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Students of Color Push Back On Calls For Police In Schools

RALEIGH, North Carolina (AP) After the mass shooting at a Texas elementary school, schools around the country pledged to boost security measures and increased the presence of law enforcement on campus — partly to reassure parents and students.

But police inside schools can make some students more uneasy, not less. Especially for Black students and other students of color, their personal experiences with policing can leave them feeling unsafe and alienated from school when they see officers on campus.

High school senior Malika Mobley has seen three different school resource officers patrolling the campus in Raleigh, North Carolina. Once on the way home from school, Mobley saw officers detain a visibly distraught classmate and push the student into the back of a police vehicle.

“They were crying, ‘Why are you doing this to me? I didn’t do anything,’” said Mobley, co-president of Wake County Black Student Coalition. “I was just forced to stand there and couldn’t do anything.”

Since 2020, the student group has advocated for eliminating police officers from school buildings in favor of investing in counselors and support staff for students.

“We don’t see police presence as part of the solution,” Mobley said. “If you really think about why police don’t make us safer, you can draw connections to all types of tragedies that impact the most marginalized among us.”

Police officers have a regular presence at schools across the country in recent decades, often in the form of school resource officers, who are tasked with building relationships with young people to promote trust of law enforcement, providing security, and enforcing laws. Critics say having armed police on campus often results in Black students being disproportionately arrested and punished, leading to what they call the school-to-prison pipeline.

Researchers have found that Black students report feeling less safe around police officers than their white peers and that officers in predominantly Black school districts were more likely to view students themselves to be threats.

Black students and other students of color also are disproportionately likely to have negative interactions with police in schools, ranging from referrals to law enforcement to being arrested or restrained, said Katherine Dunn, director of the Opportunity to Learn program at the Advancement Project. Since 2007, the Advancement Project has documented at least 200 instances of officers at schools assaulting students, she said.

“It shows all the physical harms that young people experience by police,” she said. “It’s also the experience of being degraded and made to feel like a criminal because you have to walk down the hallway to your class with several armed cops, who are not there for your safety, who you see arrest your friends, assault your friends.”

In 2018, after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the state Legislature passed laws mandating public schools to have either law enforcement or armed personnel present on campuses.

A study of the law’s impact by F. Chris Curran, a University of Florida professor, found the expanded police presence was followed by an increase in school arrests and the number of reported behavioral incidents. He said there are many factors to consider in deciding the role police play in schools.

“I’d like to see that conversation include thoughtful considerations of potential benefits, decreasing certain kinds of behaviors, but also the potential unintended consequences, if that’s increasing the likelihood students are arrested or potentially increasing racial disparities in discipline and arrest rates,” Curran said.

While there are examples of school resource officers who have intervened in incidents of gun violence, Curran said, the presence of law enforcement does not always guarantee that shootings or other violence won’t occur, or that the officer would be immediately effective at stopping the perpetrator and minimizing casualties.

In a statement issued this week on best practices for school security in the wake of the Uvalde, Texas, shooting, the National Association of School Resource Officers emphasized the importance of having “a carefully selected, specifically trained SRO on its campus whenever school is in session.”

The nonprofit group has rejected criticism that officers contribute to a school-to-prison pipeline. Officers who follow its best practices, it says, do not arrest students for disciplinary issues that would be handled ordinarily by educators.

As elsewhere around the country last week, the police presence was increased outside schools across North Carolina to provide reassurance to families in the wake of the Uvalde, Texas shooting.

Wake County schools have 75 school resource officers, drawn from several local law enforcement agencies.

The Wake County Black Student Coalition’s campaign to remove the officers stemmed partly from student accounts of bad experiences with officers, including a 2017 incident where a school resource officer was filmed picking up a Black girl and slamming her to the ground, said Chalina Morgan-Lopez, a high school senior who is co-president of the student group.

