Friday News: Hard lessons


NC PRISON FATALITIES BRING TO LIGHT NUMEROUS PROBLEMS WITH SYSTEM: Policies and procedures have been changed, safety equipment is being distributed, hiring has sped up and more training is being conducted at state prisons, officials told lawmakers Thursday. Last year was the deadliest year in the history of North Carolina's prison system. One corrections officer was killed by an inmate at Bertie Correctional Institution last April, and a failed prison break at Pasquotank Correctional Institution in October left four prison workers dead. The state Department of Public Safety called in federal investigators after the October incident to review prison operations, and they made more than 100 recommendations. Larry Reid, who led the team from the National Institute of Corrections, said investigators found many problems and deficiencies at Pasquotank Correctional.

REPUBLICANS WORRIED ABOUT BLUE WAVE IN NORTH CAROLINA: Following surprising results from a special election in Pennsylvania, North Carolina Republicans are apparently concerned that momentum on the Democratic side could drastically diminish their hold on state government. Democrat Conor Lamb on Tuesday won a special election for Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District, an area Republican President Donald Trump carried by nearly 20 points less than two years ago. The next morning, a staffer for NC state House Republicans warned GOP representatives in an email that they would not only lose their supermajority but would lose complete control of the House if North Carolina Democrats replicate Lamb's success in Pennsylvania. The email circulated by Matt Bales, political director for the GOP House Caucus, was posted on The Daily Haymaker, a conservative blog. Bales listed 23 incumbent House Republicans in districts that might be considered safe but that supported Trump in 2016 by 20 points or less.

NC LAWMAKERS SKITTISH ABOUT ARMING TEACHERS: President Donald Trump and some North Carolina lawmakers have suggested that allowing teachers to carry concealed weapons might be the best way to prevent school shootings, but experienced firearms trainers said Thursday that such a move isn't simple. "This whole presentation scares the living daylights out of me," said Sen. Terry Van Duyn, D-Buncombe, saying she worries that guns might be pulled out in situations where there is no active shooter. Lawmakers said they're not yet ready to consider changing state law to allow teachers to be armed at school, saying much more study is needed. "It's not easy to qualify somebody to carry a gun in public. It's a very serious situation," said Rep. John Faircloth, R-Guilford. Sen. Ron Rabin, R-Harnett, said the state needs to have standards in place first. "We need to try to make sure that everybody has the kind of training they need before we go throwing everybody in the world with a gun into a classroom or into a building like this to protect it," Rabin said.

CHERRY POINT CONTAMINATED WELLS LIKELY DUE TO FIREFIGHTING TRAINING: The tiny Eastern North Carolina community of Atlantic has joined a growing list of military areas across the country affected by contaminated drinking water. The Navy is providing bottled water after two private groundwater wells in Atlantic, an unincorporated area in Carteret County with a population of less than 600, tested positive for elevated levels of cancer-causing chemicals. The chemicals, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), are used to make products more stain-resistant, waterproof and nonstick, and they appear in common household products such as cookware, carpets, food packaging and clothes, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. They are also found in firefighting foam used by the Department of Defense beginning in the 1970s. The Defense Department identified 393 installations with a known or suspected release of PFOS or PFOA in a Dec. 31, 2016 document. That number included six sites in North Carolina.

FLORIDA CHARTER SCHOOL USES FIRE DRILL TO UNDERMINE STUDENT WALKOUT: Students at McKeel Academy of Technology are accusing school administrators of a heavy-handed attempt to block their participation in the nationwide walkout Wednesday morning to honor victims of last month’s massacre in Parkland. Katie Gallo, a junior who led plans for the activity, said she met with administrators Monday and told them that she and other students planned to walk out at 10 a.m., the time set for simultaneous walkouts throughout the nation. Gallo said Principal Joyce Powell didn’t seem to understand the purpose of the walkout and said any students who left class would be punished. Gallo said the administration instead hastily arranged an assembly in front of the school Wednesday morning at 8:30. During that event, Gallo told the principal she and about 15 others still planned to leave class at 10 a.m. When she and other students left class and walked toward the front of the Lakeland school, they found the doors were locked, Gallo said. Soon after that, a fire alarm went off, but teachers told students not to leave class until they received clearance by an announcement. “Nobody knew they were doing that,” Gallo said. “Apparently (the administration) sent an email to teachers saying we were having a fire drill, and they told the teachers, ‘You need to hold your kids and then let them out.’”