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Bill in Nebraska Legislature allowing teachers to use physical intervention fails to advance

LINCOLN — A bill allowing school staff to intervene physically against violent and disruptive students ended up stuck in limbo Monday.

State lawmakers ended three hours of debate about Legislative Bill 147 without a vote and with little indication of whether the measure has enough support to advance, despite heavy lobbying from teachers across the state.

State Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte, the Education Committee chairman and the bill’s introducer, expressed confidence that he can get the 33 votes needed to bring the bill back for continued consideration.

“We’re real close,” he said, adding that he had picked up a couple of votes during the morning debate.

But Edison McDonald, executive director of the Arc of Nebraska, said he doesn’t believe backers have the necessary votes. The Arc is part of an opposition coalition that includes advocates for children, for people with disabilities and for civil rights.

The Nebraska State Education Association, which represents teachers and other school personnel, has made LB 147 a major priority. The group argues that teachers need legal backing to protect themselves and other students from violence in the classroom. They also want legal backing for teachers to be able to have students removed from class.

Groene, who has often been at odds with the NSEA, said Monday that LB 147 aims to reduce violence and restore discipline in schools. He said it would reestablish “who’s in charge in the classroom” and provide legal guidance to teachers and administrators.

Mike Groene

“I ask you, what do you want a teacher to do when a kid is beating his head against the wall? You want them to intervene,” he said. “What do you want a teacher to do when a student has his arm around the neck of another student? Stand there? That’s what’s happening now.”

But Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha argued that a vote for LB 147 represents support for the disproportionate use of restraint and discipline against students of color, especially African American boys with special needs.

Federal data shows that about eight in 10 of Nebraska children subject to physical restraint are in special education programs, while African American and Native American students were also more likely than their white counterparts to be restrained.

Wayne and other opponents pointed out that the bill does not set clear limits on the types of physical intervention allowed, requiring only that it be “reasonable.” Nor does the bill require training for teachers and other staff using such interventions.

“Just because we recognize there is a problem doesn’t mean the first proposed solution is the answer,” said Sen. Matt Hansen of Lincoln.

Groene said LB 147 is just one step in the process. He said the next step is a proposal being introduced by Sen. Dave Murman of Glenvil, which will call for training of school staff in responding to out-of-control students. The bill will tap lottery dollars to pay for the training.

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Groene said he plans to expedite the public hearing and committee consideration of Murman’s bill, so it could be considered along with LB 147, if his bill comes up for debate again.

Under a practice established by Speaker of the Legislature Jim Scheer of Norfolk, bills are pulled from the first-round agenda after three hours of debate. Legislative sponsors must prove they have enough votes to advance those bills before they will be scheduled for debate again.

Under a compromise amendment developed by education groups, LB 147 would make clear that school personnel can use “physical intervention” with a student to protect that student or other people from physical injury. Personnel could also use physical intervention to secure items that the student could use to cause injury.

The bill would protect school personnel from criminal penalties or civil liability for “reasonable” use of physical intervention. Physical intervention would include restraining a student, but it would not include actions used to inflict pain as a penalty for disapproved behavior.

A second portion of the amendment would require school districts to have a public policy for when and how students can be removed from class and when and how they can return.

It would require administrators to immediately remove a student from a class when requested by a teacher or other school personnel, unless the removal is barred by the student’s special education plan. Schools and their employees would be protected from legal action or administrative discipline for removing a student.

Meet the Nebraska state senators

Meet the Nebraska state senators

2020 Democratic race is wide open in Iowa as caucuses near

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Presidential candidates have swarmed Iowa’s rolling landscape for more than a year, making their pitch to potential supporters on campuses, county fairgrounds and in high school gymnasiums. But three weeks before the caucuses usher in the Democratic contest, the battle for the state is wide open.

A cluster of candidates, including Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, along with former Vice President Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, enter the final stretch with a plausible chance of winning Iowa's caucuses. A poll released Friday by The Des Moines Register and CNN found them all with similar levels of support.