“I think it’s a reasonable response to want more officers in schools, especially from people who genuinely do feel protected by law enforcement, even though that’s not my lived experience,” Morgan-Lopez said. “But I think people need to take into account … that officers do in fact do more harm than they do good.”

Last summer the school system made several changes to its school resource officer program, including a new process for fielding grievances involving officers and adjustments to training to prepare them better for the school environment, said Lisa Luten, a spokesperson for the school system. The review was based on community feedback the district sought in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, Luten said.

“This is not a new conversation for us,” she said. “That certainly brought it back to light.”

By ANNIE MA/Associated Press

Ma, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, writes about education and equity for AP’s Race and Ethnicity team. Follow her on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/anniema15

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FEMA and USVI Run Disaster Simulations To Prepare For Hurricane Season

CHRISTIANSTED The majority of the people living in the territory — regretfully — know what happens when a major hurricane strikes.

As the June 1 start date of the Atlantic hurricane season approached … governmental agencies rehearsed in detail — the steps to take — should history repeat itself … and the USVI become plunged into a disaster once more.

The government of the Virgin Islands, its agencies, and federal partners from across the country gathered in the U.S. Virgin Islands recently to finalize preparation efforts in advance of hurricane season.

In a simulation of real-life hurricane response, participants worked from Emergency Operations Centers on St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas and FEMA facilities in the territory while practicing their ability to work together over a large area with degraded communications.

“For the over two years, we’ve had lots of practice working with the federal government to beat COVID-19 and we know that practice will make our response better if a hurricane brings its winds and rains to our shores,” said Governor Albert Bryan. “Last week, GVI, led by VITEMA, worked together with FEMA to conduct multiple exercises to test and practice our hurricane response plans and I have been briefed on their plans for the season. While we always have more work to do, I’m confident we are moving the territory in the right direction.”

This weeklong series of exercises is the capstone event of a nearly six month-long planning effort to prepare for the 2022 hurricane season. Preparedness is an ongoing process and last week’s event provided opportunities to integrate lessons learned from the Irma/Maria response efforts, address gaps with territorial or local resources and then identify federal resources necessary to respond to destructive storms in the territory

“FEMA is committed to helping Virgin Islanders before, during and after a disaster,” said Mark A. Walters, FEMA’s Virgin Islands Caribbean Area Office Coordinator. “A partnership with a focus on year-round planning with real-time response exercises puts the federal government and the territory in a position to respond to hurricanes that approach the U.S. Virgin Islands. FEMA is ready to support the U.S. Virgin Islands with requests to support the territory with its response to storms and all hazards.”

Topics covered during the event included food/water distribution, patient movement, route clearance, debris removal, temporary power and power restoration, emergency responder communications as well as public information and warning.

“For the past six months, we have worked closely with USVI territorial agencies and our FEMA partners to get the territory ready for hurricane season,” said Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency Director Daryl Jaschen. “As Director of VITEMA, my goal is to continue to build on our successes and identify opportunities to improve. As we continue to prepare, VITEMA reminds the Virgin Islands community to Be Prepared, to Stay Informed and Be Vigilant. VITEMA knows that the USVI community understands the importance of preparedness and moving forward, we will use new and innovative ideas to keep our community engaged and strengthen our core capabilities.”

Virgin Islanders should prepare to be self-sufficient in the immediate aftermath of a hurricane and take steps to protect their property. Those with disabilities and others with access and functional needs might have additional considerations.

Build a kit. Families should be prepared to shelter in a secure and safe location for up to five days after a disaster. Remember roads might be impassable, gas stations and grocery stores could be closed, power might be out, and communications could be interrupted.

