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Kentucky editorial roundup

June 26, 2019

Summary of recent Kentucky newspaper editorials:

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June 22

Richmond Register on the importance of summer feeding programs for students:

With summer in full swing, many students are enjoying their time away from the classroom. There’s no homework. There are no tests.

However, with no school, there’s no school meals either.

According to report Map the Meal Gap 2019, almost one out of every five Kentucky kids is food insecure. That means they are without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.

During the school year, most children get at least two meals per day at school. Yet during summer, those children who are food insecure need help and may be unsure when and where their next meal will come.

Thankfully in Madison County there are several summer feeding programs ready to lend a helping hand -- the Madison County Schools’ Summer Food Service Program and Berea Kids Eat by Grow Appalachia and Berea College.

Scott Anderson, Madison County Food Service Director, said last year they fed 95,000 for all three meals, which was double from the prior year. His goal is to reach 100,000 meals this summer.

“It sounds like a lot, but when you think of 1,000 kids who are hungry, and you add that up every single day, that’s just a drop in the bucket,” Anderson said.

Martina Leforce, Berea Kids Eat coordinator, said they’ve given out more than 75,000 meals in the past three years, including almost 18,000 last year.

Anderson said he’s receiving a little extra help this year as well. Smokin’ Jax, located in Berea, came to him with the interest of donating their barbecue. The partnership would make the county the first and only district in the state to work with a local restaurant to provide food to kids.

“It helps our kids experience what other kids experience. A lot of our kids that are having trouble getting food, their parents can’t afford it, they don’t go to restaurants, and if they do, it’s something cheap like McDonald’s. This is something in their neighborhood. It allows them to experience something others do, it opens up their eyes to other things that are out there,” Anderson said.

It also shows how much our community is truly invested in our youth. And we hope others hop on board too, just like Smokin’ Jax.

While we wish there was no need for summer feeding programs, we’re blessed to have two providing much needed help in the county.

With so many locations spread across the county, there is no reason for parents to not take advantage of this wonderful -- and free -- opportunity for their children.

Online: https://www.richmondregister.com/

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June 21

The Bowling Green Daily News on a Kentucky Supreme Court ruling that will allow police to be sued if a citizen is seriously injured or killed in an officer-involved traffic incident:

Since 1952, under a Kentucky state law, police officers involved in traffic-related incidents with citizens that resulted in serious injury or death have been immune from litigation brought by the families of victims who were harmed or killed.

On Thursday (June 20), the Kentucky Supreme Court struck down the 67-year-old law, Chambers v. Ideal Pure Milk Co., in a 6-1 vote, stating that police can be sued for damages when their car chases lead to the death or injury of third parties. The state’s high court ruled that the children of Luis Gonzalez can return to Fayette Circuit Court and sue Scott County Sheriff Tony Hampton and Deputy Sheriff Jeremy Johnson for damages related to his death.

Gonzalez, 62, died in 2014 when a suspected drug dealer being chased by Johnson crashed head-on into his vehicle on Georgetown Road in Lexington. The court ruled that “a litany of things went wrong with the pursuit,” including wet, slippery roads; a restless police dog poking his head into the front of the car where Johnson sat; steering and a broken siren on Johnson’s car.

Gonzalez’s passenger, 38-year-old Geneva Spencer, died months after the crash from her injuries.

Now, because of the high court’s ruling, Kentucky juries will get to decide if police were at fault, as they do in most other states.

“Because of (Chambers), our trial courts and juries were precluded from ever finding that police officers were the cause of any damage suffered by a third party who is hit by a fleeing suspect. Today, 67 years post-Chambers, Kentucky finds itself in a nearly non-existent minority of states that have such a per se no proximate cause rule,” Justice Debra Lambert of Somerset wrote for the majority.

We believe the high court ruled the right way on this important issue. For one, the ruling puts Kentucky in line with the majority of other states that allow police officers to be sued for causing severe injuries or death while they’re on duty.

Also, we believe that the majority of the justices made the right ruling because in cases such as the Gonzalez tragedy, family members need closure over the loss of their loved ones. While we don’t attribute guilt toward the officers being sued, we do think they should have to go before a jury considering the circumstances of the case - for instance, it is illegal in Kentucky for police officers to operate a police vehicle while in pursuit without activating their sirens.

We certainly don’t believe Hampton or Johnson intended to kill these two people, but there does appear to be questions in this case about potential liability that should be decided by a jury.

We agree that the majority of police officers are hard-working and honest people who want to do a professional job and return home safely. This newspaper has repeatedly been supportive of law enforcement through the years and will continue to do so, but police officers shouldn’t be immune from litigation if circumstances show that their actions while in a pursuit or any other scenario contributed to the death of a citizen or citizens.

While we support the high court’s decision, we do believe these lawsuits should not be filed frivolously. Ambulance-chasing attorneys across the states shouldn’t be rushing to sue every time serious injury or death occurs when a police officer is involved.

Such incidents should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis so officers who don’t deserve to be sued aren’t. If it is thoroughly investigated and determined that negligence likely caused serious injury or death, then we believe a lawsuit on the victim’s family’s behalf is warranted. That will now be the case, thanks to the majority of the state’s high court.

Online: https://www.bgdailynews.com/

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June 19

The Bowling Green Daily News on the number of children living in poverty:

When it comes to children’s well-being, Kentucky has gained ground in health care coverage, parental employment and other measures included in the 2019 Kids Count Data Book.

But the report released Monday (June 17) by the Annie E. Casey Foundation also makes one grim reality clear: More than one in five Kentucky children - 22 percent - lived in poverty in 2017. That amounts to 223,000 kids, according to the report.

Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, put it best when he summed up that finding: “That should keep us all up at night.”

Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis also made it clear that Kentucky can do better. The state ranks 34th in the nation in overall child well-being, the report said.

“Clearly, the results show that we have work to do. Investment in child welfare, well-being, and learning must continue to be a priority for our state,” Lewis said. “As important, however, is our commitment to better using resources and services already available, identifying and applying innovative strategies for meeting children’s needs, further building the capacity of professionals who serve children, and raising our collective expectations for what our children can achieve. Some of this work has begun, but much more is required.”

We wholeheartedly agree. Clearly, more needs to be done to help lift families out of poverty and ensure that every child in Kentucky has a shot at a happy and healthy life.

Kentucky Youth Advocates has proposed several policy solutions to help achieve this goal.

First, KYA supports state investment in a refundable state earned income tax credit, allowing families in need to keep more of the money they make, provide for their families and reinvest in local economies simultaneously.

We see this as a quick solution to help families in poverty dig themselves out of that hole, and while it likely will come at a cost in terms of lost tax revenue, it’s at least worth seriously exploring.

Second, more can be done to improve students’ time at school and enhance their classroom learning experience.

According to the report, the percentage of 3- and 4-year-olds not in school rose from 57 percent between 2009 and 2011 to 59 percent between 2015 and 2017.

Additionally, the report said 71 percent of the state’s eighth graders were deemed not proficient in math in 2017, and 62 percent of Kentucky’s fourth graders were not proficient in that same year.

We believe the state should offer more opportunities for early childhood education, and restore textbook and teacher training funds, which were cut during the last budget cycle.

Brooks put it best when he noted that the solutions to these problems are not complicated.

“It boils down to dollars and cents,” Brooks said. “We’re either going to invest early or we’re going to do remediation later.”

Online: https://www.bgdailynews.com/

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