For two decades, Iowa has had a solid record of backing the ultimate Democratic nominee. A clear victory in its caucuses next month could set the tone for the races that follow in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

But an inconclusive result or one in which several candidates are bunched together near the top could preview a long, brutal fight ahead. Some Democrats fear the question of a nominee might not be resolved until the party convenes in Milwaukee this summer to formally declare its candidate to take on President Donald Trump.

The unusually fluid dynamic raises the stakes for the leading candidates heading into Tuesday’s debate, which will be the final televised gathering for the White House hopefuls before the caucuses. Their closing arguments in Iowa could be complicated by Trump's impeachment trial, which would require senators in the race to return to Washington. And the fallout from Trump’s surprise decision to launch a strike last week to kill a top Iranian general could steal attention that would otherwise center on the presidential race.

It’s against that backdrop that candidates must win over people like Barb Cameron, a 76-year-old who attended a recent Warren event in the river town of Burlington.

“I’m undecided,” she said. “I want to vote for a woman. But, more than that, I want to vote for someone with real leadership capability."

"I like Pete, though I don’t know enough,” Cameron added. “And I don’t think Biden can beat Trump.”

If other voters agree, Biden’s candidacy could face steep headwinds in Iowa. The former vice president began as the early favorite, in large part because of a sense that he is best positioned to defeat Trump. If that falters, the central rationale for his campaign risks being undermined.

Biden faces a far more favorable climate in later contests, especially South Carolina, where support from black voters has given him a substantial lead over his rivals.

And the focus on global affairs after the Iranian conflict could lift Biden, who built a resume over decades in Washington as a leading voice on foreign policy. JoAnn Hardy, chair of the Cerro Gordo County Democrats in northern Iowa, said a shift in voter focus would be an advantage.

But even that prediction came with a caveat.

“I think there's a lot of support, but for most people it's not enthusiastic support," Hardy said. “It's like, we've gotta do what we've gotta do to beat Trump."

While Biden is positioning himself as a steady hand in the face of international instability, the Iranian episode also leaves an opening for Sanders to draw a sharp contrast with Biden over the Iraq War, which Sanders opposed. The Vermont senator is drawing sharper contrasts with Biden as he tries to appeal to some of the white, working-class voters, particularly in rural areas, that Sanders' advisers believe may be open to his message of taking on the rich and powerful.

Without naming him, Sanders kept pressure on Biden Sunday, reminding a forum in Davenport that he opposed the 2002 authorization for military force in Iraq.

“In 2002, I helped lead the effort against the war in Iraq, which turned out to be the worst foreign policy blunder in the modern history of America,” Sanders said. “The war in Iraq was based on a series of lies.”

Sanders' campaign volunteers have reportedly been instructed to tell voters that are leaning toward Warren that her supporters are “highly educated, more affluent people” and that she's failing to expand her support. Those tactics brought a rare broadside against the senator from Warren, who said Sunday that she was “disappointed” in Sanders and suggested he's too divisive to defeat Trump.

Still, Sanders' position in Iowa is improving and he's attracting large crowds. His campaign says he spoke to nearly 6,000 people across 16 events in the state earlier this month.

But some Sanders supporters say they want to see the senator's team more active on the ground in Iowa. Suzanne Costello, a farmer from Kellogg, Iowa, is a longtime Sanders supporter and volunteer, knocking on doors in Powesheik County, a county the senator won in 2016.

"I think they mis-gauged the trajectory of the race,” she said. “I don't think they came out in force enough in our area soon enough, so now I feel like we're kind of playing catch-up" in organizing.

Costello said she had complained to the Sanders campaign for months about the lack of resources in her area, and now she feels they're finally sending more staff and resources to help knock on doors.

Indeed, Sanders' campaign says they have one of the biggest teams in Iowa, with more than 250 staffers on the ground and 23 offices across the state. That significant staff footprint coupled with the consistently large crowds has Sanders' advisers privately predicting victory in Iowa.