  • Store a gallon of water for each person per day for five days, for drinking and sanitation.
  • Gather a five-day supply of nonperishable food and medications.
  • Have enough antibiotic ointment, hygienic products, diapers and wipes available.
  • Store supplies to meet the needs of individual family members, including infants and young children, seniors, persons with disabilities, and pets or service animals.
  • The Virgin Islands Department of Health has recommended people include additional items in their kits to help prevent the spread of coronavirus or other viruses and the flu, items can include:
    • Cloth face coverings (for everyone ages 2 and above), soap, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to disinfect surfaces.
  • Protect important documents such as vital records, insurance policies, medical information and property and financial records, by storing copies in a safe deposit box or another location separate from your home. These items might be necessary for survivors who could be eligible to apply for disaster assistance.
    • Keep your home and vehicle insured against wind and flood damage. Also, remember to update your property insurance to cover current construction costs and be aware that a property insurance policy does not offer coverage for flood damage. For more information about getting flood insurance, visit floodsmart.gov.

Make a Family Communications Plan. Identify alternate ways of staying in touch with loved ones.

  • Choose an out-of-town friend or relative as a point of contact.
  • Ensure children have emergency contacts memorized or saved in a secure place
  • Determine a safe, familiar place the family can go for protection or to reunite.
  • Make sure the location is in a central and accessible location for all family members, including family members with disabilities.
  • If you have pets or service animals, make sure the location is animal-friendly.
  • For more information on making a family communication plan go to Family Communication Plan.

Stay Informed. Listen to local officials’ bulletins for the most up-to-date information before, during and after a disaster. It’s a good idea to have a battery or solar-powered radio to receive disaster notices and updates.

Follow VITEMA on Facebook, Twitter (@readyusvi) and on TikTok (vitema_usvi) to receive up-to-date preparedness and emergency information.

Also, sign up for emergency alerts and notifications on www.vitema.vi.gov . You can get emergency alerts delivered to you via text message or email.

Download the FEMA app on your smartphone and receive real-time alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five locations nationwide. Check the settings on your mobile phones to make sure you can receive Wireless Emergency Alerts, which require no sign-up.

SOURCE: Homeland Security

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Social Security Board of Trustees: Outlook of Combined Trust Funds Improves

The Social Security Board of Trustees on Thursday released its annual report on the financial status of the Social Security Trust Funds.

The combined asset reserves of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance (OASI and DI) Trust Funds are projected to become depleted in 2035, one year later than projected last year, with 80 percent of benefits payable at that time.

The OASI Trust Fund is projected to become depleted in 2034, one year later than last year’s estimate, with 77 percent of benefits payable at that time. The DI Trust Fund asset reserves are not projected to become depleted during the 75-year projection period.

In the 2022 Annual Report to Congress, the Trustees announced:

· The asset reserves of the combined OASI and DI Trust Funds declined by $56 billion in 2021 to a total of $2.852 trillion.

· The total annual cost of the program is projected to exceed total annual income in 2022 and remain higher throughout the 75-year projection period. Total cost began to be higher than total income in 2021. Social Security’s cost has exceeded its non-interest income since 2010.

· The year when the combined trust fund reserves are projected to become depleted, if Congress does not act before then, is 2035 – one year later than last year’s projection. At that time, there would be sufficient income coming in to pay 80 percent of scheduled benefits.

“It is important to strengthen Social Security for future generations. The Trustees recommend that lawmakers address the projected trust fund shortfalls in a timely way in order to phase in necessary changes gradually,” said Kilolo Kijakazi, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. “Social Security will continue to be a vital part of the lives of 66 million beneficiaries and 182 million workers and their families during 2022.”

Other highlights of the Trustees Report include:

Total income, including interest, to the combined OASI and DI Trust Funds amounted to $1.088 trillion in 2021. ($980.6 billion from net payroll tax contributions, $37.6 billion from taxation of benefits, and $70.1 billion in interest)

· Total expenditures from the combined OASI and DI Trust Funds amounted to nearly $1.145 trillion in 2021.

· Social Security paid benefits of $1.133 trillion in calendar year 2021. There were about 65 million beneficiaries at the end of the calendar year.

