Kansas infant mortality rate higher than nation
(Information in the following story is from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com)
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas health officials say the state continues to search for ways to improve its infant mortality death rate.
The state's overall rate in 2012 was 6.3 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. That's above the national rate of 5.9 out of 1,000 live births.
The Wichita Eagle reports Kansas also has historically high rates of mortality for black infants, which is three times higher than whites, even though all of the rates have declined in the last 20 years. State statistics also show that rural and densely settled rural areas have higher infant mortality rates than urban counties.
The leading cause of infant mortality in Kansas was prematurity or low birth weight, followed by congenital abnormalities and SIDS or suffocation in bed.
MISSING KU STUDENT
Search continues for missing KU student from Peru
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Lawrence police are searching for a 23-year-old University of Kansas student from Peru who hasn't been seen since early Saturday.
Gianfranco Villagomez, an industrial design student from Lima, Peru, was last seen walking near 9th and Michigan streets in Lawrence about 2:30 a.m. Saturday.
His girlfriend, Donna Jo Harkrider, reported him missing about Saturday.
Villagomez is about 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds. He has dark brown eyes, black hair and glasses. He was last seen wearing a blue shirt with a KU Jayhawk logo on it, a long sleeve gray shirt, a black jacket, jeans and white tennis shoes.
KC AREA-FIREPLACE FIRES
5 house fires in KC area blamed on fireplaces
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Officials say at least five house fires in the Kansas City metro area over the weekend were caused by problems with fireplaces.
The Kansas City Star reports no one was injured in any of the fires.
A fire at a Shawnee, Kan., home Sunday started in a fireplace and caused $130,000 in damage.
Kansas City, Kan., firefighters responded to two fires Saturday night that started in chimney flues or around fireplaces. On Friday night, a fire in an unattended fireplace damaged a Kansas City, Kan., home that was being remodeled.
Also Friday night, Lee's Summit, Mo., firefighters fought a house fire that started in a chimney flue.
Fire officials remind people to have their fireplaces inspected before using them and to make sure they have working smoke alarms.
Elderly man dies in Wichita fire
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Fire officials are investigating the cause of a house fire in Wichita that killed an elderly man.
Firefighters found the man's body Sunday while fighting the blaze in east Wichita.
Fire Capt. Stu Bevis says the man's son was in the yard of the house when firefighters arrived. The man told officials he tried to rescue his father but the heat and smoke became too dangerous.
It was the 10th fire death in Wichita this year. Last year, the city had five fire deaths.
SE Kan. superintendent criticizes reading program
(Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com)
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - A southeast Kansas school superintendent says he was shocked to learn Gov. Sam Brownback was going to use welfare funds for a program aimed at raising fourth-grade reading scores.
The Lawrence Journal-World reports Brownback recently announced a plan to take $12 million from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program to pay for the initiative in southeast Kansas.
The administration has said the program is an appropriate use of TANF funds because studies show girls who read at grade level are less likely to become unwed mothers.
But Erie-Galesburg Superintendent Steve Woolf says it's morally wrong to take food from people in need to pay for the program.
Woolf's district wasn't included in the program, but he says even if it had been he would have turned it down.
Topeka high school tests hair for drugs
(Information in the following story is from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com)
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Topeka high school has been testing students' hair to determine if they've been using drugs.
Hayden High has been testing students for drug use for more than a year. Under the program, the school takes hair samples from randomly selected students once a month. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports in the 2012-13 school year, only about 2 percent of drug tests came back positive. The tests cost $39 per sample.
Michael Monaghan, dean of students, says if a sample comes back positive for drug use, the school contacts parents and refers the student for a professional evaluation. The student is also barred from participating in or attending the school's extracurricular activities for a month.
Students can decline to provide a sample, but that's treated the same as testing positive.
KANSAS-HARD 50 LAW
Kan. Supreme Court hears 'Hard 50' appeal
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Supreme Court is considering whether a defendant's minimum 50-year sentence for premeditated first-degree murder should stand.
The court heard arguments Monday in the case of Matthew Astorga. It was the second appeal of a "Hard 50" sentence since legislators rewrote the law this fall in response to a June ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Kansas previously allowed judges to sentence people convicted of premeditated first-degree murder to 50 years before they can seek parole. But the nation's highest court ruled that juries should decide if a defendant gets that sentence.
Astorga was sentenced for a 2008 shooting death in Leavenworth County. His lawyers argue the changes made by the Legislature amount to creating a new crime and punishment and are unconstitutional.
Kan. board to take up school handwriting standards
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas State Board of Education members will decide this week whether the state's new handwriting standards will encourage schools to make sure that fifth- and sixth-graders can write legibly in cursive.
The handwriting standards are on the board's agenda for a Tuesday meeting.
State law requires the board to regularly update academic standards.
Multistate academic standards adopted by Kansas in 2010 would require schools to teach young students cursive. Some educators question whether it's a necessary skill, when people are using computer and cellphone keyboards more in communicating.
But cursive has its advocates, and a handful of states including Kansas have moved to include teaching it in their academic standards.
The board will also review proposed standards for theater programs.
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