Warren's campaign is still seen as one of the most seasoned and best-organized in the state, as she's had organizers holding intimate local events with potential caucusgoers across Iowa for nearly a year. Her aides will only disclose that they have more than 100 paid staff and more than 20 offices in Iowa, but most operatives on the ground believe her team is nearly twice that, as Warren staffers are constantly seen at local party events and out knocking on doors. On a cold Sunday morning, with snow blanketing the ground, she turned out around 300 people to an elementary school gymnasium in Marshalltown.

There, she was introduced by former Housing Secretary Julian Castro, who endorsed her last week after exiting the presidential race. He made an electability pitch, arguing that Warren “can unify Democrats to beat Donald Trump.”

Buttigieg has also assembled a robust statewide organization that puts him in a strong position for someone who was virtually unknown nationally a year ago. He consistently draws larger crowds than his rivals who have been in politics for decades.

Since September, the 37-year-old Buttigieg — touting a message of generational change, civility and Midwestern pragmatism — has been drawing a significant share of first-time caucusgoers into his ranks, including about a third of the 50 caucus leaders who turned out in Ottumwa for caucus training Thursday evening.

Despite the hopeful tone and intellectual depth, Buttigieg has struggled with some in his own generation looking for more overhaul in Washington than the moderate from Indiana espouses.

“I really like his temperament and his style,” said Parthi Kandavel, a Des Moines middle school teacher who recently traveled to Burlington with his wife, Anu, to see Buttigieg. “My concern is his commitment to addressing income inequality.”

And though Iowa's population is 90 percent white, Buttigieg's struggle to attract support from minority voters has crept into his Iowa campaign. During a rally Sunday in Des Moines, Black Lives Matter supporters interrupted Buttigieg, shouting and chanting, before being escorted out by police.

In another warning sign for Buttigieg, he dropped 9 percentage points from November in the Register/CNN Iowa poll.

Still, the final weeks of the caucus campaign are often marked by unpredictability: Candidate support is known to shift even in the final days before the caucuses, and the polling leader three weeks out is by no means assured a win.

That leaves room for an unexpected candidate to break ahead. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota she's attracted growing crowds in recent weeks and has had fundraising surge that helped her invest in her operation in Iowa. She now has more than 100 staffers on the ground, and 19 field offices across the state — fewer than most of the top-tier candidates, but a healthy infusion at a key time.

But it remains to be seen whether Klobuchar's late investment can compete with the seasoned staffers of campaigns like Warren's.

“Now, their challenge is how you take these people that are now seriously kicking Klobuchar's tires and turn them into precinct captains and have them help recruit other people for you,” said veteran Iowa Democratic Party operative Jeff Link, who is unaffiliated with any campaign. “I think she can.”

Grace: 17 states to go for an Omaha man's license plate quest

People collect things.

Books, buttons, guns. Pokemon cards, Sports Illustrated covers, beer cans.

What they collect and why might best be left to a psychologist. But the bottom line is usually simple: Their collections reflect some part of who they are and what they value.

For Ryan Basye, it’s license plates. But not just any license plates. Ryan, a 45-year-old real estate agent and married father of three, is focused on vanity plates bearing his uniquely spelled and often mispronounced surname. It’s s before y in Basye, which rhymes with Daisy.

Ryan wants a “BASYE” license plate from each state. He’s two-thirds of the way there with 33 BASYE license plates either in hand or in progress. But he needs 17 more BASYE plates to complete a collection he plans to hand his father, Jack.

Jack, who is 78 and retired, spent a career working for the military as a member of the U.S. Air Force and later in various civilian roles in intelligence.

Ryan thinks a wall of BASYE plates from all 50 states would be a nice way to honor his father’s service and also the family name.

Basye is French in origin, “all the way back to Charlemagne,” said Jack, who has done a little digging, including at the Library of Congress.

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According to Jack, the Basyes — “a wild bunch, I guess” — got kicked out of France, went to England and migrated to what would become the United States. The name first appears in Virginia in the 1660s. Since then, it has been mispronounced and misspelled, said Jack, “nine ways to Sunday.”

Jack Basye’s name was printed incorrectly on his Kansas birth certificate, dated 1941. The mistake, Bayse, was repeated by the U.S. Air Force, and Jack didn’t bother correcting it.