· The projected actuarial deficit over the 75-year long-range period is 3.42 percent of taxable payroll – lower than the 3.54 percent projected in last year’s report.

· During 2021, an estimated 179 million people had earnings covered by Social Security and paid payroll taxes.

· The cost of $6.5 billion to administer the Social Security program in 2021 was a very low 0.6 percent of total expenditures.

· The combined Trust Fund asset reserves earned interest at an effective annual rate of 2.5 percent in 2021.

The Board of Trustees usually comprises six members. Four serve by virtue of their positions with the federal government: Janet Yellen, Secretary of the Treasury and Managing Trustee; Kilolo Kijakazi, Acting Commissioner of Social Security; Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services; and Martin J. Walsh, Secretary of Labor. The two public trustee positions are currently vacant.

View the 2022 Trustees Report at www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/TR/2022/

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Local Athlete Takes Top Honors In National Karate Competition

ATLANTIC CITY A St. Thomas athlete took some top honors at a national martial arts competition held in New Jersey over Memorial Day weekend.

Rashell Machuca, of Charlotte Amalie, had to make a choice between going to a karate competition or a softball showcase. The choice was a difficult one, but Machuca seems to have chosen wisely.

Machuca stood out in the karate competition at the National Martial Arts Championship in Atlantic City, New Jersey this past weekend.

Rashell went on to place first in sparring and took third place in forms.

Congratulations to Rashell Machuca, a multi-sport athlete, for making the U.S. Virgin Islands proud!

SOURCE: Livewire Sports

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USVI Ends COVID Restrictions For U.S. Travelers Today

CHARLOTTE AMALIE Governor Albert Bryan has issued an Executive Order removing the requirement for the U.S. Virgin Islands Travel Screening Portal for all domestic travel to and from the United States, the Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA) said on Facebook.

The Executive Order takes effect on Tuesday, May 31, 2022 (today), according to VIPA.

The following exceptions apply:

1. Federal guidelines and restrictions continue to apply to all international travel, including travel from the British Virgin Islands.

2. For all commercial ferry and private water taxi vessels leaving or entering the territorial waters of the U.S. Virgin Islands which must comply with U.S. Coast Guard guidelines.

Read the full Executive Order at  https://www.vi.gov/executive-orders/

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Man Wanted In Florida Taken Into CIB Custody

CHARLOTTE AMALIE  Faustin Henry Romero was taken into custody Monday by the Criminal Investigation Bureau after investigation revealed that Romero was wanted by of the State of Florida for a Probation Violation in Osceola County, Florida.   

Faustin Henry Romero, 37-years-old, was arrested and processed. Romero was taken to the Bureau of Corrections, pending the extradition process and procedures, the Virgin Islands Police Department said.

This case is presently under investigation by the Criminal Investigation Bureau. Any persons having information regarding this incident are asked to contact the Criminal Investigation Bureau at 340-774-2211 ex. 5576/5572. You can also contact 911, Crime Stoppers VI.  

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Colorado Fugitive Once Wanted For Extortion Detained At St. Thomas Airport By Feds 

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — A Colorado man accused of extortion was detained by federal agents after he landed at Cyril E. King Airport in St. Thomas on Thursday night, authorities said.

Brett Kimelman of Trinidad, Colorado was taken into custody at 6:53 p.m. Thursday by the VIPD’s Criminal Investigation Bureau after an investigation revealed that Kimelman was wanted out of the state of Colorado for leaving a halfway house/parole program without permission.  

Kimelman, 50, was arrested, booked, and processed, the Virgin Islands Police Department said. No bail was set because the state of Colorado is requesting extradition.

Colorado Fugitive Once Wanted For Extortion Detained At St. Thomas Airport By Feds 

This case is currently under active investigation by the Criminal Investigation Bureau. Kimelman was remanded to the Bureau of corrections pending extradition proceedings. 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents at the St. Thomas airport noticed that Kimmelman was wanted by the state of Colorado and detained him for the VIPD.

