk to your kids about the dangers of getting prescription medication from anywhere other than a pharmacy.”
According to the DEA, counterfeit pills are “more lethal than ever before.”
“The number of DEA-seized counterfeit pills with fentanyl has jumped nearly 430% since 2019. DEA lab testing reveals that two out of every five pills with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose,” states a DEA fact sheet.
Families can learn more learn more at dea.gov/onepill.
Anyone with local information about distribution of these pills can report it at email@example.com. More on this developing story will be published as details become available.
Editor’s Note: This is the first in series of stories on bullying to be published in several editions. Future stories will look at bullying statistics, prevention strategies, how bullying and harassment is investigated by law enforcement and what more can be done to prevent these behaviors.
As October is National Bullying Prevention Month, school leaders are speaking about the definition of bullying and what districts do when it is reported.
According to the Jason Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to prevention of youth suicide through educational and awareness programs, bullying is any unwanted and aggressive behavior that involves a power imbalance, whether real or perceived.
According to PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, when bullying behavior directed at a target is also based on a protected class such as race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin or disability, that behavior is then defined as harassment.
“For example, bullying behavior meets the threshold of harassment when a student is being verbally bullied with demeaning language about their disability,” states the National Bullying Prevention Center website.
Students experiencing harassment have protections at the federal level. The Office of Civil Rights and the Department of Justice report bullying is considered “discriminatory harassment” when based on a student’s race, color, religion, sex, age, disability or national origin.
“If a student is experiencing discriminatory harassment, federally-funded schools are obligated under federal law to address the behavior,” states the national center’s site.
Technology, according to experts, has made bullying easier to commit and sometimes more widespread. Bullying using technological or digital means is often referred to as cyberbullying. Cyberbullying includes the distribution of mean or inappropriate email or text messages and the use of social media to post rumors, embarrassing photos, videos or messages.
According to Smithville schools’ policy, students are encouraged to report bullying behaviors and staff are expected to report it. Reports may be made in person or through online forms found on the district website under “emergency actions” at smithvilleschooldistrict.net and on each school building website.
When a report is filed, building and district administration are alerted via email so an investigation can be conducted.
In Kearney, even if an incident does not involve school property, according to the district policy, the district may impose punishment.
“Even when cyberbullying does not involve district property, activities or technology resources, the district may impose consequences or discipline ... if there is a sufficient nexus to the educational environment or the behavior materially and substantially disrupts the educational environment,” states the policy.
In Kearney, bullying includes physical actions like violence, gestures, theft or damaging property; verbal or written taunts including name calling, put-downs, extortion or threats; or threats of retaliation for reporting such acts.
Reporting can be done in the district by way of online form under “quick links” on the high school website,
khs.ksdr1.net, as well as via links on the middle and junior high school sites.
Samantha Anderson, in her ninth year at Kearney Junior High as a counselor, said one of the biggest issues is bullying over social media.
“It seems easier for kids to speak their mind if they get to hide behind the screen,” she said. “I feel like when school went to virtual teaching and kids were home, social media seemed the platform as they had more time and access to their phones.”
Anderson said with kids in school buildings in person, time is limited for these behaviors, but that doesn’t mean bullying or harassment can’t happen.
“No matter what, it can be detrimental,” she said. “There is an online form that can be filled out that takes on reporting issues. We want students to feel safe at school.”
When an offense is reported, if a Kearney district investigation determines punishment or consequence is needed, these consequences include a range of actions. According to the handbook, which must be acknowledged by students and families according to the district, the first offense can mean up to three days of out-of-school suspension and/or loss of school privileges such as activities and extracurriculars. A second offense can mean three to five days out-of-school suspension and referral to the guidance department for intervention counseling, A third offense could mean five to 10 days out-of-school suspension and loss of privileges. Depending on severity of the infraction at any level, expulsion may also be warranted.
While school and district administrators handle the discipline of reported cases, school counselors work to provide students tools.
“We talk about setting boundaries,” Anderson explained.
“It’s acceptable not be friends with everyone, especially in the realm of social media. Time and time again we also talk about how when we witness bullying, we don’t know what to do. The trick is to not be a bystander, but an upstander.