“I had some pretty in-depth security clearances,” Jack Basye said. “Once they do a background investigation to the extent they did — and they had it as ‘Bayse’ — they weren’t really excited about changing it. We left it alone.”

It’s not hard to blame the Basyes for wanting to see their family name, spelled correctly, on something official. A wall that says “BASYE” 50 ways to Sunday makes sense.

Ryan’s quest has meant pounding the Internet pavement calling in favors from friends, family and strangers. You can’t just get a license plate to hang on your wall. It is “licensed” after all, and getting one requires a legal driver willing to put it on his or her car before sending it along to Ryan.

Ryan joined a Facebook group for vanity plate-holders and started working his contacts, including a stranger from Alaska who bought something off eBay from him. Ryan noticed that the stranger lived on an Air Force base. He shared his father’s history and his quest and then flat-out asked the man if he’d be willing to license his car with “BASYE.”

“I’ll do it for your dad,” the Alaska stranger told Ryan.

This collection started years ago, when Ryan was in high school at Central High. The family lived in Bellevue. No way were his parents driving Ryan all the way to downtown Omaha. Ryan got a 1979 Honda Accord and had “BASYE” printed on his license plate. When Ryan went to Minnesota for college, he had BASYE printed on that state’s plate. When he moved to Colorado, ditto.

Ryan has long been back in Omaha. He is married and has three daughters. He ramped up his collection about 10 years ago. Which is about how long it feels in line at the DMV.

Ryan can point to the plates he has now and can rattle off stories.

“Washington is my dad’s cousin. California is my cousin. Idaho is his oldest brother’s son, so my cousin. Texas is somebody I did volunteer work with. Pennsylvania is one of my tenants who moved here. Oklahoma is (wife) Ali’s uncle,” he began. “There’s a Basye who lives up in Montana who is a big real estate agent who is a third cousin or something. Found him. Reached out. Got it. Arizona is an attorney who used to work with Ali. The other ones are Facebook or Craigslist.”

This whole process has taken time. It has taken money, anywhere from $20 to $100, depending on the state. It has taken the commitment of others who have to agree to register their vehicles with “BASYE” plates and then take the trouble to send them to Ryan when they’re done. And it has taken some flexibility on Ryan’s part. In some states, “BASYE” was already taken, so Ryan had to settle for an iteration: “BASYE-1.”

It has, in the case of North Carolina, taken horse trading. Ryan had a work truck licensed with “REATA” for a Tar Heel license plate collector who agreed to do “BASYE.”

Jack is watching this unfold with pride: “He just figures things out,” he said of his son. And some amusement:

“I just have a feeling Ryan’s motor is going about 90 miles an hour and the license plate thing is going about 10 miles an hour, and somehow there’s a finish line down the road.”

Part of the reason it takes so long is that drivers actually have to use the plates. Some states have minimum plate usage times as short as 30 days, which helps Ryan.

You can help Ryan’s effort. He needs BASYE plates from the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Ryan might come by his collecting habit genetically. Jack has a collection, too — of Husker memorabilia, including every Sports Illustrated issue that features Nebraska, an autographed team ball for each of the five football national championships, replica championship rings, posters, tickets, programs and more.

Most of this Husker collection is in Jack’s basement. But one Husker fan item rides around with him every time he gets behind the wheel of his Toyota Avalon. It’s a vanity license plate: “DA HZKERS.”

Try getting that in all 50 states.

Husker fandom is spread far and wide, but how many would be willing to put that on a license plate in, say, Wisconsin? Or Minnesota? Or Iowa?

Everyone can get on Team BASYE.

The Omaha World-Herald’s best images of 2019

Photos: The Omaha World-Herald's best images of 2019


Construction crews this month removed the deck of the 13th Street bridge between Farnam and Douglas Streets as part of remaking the Gene Leahy Mall. The bridge will no longer be needed because the mall's lagoon has been filled in and the park will be at street level. The 13th Street connection across the park will be rebuilt as a regular street and reopen before this year's College World Series, which starts June 13, the Metropolitan Convention and Entertainment Authority says.