News

The week’s top stories on Policy Watch

1. Jury awards plaintiffs more than $50 million in historic hog nuisance lawsuit

A jury deliberated for less than two days before awarding 10 plaintiffs $50 million in a hog nuisance lawsuit against Murphy-Brown/Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer.

According to the verdict sheet, the jury unanimously agreed that Murphy-Brown, which owns the hogs at Kinlaw Farms in Bladen County, “substantially and unreasonably interfered with the plaintiff’s use and enjoyment of their property.” The jury awarded each of the plaintiffs $75,000 on those grounds.

But the jury also had the latitude to award punitive damages. They did so: $5 million for each plaintiff. In sum, the plaintiffs, ranging in age from their teens to 85, were awarded a total of $50.7 million. [Read more…]

Bonus read:

2. Proposed loosening of coal ash rules draws overwhelming opposition at EPA hearing | Read more

3. School takeover group’s payment to ex-lawmaker raises ethics questions | Read more

4. Policy Watch exclusive: Double-bunked judges speak out on judicial redistricting plans | Read more

Bonus reads:
Meet the judges behind our story about judicial redistricting
A familiar face in DC: rising SCSJ voting rights attorney argues first case at SCOTUS

5. Time for General Assembly official to stop playing games with public records | Read more

6. National pretrial expert: Reform is coming to the broken cash bail system | Read more

*** Upcoming Crucial Conversation on Friday, May 4th: A new day in the fight against gun violence | Learn more and register today

Commentary, News

The week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

 

Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus

1.N.C. legislator says children’s blood “will be on our hands” if state doesn’t allow for armed teachers

A North Carolina lawmaker with a lengthy history of gun rights advocacy says the blood of murdered schoolchildren “will be on our hands” if the state doesn’t allow for armed teachers.

Rep. Larry Pittman, a Cabarrus County Republican who sits on the state House education committee, urged his fellow legislators to clear the way for armed school teachers and personnel in a late night email Monday, calling it “the most practical, common sense, and constitutionally sound proposal of all.”

Policy Watch obtained a copy of the email Tuesday morning, which was issued with the subject line “saving innocent lives.” It was sent to all House and Senate members but directed specifically at members of a House select committee on school safety, which was slated to meet Tuesday morning.

From Pittman’s email: [Read more…]

2. Following lead of other states, NC teachers plan big march and rally for legislature’s May return | Read more

3. NC State scientists: GenX will be in Cape Fear River, tap water for years to come; health effects need more study | Read more

4. Snail mail responses from legislative operations chief Paul Coble appear to violate state public records law | Read more

5. Grounds for hope, grounds for grave concern in the battle to defend our democracy | Read more

Education

Could smaller schools mean safer schools? One of the nation’s best teachers believes so

As the North Carolina General Assembly House Select Committee on School Safety meets again on Tuesday, one of the the America’s best public school teachers has several suggestions for improving safety.

Gaston County high school English teacher Bobbie Cavnar believes that smaller schools paired with more nurses and psychologists will enhance the safety of our classrooms.

Cavnar, named by the NEA Foundation as the nation’s top educator, recently discussed school shootings and making students feel safer with NC Policy Watch director Rob Schofield:

At today’s legislative hearing, members of the Student Physical Safety Working Group will hear from the:

  • Executive Director of the North Carolina Christian Schools Association
  • Former Chairman of the Governor’s Task Force on Safer Schools Community
  • Development and Training Manager of the Center for Safer Schools
  • Sheriffs of Rockingham County and Carteret County

View the complete agenda here.

And be sure to listen to the full 20-minutes interview with Cavnar below in which he discusses his love of teaching and how he inspires students.

Commentary, News

The week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

#1 Governor appoints Joe John as head of Courts Commission after Duane Hall resigns

Rep. Duane Hall (D-Wake) quietly resigned as head of the North Carolina Courts Commission a month ago, shortly after NC Policy Watch detailed sexual harassment allegations against him.

Gov. Roy Cooper this week appointed Rep. Joe John (D-Wake) to take his place.
John said in a phone interview this week that he was honored by the Governor’s appointment. He is a first-term representative but had a 25-plus year career within the court system — he’s been a prosecutor, defense lawyer, district court judge, chief district court judge, superior court judge and court of appeals judge.

“I pretty well covered the waterfront and I have broad experience and overview as to how the court system operates,” John said. “I’m probably as familiar as anyone with the things that courts do well and the areas where probably there could be some improvement.”

The Commission, which has around 30 members, is tasked with evaluating changes to the state’s court system and making recommendations to the General Assembly.
The state court workload is one thing John hopes to address during his tenure. [Read more…]

Bonus reads in Courts & Law:
Judges: Wake legislative districts likely unconstitutional but election already underway
Pioneering women celebrate progress in the judiciary, make the case for more at Supreme Court ceremony

# 2 A second natural gas pipeline proposed for NC would run through Rockingham, Alamance counties | Read more

Bonus read in Environment:
DEQ, Duke agree on (small) penalty for illegal leaks from coal ash basins

#3 Controversial former charter principal’s involvement raises more concerns about takeover of Robeson County school | Read more

Bonus read in Education:
N.C. Supreme Court to hear arguments in pivotal Halifax County school case Monday

#4 Really? This is the best they can come up with?
After decades of propaganda and promises, the effort to privatize public schools in NC continues to fizzle | Read more

#5 Experts: We already know how to reform the state’s flawed cash bail system | Read more

Education

More schools in North Carolina are isolated by poverty and race (podcast)

The US Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education concluded that segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race deprives the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities.

Yet despite half a century of law and a growing understanding of the importance of eliminating segregated schools, achieving a fully-integrated public school system remains an unfinished act.

A new report by the NC Justice Center examines school segregation in our state over the past 10 years. The report finds racial and economic segregation on the rise, and charter schools tend to exacerbate the problem.

If you missed it over the weekend, be sure to listen to Rob Schofield’s radio interview with Matt Ellinwood, director of the Education & Law Project, as they discuss the finding in the report: “Stymied by Segregation: How Integration Can Transform North Carolina Schools and the Lives of Its Students.”