HARROLD (AP) – An unlikely battleground over whether public schools must allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice is taking shape in two tiny towns in Texas and Arizona, neither of which currently enrolls anyone who is transgender. Eleven states suing the Obama administration claim that a new federal directive about transgender students thrusts “seismic changes” upon 100,000 schools nationwide. But only two districts joined the lawsuit – Harrold, a Texas farming community, and the Heber-Overgaard Unified School District northeast of Phoenix, a conservative region where summer homes are popular. The directive handed down this month says transgender students must be allowed to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity. It is a theoretical scenario at best for Harrold and Heber-Overgaard, which together have roughly 550 students.
DALLAS (AP) – As he leaves the volunteer presidency of the Boy Scouts of America, Robert Gates says the organization is well-positioned for the future after deciding to allow openly gay adult leaders in its ranks. The former U.S. secretary of defense ended his two-year term Thursday as volunteer president. He was replaced by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson. In remarks released by the Boy Scouts, Gates says he supported the policy change on openly gay adults after several local councils disregarded the previous ban and Scout groups in many states faced the prospect of discrimination lawsuits. Churches can still use sexual orientation in deciding adult leaders. Gates says that “difficult decision” has allowed the Boy Scouts to “look to the future” and come close to reversing years of decline in Scouting membership.
FORT WORTH (AP) – A woman charged in connection to the death of a former co-worker who was beaten, bound, strangled and set afire has been found guilty. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that 27-year-old Carter Carol Cervantez was convicted of capital murder Thursday and sentenced to life in prison. Prosecutors say Cervantez and her boyfriend killed 31-year-old Ashlea Harris, whose body was found in November 2014 in her apartment. All three of them had worked at an American Eagle store inside a mall. Police had said at the time that it was unclear whether Harris was targeted in retaliation for identifying the couple as potential suspects in a theft at the American Eagle store or if she was targeted in an attempt to gain access to the store again.
AUSTIN (AP) – Emergency crews in the Austin area are responding to numerous high-water rescues amid torrential rain. Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services tweeted Thursday night that it had responded to multiple scenes to assist people trapped by rising water. There were no immediate reports of injuries. The National Weather Service said just after 11 p.m. that emergency managers reported low-water crossing closed in Hays and Travis counties. Over six inches of rain had been observed at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Local media report residents of a Travis County neighborhood were urged to seek higher ground. The Office of Emergency Management in Bastrop County, east of Austin, urged residents to stay off the roads, saying some are covered with several feet of water. Much of the state from Dallas to San Antonio to Houston was under some type of severe weather advisory.
WACO (AP) – The daughter of outgoing Baylor football coach Art Briles called the circumstances that led to his ouster a “media witch hunt” and wrote that her father is a “man of incredible character” in a Facebook post. Staley Lebby posted Thursday, several hours after the school released the finding of an investigation that showed leaders – including Briles – mishandled allegations of sexual assault and violence, some involving football players. The board of regents announced it had begun the process to fire Briles. Lebby, who is married to Baylor running backs coach Jeff Lebby, wrote her father’s “character has NEVER been questioned.” She added: “There is always so much more to a story than being told. This media witch hunt has been the most disturbing thing I’ve ever witnessed.” Baylor University’s board of regents says it will fire football coach Art Briles and re-assign university President Kenneth Starr in response to questions about its handling of sexual assault complaints against players.… Read More
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Six states and the Federal Highway Administration have agreed to make the roadsides along Interstate 35 friendlier for bees and butterflies to help the insects boost their declining populations. The 1,500-mile stretch of road between northern Minnesota and southern Texas is a path for monarch butterflies that migrate between Mexico and Canada. Both the butterflies and bees pollinate plants that produce much of the nation’s food. Officials from Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas and the federal government signed an agreement Thursday to improve the habitat and develop a branding campaign informally naming the interstate the “Monarch Highway.” Honeybee and monarch butterfly populations have been dwindling in recent years.
SAN ANTONIO (AP) – A former Bexar County sheriff’s deputy has been found not guilty of murder in the 2013 fatal shooting of a motorist after a minor traffic accident in San Antonio. A jury on Tuesday found former Bexar County sheriff’s Deputy Anthony Thomas not guilty of murder in the death of 29-year-old Matthew Jackson. Thomas was off-duty but in uniform at the time of the shooting. He has said he feared for his life when Jackson ran toward his car with something shiny in his hand. The shiny object was later determined to be a cigarette lighter. Thomas had faced up to life in prison if he’d been convicted.
FORT WORTH (ABC) – Ethan Couch — the so-called “affluenza teen” — isn’t the only member of the Couch family in trouble with the law. A grand jury has found sufficient evidence to charge his mother, Tonya Couch, with money laundering and with hindering the apprehension of her son. The younger Couch is thought to have violated the juvenile probation he was given after killing four people in a DWI crash; rather than face his probation officer, he and his mother headed for Mexico with several thousand dollars in cash.