Quote of the Day
“I feel like in this situation we’ve been put between a rock and a hard place by both the federal and our state government where we are the ones who would be the sacrificial lambs effectively in this fight. I think that would be completely a waste of time and a distraction from our school business of educating students.”
—Elizabeth Yeager during a Wichita Falls school board meeting two weeks ago, the Texas Tribune reported on Thursday. Wichita Falls turned down Attorney General Ken Paxton’s offer to pass a discriminatory bathroom policy so that it could join his lawsuit against the federal government.
Bear Down—The hammer finally dropped at Baylor University on Thursday amid a sexual assault scandal surrounding the football program, one that was first revealed in August and continued to build as more and more players were found to have been accused of sexual assault yet faced no punishment or serious investigation. Baylor announced on Thursday that it would be significantly shaking up its administration and athletics department by firing football coach Art Briles, sanctioning and suspending athletics director Ian McCaw and removing Ken Starr from his role as president. Baylor also released a summary of the findings of an independent investigation by the Philadelphia-based law firm Pepper Hamilton into the university’s handling of sexual assault cases, and the results were not good for the conservative Baptist school. To quote one member of Baylor’s board of regents: “We were horrified.” The law firm found that Baylor officials at all levels completely and utterly failed to investigate sexual assaults, intentionally tried to sweep under the rug allegations against football players, intimidated victims and retaliated against accusers. The university also promised sweeping reforms and apologized to the community and to survivors of sexual assault. It’s been a long time coming. As one survivor of sexual assault at Baylor told the Houston Chronicle: “There is no celebration on my end. Just grieving and mourning… I am thankful that the truth has finally come out. May justice continue to be served.”
Top Speller—A fifth-grader from Austin won the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday, sharing the title with a thirteen-year old from New York. Nihar Janga dominated the early part of the competition and kept rolling. According to USA Today, he was the only speller out of nearly 300 contestants to get a perfect score on the preliminary test, spelling every word correctly in the second and third rounds and running through the first-round written test without a single misspelling. NPR says Janga became a fan favorite because he was one of the competition’s youngest spellers, and because he would often try to define the words himself rather than ask the judges. He even got an invitation to a Dallas Cowboys game in a Twitter shoutout from wide receiver Dez Bryant after throwing up a celebratory “X,” a Bryant trademark. Not bad for an eleven-year-old kid. Janga’s winning word was “gesellschaft,” which means “an association of individuals for common goals, as for entertainment, intellectual, or cultural purposes or for business reasons”—a big word that is sure to impress should Janga choose to use it at fifth-grade parties.
Cool Billion—The state’s mental health facilities are in bad shape. So bad that the Department of State Health Services says it needs about $1 billion for a fix-up. Writes the Dallas Morning News: “A majority of the 557 buildings across the 11 state hospital campuses were constructed between the 1930s and 1970s, with some dating back to the mid-1800s,” and 75 of those buildings are “uninhabitable.” The campuses are so outdated that it’s costing the state “millions” each year to maintain them, and is putting the safety of patients at risk. But one billion bucks is a lot of money. Like, a lot. Texas lawmakers have apparently been reluctant to shell out for less extensive (and less expensive) repairs to begin with, so it’s unsurprising that they’re balking at forking over a billion here. There isn’t a good track record in Texas when it comes to state-funded mental healthcare. According to the Morning News, in the last ten years the state has provided about ten percent of the amount of funding recommended by the department. But the department says these new changes are vital. Under the proposed plan, over a ten year period the state would completely rebuild five hospitals and significantly renovate others.