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Nebraska fourth-graders looking to lawmakers for help with school safety

Fifteen students in Tisha Thacker's fourth-grade class at Lexington's Pershing Elementary School had school safety and violence on their minds recently.

When they knew they were going to visit the Capitol in Lincoln last Wednesday, the 9- and 10-year-olds decided to write letters to their senator, Matt Williams of Gothenburg, and let him know their concerns.

Please make it a law, one boy said, that you can't allow violence in schools.

"Students can get terribly hurt," he said.

The students had a unit in their reading class that encouraged them to participate in government, their teacher said. When the fourth-graders studied Nebraska government, they asked if they could write to Williams, who had written them a letter last year.

They had heard President Donald Trump had talked about arming teachers after the shooting at a Florida high school Feb. 14, Thacker said.

"I left it up to them," the teacher said. "I said here are a few of the laws that are being talked about, like substitute teachers needing a four-year degree."

Most of the students chose the topic of school violence and arming teachers, edited the letters and submitted them to their teacher to give to the senator.

Monday, Williams read excerpts on the floor of the Legislature during debate on a bill (LB998) that would allow Educational Service Units to hire social workers to aid students with behavioral or mental health problems.

One of Thacker's students asked for protection for schools. He wanted stronger glass windows so a bad person couldn't break in the classroom. Stronger doors and fences. Military personnel to guard school grounds, day and night.

"I learn the best when I am protected and safe," he said.

The letters showed how children view the issue of arming teachers much differently than adults.

Teachers should not bring a gun to school because kids might get scared of the teacher, and some might not want to come to school anymore, one student wrote.

"When she calls us to go with her we will be, like, frozen because we will think she is going to point the gun to us," a girl said. "If students are talking to their neighbor when the teacher is talking and teaching, she will get mad. Accidentally shoot."

They feared accidents, the possibility of a gunshot ricocheting off a file cabinet and endangering students, or a new student thinking the teacher's gun is a toy and shooting it when the teacher steps out of the classroom.

Students see teachers as kind, caring and compassionate, a boy said. But if they carried guns, students would think they are untrustworthy and unkind.

Maybe the guns aren't the problem, one boy said. Maybe it's the person behind the gun.

"We should make sure that the person buying the gun is using it for legal purposes, not illegal purposes," the boy said. "This information is in our Bill of Rights in the 2nd Amendment."

One student suggested putting barbed wire around the school so people can't come in.

"Every time a person might break in to the schools, and that might never happen, but just to make sure they can get poked if they climb the fences," the boy said.

The students are reminded about school safety and gun violence every time an incident is reported in the news or when they do lockdown drills throughout the school year.

They had great thought processes and good questions about safety as they wrote to Williams, Thacker said. She was surprised how much concern they expressed as grade-school students.

But they put a lot of faith in what Nebraska lawmakers might be able to do for them.

"Just in case someone brings a gun to a public school in Lexington, Nebraska, I hope you will keep us safe," a girl said.

Second judge rules case against Lancaster County Treasurer Stebbing can proceed

A second judge has refused to dismiss criminal charges against Lancaster County Treasurer Andy Stebbing, inching his case a step closer to trial.

In an order filed Sunday, Johnson County District Court Judge Julie D. Smith, who is hearing the case, said the state met its burden of showing the crimes were committed and there was probable cause to believe Stebbing committed them.

At trial, evidence would need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, a higher legal threshold.

Stebbing is charged with two counts of falsifying bills of sale, two counts of filing false state income tax returns and one count of acting as an unlicensed motor vehicle dealer, each a Class IV felony.

His attorney, Sean Brennan, argued that the county court judge shouldn't have bound the case over to district court because the state had failed to meet its burden of proof.

Smith wrote in her order that Brennan also argued the falsification of the cash sale price in a bill of sale is a Class III misdemeanor. However, she said, that charge could include mere omissions, unlike the statute Stebbing is charged under.

"The court, in reviewing the evidence from the preliminary hearing, focuses on whether there is probable cause to believe the defendant violated Neb. Rev. Stat. 60-179(5) as charged, not whether he could have been charged under another statute," Smith said.

She found that the state met its burden to show that Stebbing was aware of his obligation to report income derived from sources other than his W-2 from his employer and to show that he had acted as a dealer and not a "bona fide consumer" when he bought and sold cars.

The Nebraska Attorney General’s Office said evidence shows Stebbing was selling vehicles as a business without a dealer's license. He used Craigslist and Facebook to sell 12 vehicles in a 12-month period and tried to sell a 13th.

Under state law, anyone who sells more than eight vehicles in a 12-month span must register with the state as a dealer.

Stebbing hasn't yet been set for arraignment.

When life isn't fair

At my age, I have learned that disappointments happen and while it is not easy to understand or cope with sometimes, it is a part of life. When I feel the strong dissatisfaction of life I become frustrated and then I want to jump up and down, stomp my feet and scream “It’s not fair.”

My friend would tell me “Get over it. The fair is in July.” If it were that easy! I’m still in the midst of a temper tantrum. Another friend would tell me “Pull up your big girl pants and deal with it.” My third-grade friends would tell me “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”

It doesn’t matter what the disappointment is or was. Everyone has experienced disenchantment on some level.

William Shakespeare said “Expectation is the root of all heartache.”

Maybe it was an expectation you had in an event or in a person. Often it is the people closest to us that disappoint us the most because we tend to hold them to higher standards than everyone else.

