May 1, 2013

Charles Oliver: Students profiled, interrogated

Charles Oliver

— * The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the Salt Lake, Utah, police and the Salt Lake school system on behalf of Kevin Winston and his son Kaleb. Kaleb was among about 40 black, Hispanic and Pacific Islander students who were interrogated and searched at West High School without being allowed to contact their parents. The interrogations were part of a gang sweep, and Kaleb says he was forced to hold a sign that read “gang tagger” while being photographed.

* Steven Boibeaux says a worksheet his son got at school is more than a little inaccurate. The worksheet, titled “The Second Amendment Today,” was passed out by a social studies teacher in Connecticut’s Northeast Middle School, and it claims that “The courts have consistently determined that the Second Amendment does not ensure each individual the right to bear arms.” It also says “The courts have never found a law regulating the private ownership of weapons unconstitutional.” And it says the Second Amendment “only provides the right of a state to keep an armed National Guard.” School system officials refused to answer any questions about the worksheet other than to say it is no longer being used.

* A city inspector in St. Paul, Minn., issued a warning to Lynden’s soda shop. The shop features retro snacks and candies but some of the treats are apparently just a little too old-fashioned. The inspector threatened the shop’s owner with a $500 fine if she didn’t get rid of the candy cigarettes, bubble gum cigars and bubble gum shredded to look like chewing tobacco. St. Paul has a law banning tobacco-themed candies as well as lighters with cartoon characters on them.

* About 230 people at the University of Wisconsin-Madison recently took part in a “Humans vs. Zombies” role-playing game in which a team of zombies tried to tag members of a team of humans. The humans, in turn, could fight off the zombies with Nerf guns. Apparently, some students or faculty at Wisconsin can’t tell the difference between a Nerf gun and a real gun, since police twice responded to reports of people carrying guns. A police spokesman blamed those playing the game for wasting police resources.

* Jason Michael Cruz was telling his friend Matthew Okumoto about a sandwich he’d recently tried called “The Bomb.” Unfortunately, they were on an escalator at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport at the time. A Transportation Security Administration agent overheard part of the conversation and reported them. Agents detained the two and questioned them. They finally decided the conversation was harmless, but Cruz missed his flight.

* Eric Hill’s daughter woke him at 2:30 a.m., frightened by a pounding on the door. When Hill answered the door, he found Ogden, Utah, police pointing rifles at him. They insisted his name was Derek and he was AWOL from the military. They handcuffed him and held him until his wife got his ID, which showed he wasn’t the man they were looking for. Hill says police chief Mike Ashment called him a few days later and said cops had served the warrant at his home because it was the last known address of the man they were looking for. Hill had bought the house six months earlier, and he says a neighbor told him the man was a nephew of the previous owner but had never lived there.

* It took a court battle, but Blaer Bjarkardottir, 15, will be able to officially use the first name her mother gave her. The Icelandic Naming Committee had barred her from using the name, which means “light breeze,” because it wasn’t on the list of 1,853 female names approved by the government. Before a court ruled in her favor, Blaer had been identified simply as “Girl” in all official documents.