In January 2020, Kimelman was arrested on a charge of criminal extortion, a class four felony, and theft, a class 3 misdemeanor, according to All Things 81082. At that time, he was held a the Las Animas County Jail in Colorado on a $15K cash or surety bond.

Any persons having information regarding this incident are asked to contact the Criminal Investigation Bureau at 340-774-2211 ex. 5576/5572. They can also contact 911, Crime Stoppers VI., the Chiefs office at 340-715-5548 or the Commissioner’s Office at 340-715-5506

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Celebrate Hashtag National Turtle Day Today!

Today is #NationalTurtleDay! If you’re in the Caribbean, that’s reason enough to start celebrating!

Anyone who is lucky enough to come across these gentle creatures in their underwater world feels excited and blessed to have experienced the encounter.

If you have photos of your turtle encounter, share them with us!

#NationalTurtleDay

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Jif Peanut Butter Under Recall For Potential Salmonella Contamination

LEXINGTON, Kentucky — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are investigating an outbreak of salmonella infections that is possibly linked to Jif peanut butter products.

The J.M. Smucker Company issued a voluntary recall for its creamy, crunchy, natural and reduced fat peanut butter products that were distributed nationwide, with lot code numbers 1274425 to 2140425, the FDA announced this weekend.

Currently, 14 people have reported illnesses and two of those cases have resulted in hospitalizations, according to data provided by the CDC.

“Five out of five people reported consuming peanut butter and four of the five people specifically reported consuming different varieties of Jif brand peanut butter prior to becoming ill,” the FDA said.

What is salmonella?

Salmonella itself is a bacteria, but the illness it causes is known as salmonellosis.

For many infected people, symptoms appear 12 to 72 hours after contact and often include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps, according to the FDA. Most people who are infected recover within four to seven days and do not need any treatment.

More serious and severe cases can occur, though, so the FDA recommends contacting your health care provider if you believe you have been infected.

Several varieties of peanut butter are being recalled nationwide

The J. M. Smucker Co. said the peanut butter it is recalling was distributed in retail stores and other outlets throughout the country. It includes creamy, crunchy and natural varieties, along with many others.

The recalled products have lot code numbers between 1274425 – 2140425 and include the numbers 425 for the 5th-7th digits. “425” in that position indicates that it was processed in the Lexington facility.

This information is usually printed on the back label of the jar. A list of recalled products and their numbers can be seen on the FDA’s website.

If you happen to have a jar included in the recall, you should throw it away immediately.

The FDA noted that the peanut butter has a two-year shelf life so consumers should check any Jif peanut butter already in their home.

After throwing the peanut butter out, the CDC recommends washing and sanitizing any surfaces or containers that might have come into contact with the peanut butter.

No word as yet from the local Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs (DLCA) as to whether the affected products were shipped to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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South Carolina Man Arrested At CEK Airport Based On Outstanding Warrant

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — A South Carolina man made his initial appearance in St. Thomas before a federal judge after his arrest based on fugitive-from-justice charges from the U.S. mainland, authorities said.

Maurice Eugene Tucker, 35, of Columbia, heard from U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller that he is currently wanted for illegal weapon possession in South Carolina, U.S. Attorney Delia L. Smith said.

Tucker was released on a $25,000 unsecured bond and other conditions to allow him to return to Columbia, South Carolina for further court proceedings.

According to court documents, on May 4, 2021, a South Carolina grand jury returned an indictment charging Tucker with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

On May 15, 2022, Tucker was detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Cyril E. King Airport after he appeared for primary inspection before boarding a flight to the mainland.

Thereafter, Tucker was arrested and taken into custody by officers of the Virgin Islands Police Department.

This matter is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the
District of South Carolina.

United States Attorney Smith reminds the public that an indictment is merely a formal charging document and is not evidence of guilt.

Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.