Maybe the disappointment is in yourself. You did your best, but you still fell short of the mark.

When these things happen in your life do you want to hold a grudge? To hold on to it and nurture the anger? I’ll admit that I do. I can justify my bitterness and resentment, hoping the person that has caused me this pain feels just as lousy as I do. notes “But what we don’t realize is that by holding onto past disappointments we are also hurting ourselves, our families, and, most of all, our relationships with God.”

The blogger goes on to suggest that if you’re struggling to let go of disappointment in your life, here are some suggestions that may help:

1. Consider the other person’s point of view. The writer tells a story of a lifelong friend that called two days before her wedding to back out of being a bridesmaid. She was hurt and of course disappointed, “but when I considered where she was coming from, I couldn’t help but feel compassion for her. She had other priorities and other obligations” that needed her attention.

2. Think of times when you disappointed someone else and hoped they would give you grace. I don’t know about you, but I cringe to think about things I’ve done in the past that have disappointed those closest to me. We are sinful, fallible humans who are bound to hurt one another.”

3. Change your expectations. The writer suggests that we examine our relationships and if we are in a cycle of too high of expectations and then disappointment, it’s time to reevaluate. “ You will bless your family if you extend grace rather than disappointment.”

4. Choose to love others anyway. Make sure that love is a verb in your life, something that you do purposefully and intentionally, not something that you expect to just happen. This is a choice you recommit to often. Maybe other people don’t have the same heart. Be kind anyway.

5. Consider that it’s not really about you. I like to be the center of my own world just as much as anyone, but I need to remember that I am a servant and if I want others to see God in me, I will need to step outside of myself.

6. I choose to pray. During the last week I have gone straight to prayer when I feel myself returning to anger and frustration.

May your prayers be more focused on healing from the disappointment.

TransCanada wins court challenge to attorney fees, won’t have to pay $354K

TransCanada will not have to pay $354,000 in attorney fees in cases where Nebraska landowners fought the company's attempts to use eminent domain to make way for the Keystone XL pipeline, the Nebraska Supreme Court has ruled.

“We conclude that the landowners did not offer sufficient proof as to their entitlement to an award of attorney costs and fees,” Chief Justice Michael Heavican wrote in Friday's opinion.

TransCanada ultimately dismissed its condemnation petitions in 2015, opting instead to pursue approval of a pipeline route from the Nebraska Public Service Commission.

Last year, the commission approved the company's "mainline alternative" route on a 3-2 vote. That decision is on appeal and could have oral arguments before the state’s highest court late this summer.

But Friday, the Supreme Court addressed the 40 cases on appeal in Holt, York, Saline and Nance counties. In them, David Domina represented 71 landowners who sought costs, expenses and attorney fees for work done in connection to the eminent domain proceedings, as well as a constitutional challenge.

The county courts granted the requests for attorney fees, prompting TransCanada's appeal first to district court judges and later to the Supreme Court.

TransCanada attorney James Powers argued the landowners' affidavit evidence was insufficient to prove their attorney fees; and that the eminent domain statute doesn't allow reimbursement without proof they paid or were charged anything.

In Friday’s opinion, the court didn't have a problem with evidence being offered by affidavit. But it came down to whether the landowners were indebted to counsel for services rendered, Heavican said.

He said no written fee agreement or invoice was offered as evidence. Nor did the landowners say a specific amount they owed counsel.

“These affidavits from counsel were not specific as to any individual landowner and — with respect to work done and fees charged — were virtually identical to one another, including seeking payment of the same amount of money based upon the same number of hours of work. In fact, these affidavits raised more questions than they answered,” Heavican said.

Because they didn’t allege the amount each actually incurred, and because there was no other evidence offered to support the award of attorney fees, the award of attorney fees was in error, the court said, and directed the lower court to vacate the awards.

Daily calendar


For the public

Free Tax Preparation Service: The AARP Foundation Tax-Aide offers free tax preparation to anyone of any age--especially if you are 50 or older, or if you can't afford paid tax preparation. The service will be available until April on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 1-5 p.m. at the Beatrice Public Library, located at 100 N. 16th St. Residents must bring their photo ID and Social Security card for each of the taxpayers. Social Security cards for all dependents must also be brought, and a copy of last year's return would be beneficial.


Beatrice Fiscal Fusion BNI: meet at 7:30 a.m. at the Good Samaritan Society, located at 401 S. 22nd St. in Beatrice.

Support groups

Alcoholics Anonymous: 8 p.m. meeting at the Salvation Army Community Center, located at Seventh and Market streets in Beatrice.

Al-Anon: 8 p.m. meeting at Centenary United Methodist Church in Beatrice.


For the public

Children and Adult Immunization Clinic: noon-4 p.m. at Parkview Conference Center, located at 1201 S. Ninth St., Beatrice (east side of the building). Appointments are necessary. Call 402-223-2366. Bring insurance or Medicaid card. Sponsored by Beatrice Community Hospital and Health Center.

Burwood Books/Mother to Mother Ministry: will have story time at 10 a.m. for children in pre-school through kindergarten. Prizes are awarded after ten times in attendance. Call 402-223-6042 for more information.

Support groups

Alcoholics Anonymous: 8 p.m. First Presbyterian Church (use west entrance), 321 N. Fifth St., Beatrice.

Beatrice Undergrounders Narcotics Anonymous: 8:15 p.m. in the basement of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, located at 19th and Garfield streets in Beatrice.