“This might not be getting in the middle of a confrontation, but later coming alongside a peer. The biggest thing is that someone who is bullied needs support and to have someone say that they see you and what happened is not OK.”
Bullying can be very isolating, said the Kearney counselor.
“We also try to tell kids that it is our job for them to come in and share their problems. We want to be here to help walk you through the challenges,” Anderson said.
An upstander, she said, can help by reporting bullying as well. Parents can help by having open conversations with their children.
“Parents can ask if their kids are feeling safe at school or if they are seeing situations that upset them,” she said. “It can be a quick conversation at the dinner table or when you are picking them up from school.”
Kelli Gillespie, a counselor at Heritage Middle School in Liberty, is in her fourth year with the Liberty district and ninth overall as a counselor.
As with other districts, she said Liberty Public Schools has a form that includes documentation of bullying.
“It’s shared with administrators who handle the discipline,” she said. “As a counselor, I am aiming to help students find solutions. We also have a districtwide anonymous report that can be a useful tool.”
The online reporting tool is available at app.sprigeo.com/district/liberty-public-schools.
At the middle and high schools, the motto is “See something, say something.”
“We have also seen the shift to cyberbullying and social media platforms,” Gillespie said. “It is crucial with social media that students understand that what they put out there is out there forever.”
For those who are dealing with bullying, Gillespie said counselors work with students to look at coping strategies and find positive support.
“When we meet with students, we identify at least one trusted adult here at school. We tell our students that it can take courage to report, but it can be done.”
KEARNEY — Mayor Randy Pogue will host a town hall meeting to educate Kearney voters on the use tax effort on the ballot ahead of the Nov. 2 election.
The meeting will be used to educate voters on what approval of the ballot question would mean and answer any questions voters have before heading to the polls. The meeting will be 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday Oct. 28, at Kearney City Hall, 100 E. Washington St.
“Please join us and educate yourself on this important issue,” states a Facebook event post about the town hall. “You are welcome to join in person, watch live on YouTube or even join us via Zoom. (I) look forward to seeing you!”
The zoom link for the meeting is: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85173378526.
The city’s YouTube channel can be found by searching “City of Kearney, Missouri” on the online platform.
More information on the ballot question and other issues on the Nov. 2 Clay County ballot can be found on the Courier-Tribune website under the election news section under news at mycouriertribune.com/news/election_news/.
KEARNEY — Voters in Kearney city limits will again be asked to approve a 3% use tax to be collected on goods purchased from out-of-state vendors currently not paying local sales tax.
Government entities across the Northland will have questions posed to voters on the Nov. 2 ballot. The following is an explanation of issues on the ballot. More details on the Nov. 2 election in Clay County will be published in coming editions of the Courier-Tribune.
LIBERTY — Interstate 35 was closed for an hour and 15 minutes early Friday, Oct. 15 and a suspect was taken into custody without injury, said Capt. Andy Hedrick, Liberty Police’s public information officer, after investigators responded to a call of shots fired.
Police received the emergency call about 10 minutes to 1 a.m. Friday. Hedrick said it was reported a man was firing a handgun toward the interstate.
“The caller reported the man may be intoxicated,” he said. “Police were dispatched and discovered a man fitting the description walking along Stewart Road not far from Academy Sports. Officers tried to engage him, and the subject ended up running across I-35.”
Police ended up receiving aid from Clay County Sheriff’s Office, Kansas City Police Department, officers from Claycomo and Pleasant Valley as well as the Missouri Highway Patrol.
Around 4:30 p.m. Friday, Christian M. Brown, 26, Pleasant Valley, was charged with felony unlawful use of a weapon in the case.
Hedrick said the highway patrol shut down I-35 from Kansas Street to Pleasant Valley Road during the investigation.
“Officers eventually located him in a brushy area along Church Road,” Hedrick said. “There was a brief standoff and then he was taken into custody.”
No injuries or property damage were reported.
“It’s a big deal to shut down the interstate, but it was a precaution we had to do,” Hedrick said.