HEADMISTRESS AT RALEIGH PRIVATE SCHOOL IGNORED YEARS OF SEXUAL ABUSE: Nicholas Smith, a former math teacher at a private school in Raleigh, is accused of grooming a ninth-grade student into a sexual relationship — first texting her, then kissing her and finally having sex with her at school, her parents' homes and during a field trip. When school leaders heard complaints about Smith's behavior and told him to avoid inappropriate interactions with female students, he is accused of turning his attention to the girl's younger sister. A complaint filed in Wake County Superior Court in January paints a haunting picture of sexual abuse allegations at The Montessori School of Raleigh, which serves students from pre-school through 12th grade. It also accuses the school and its headmistress of turning a blind eye to the accusations of abuse, which spanned from August 2012 to June 2016.
REPUBLICAN BILLS TO "SHUT DOWN" CHEMOURS MAY ACTUALLY HELP THE POLLUTER: Legislative Republicans filed companion bills Thursday empowering the governor to shut down Chemours if it continues to pollute the water in Bladen County and beyond, a move immediately panned by environmental attorneys who said the state already has this power and the bill could actually stymie enforcement. But the Southern Environmental Law Center, which called on the state Department of Environmental Quality last week to declare an emergency and shut down air emissions at the plant, said the bills are pure politics. This new legislation "imposes multiple requirements on the Governor before he can order a facility that is potentially poisoning people to cease all polluting operations," SELC Chapel Hill Director Derb Carter said in a release. "This is pointless given the Governor’s existing authority, and appears intended to protect the polluter, Chemours," Carter said. The state's Sierra Club chapter had the same read, saying the bill "may create confusion" by questioning the state's current authority.
GOP REACTION TO TEACHER RALLY: FORCE THEM TO POST "IN GOD WE TRUST": North Carolina public schools could soon become a little more religious, if the General Assembly passes a new bill that would force schools to display signs saying "In God We Trust." The legislation comes at a time when similar measures requiring "In God We Trust" signs to be placed in schools have passed in other Southern states. House Bill 965 was filed Thursday and sponsored by four Republican members of the House of Representatives: Bert Jones of Rockingham County, Linda Johnson of Cabarrus County, Dean Arp of Union County and Phil Shepherd of Onslow County. "When any student walks into school to learn, they should be greeted equally and with respect — not confronted with divisive and unnecessary displays that send a message to students of different religious views, or none at all, that they are second-class or not welcome," ACLU communications director Mike Meno said.
BERGER & MOORE JUMP ON THE INCENTIVES WAGON WITH GUSTO: North Carolina legislative leaders said Thursday they're committing to a big expansion of tax breaks to attract employers promising thousands of jobs, a move that comes as people familiar with recruitment efforts tell The Associated Press tech giant Apple is strongly considering the state for a new corporate campus. The top two leaders in the state's General Assembly said they would lower the threshold so-called "transformative" companies must meet to get massive state subsidies. Companies investing at least $1 billion and generating 3,000 jobs could get cash payments based on the taxes paid by their employees for up to 40 years. A North Carolina government official and an economic development official told The Associated Press that Apple is close to deciding whether to build a planned hub in the Raleigh-Durham area.
DESPITE HISTORY OF TORTURE, GINA HASPEL CONFIRMED AS NEW CIA DIRECTOR: The Senate confirmed Gina Haspel on Thursday as the first female director of the CIA following a difficult nomination process that reopened an emotional debate about brutal interrogation techniques in one of the darkest chapters in the spy agency’s history. Her opponents said it wasn’t right to promote someone who supervised a black site in Thailand. They said the U.S. needs to close the book forever on the program that marred America’s image with allies abroad. Several senators said Haspel was not forthcoming in answering questions about her role in the torture program or the CIA’s decision to destroy videotaped evidence of the sessions. They also had questions about her rejection of the now-banned techniques. More than 100 former U.S. ambassadors who served both Republican and Democratic presidents sent the Senate a letter opposing Haspel, saying that despite her credentials, confirming her would give authoritarian leaders around the world the license to say U.S. behavior is “no different from ours.”