Janice Duffner is allergic to grass, so she and her husband, Carl, have no lawn. Instead they planted flowers in their Missouri yard, which also includes ponds and pathways. They bought their St. Peters home in 2002, but in 2008, the Board of Aldermen adopted a city ordinance requiring 50% of residents' yards to be made up of grass turf. Someone eventually filed a complaint about the Duffners' yard; the couple requested an exemption, but it was denied. In 2014, they were granted a variance, but were still required to plant grass on at least 5% of their property. After various court and administrative battles, in 2016, the Duffners filed a civil rights action in federal court, saying they faced up to $180,000 in penalties and 20 years in jail for their refusal to comply. Last week, a federal judge ruled - in favor of the city! US District Judge John A. Ross ruled that the Duffners "have failed to identify a fundamental right that is restricted by the Turf Grass Ordinance," have failed to show that the penalties for noncompliance with the ordinance are excessive, and that the Supreme Court has held that "aesthetic considerations constitute a legitimate government purpose." He also said the complaint was too general and if a court accepted it, it could place "many, if not all" such zoning laws under scrutiny. The couple's lawyer, who says "this is one of the most important property rights cases in the country right now," says the couple will appeal and could go all the way to the Supreme Court. (Kansas City Star)
A Third of US College Students Are Hungry
So much for the "freshman 15" myth. A new survey finds that 36% of college students in the US don't get enough to eat and go hungry. Seriously. The survey, carried out by researchers at Temple University and the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, found that 9% of students at 2-year institutions and 6% of students at 4-year institutions had gone a full day without eating in the month prior to the survey because they simply didn't have money for food. In addition, 14% and 11%, respectively, said they had lost weight due to not having enough money for food. The percentages get higher for the less drastic, but still disturbing, questions: 46% and 40%, respectively, said they couldn't afford to eat balanced meals. The survey used the Department of Agriculture's criteria for measuring hunger. Researchers say hunger on college campuses is a growing, yet mostly hidden, problem; their survey also found that 36% of college students were "housing insecure" in the year prior to the survey - and 9% were homeless. The problem? Not only are college costs increasing, but, experts say, aid packages aren't good enough, more low-income students are enrolling, competition for low-wage jobs is increasing, and colleges aren't willing to admit there is a problem. This survey involved 43,000 students at 66 campuses but other, smaller surveys have found similar results. (Washington Post)
Jared Fogel Won't Give Up... and Is Crazy!
Jared Fogle's latest bizarro move after being sent to prison for 15 years on a child porn conviction: He's suing the judges and prosecutors who sent him there. Jared has apparently teamed up with two other inmates to file the civil suit and wants $57 million from the judges and prosecutors he's suing, claiming he was unjustly charged with conspiracy to receive pictures of minors. (In previous attempts to free himself from prison, Fogle has argued that the conspiracy charge does not apply to his crimes.) Last week, Fogle also made another attempt to get himself freed, filing paperwork seeking a writ of habeas corpus from the federal court in Denver. But he listed President Trump as a defendant, and a judge has given him 30 days to revise the paperwork -among other things, he needs to remove Trump and his sentencing judge as defendants. (TMZ)
Don't Get That Hat... Let Me Get It!
It was an Easter tragedy for Nathan Stowell's family. Stowell fell about 400 feet to his death Sunday while hiking on Mount Olomana in east Oahu. He had moved to Hawaii from Arizona just five years ago and had FaceTimed with relatives after reaching the first peak of the mountain, located along the treacherous, 4.5-mile Olomana Trail. But on the mountain's third peak it seems another kid's hat blew off and he told the kid, "Don't get the hat. Let me get it." But while attempting to retrieve the hat, he lost his footing and then fell some 400 feet. Hikers say the trail was muddy after a weekend of rain. By the time authorities reached Stowell near the base of the peak a short time after noon, he was dead. A medical examiner later identified injuries to his head and torso. It's hardly the first to occur on Mount Olomana. Three others have died in falls from its peaks since 2011. Most recently, a 53-year-old Florida man died in 2015 after falling 200 feet while moving between the first and second peaks. (Honolulu Star-Advertiser)
Bored By Your Substitute Teacher?
A school resource officer for a middle school in Northwest Florida was asked for help by an administrator recently after several students reported inappropriate behavior by a substitute teacher the previous day. The deputy investigated and a pretty consistent series of events were described by different students. It seems our 63-year-old sub told the kids "that she smokes weed and that she will have a party at her house so they could smoke weed' together." The students stated that she told them she would order pizza and they could bring their swimsuits to swim." Some said she gave her phone number out to a few students on sticky notes, but there were no sticky notes to be found. The students also reported that she told a sexually explicit joke and allowed a student to play vulgar rap music on the classroom speaker while she danced to the music and unbuttoned her pants button (but not showing skin or anything else) stating, "I take dollars in my waistband." While some students reported that they have had her as a substitute before, they've never seen this kind of behavior displayed. While her name was not released, she was taken off the substitute teacher eligibility list. (NWF Daily News)
Parkland Students: New Backpacks Are Ridiculous
After a gunman massacred 17 students and staff, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students called for nine changes to gun laws. Instead, they've been given clear backpacks as part of new security measures at the high school in Parkland, Fla., and many of them mocked the change after they returned from spring break this week. Lauren Hogg, younger sister of student activist David Hogg tweeted: "My new backpack is almost as transparent as the NRA's agenda. I feel sooo safe now." She added, "As much as I appreciate the effort we as a country need to focus on the real issue instead of turning our schools into prisons." Other students called the backpacks an invasion of privacy and said they were a ridiculous, meaningless gesture, while some used them to make a statement. Numerous backpacks had $1.05 price tags attached, referring to the donations Sen. Marco Rubio has accepted from the National Rifle Association: $3,303,355, which works out to around $1.05 for each of the 3,140,167 students enrolled in Florida schools. Others had different messages: "Clear backpacks are stupid," read one sheet of paper displayed inside a backpack. "I AM SINGLE" advertised another student. The school district says students are also being given identity cards and it is considering installing metal detectors. (NBC News)
What the What?
Having trouble getting your kid out of bed for church on Sunday? Well tase ‘em right? In Phoenix, investigators arrested 40-year-old Sharron Dobbins for doing just that - charging her with felony child abuse charge. Dobbins is accused of using the stun gun on her 16-year-old son's left leg. She told the arresting officer she only sparked the Taser to get the kids up for church on Easter and that she never Tased anyone. But another of Dobbins' sons, 17, and a nephew, 18, witnessed the incident, saying indeed she did Tase the 16-year-old who had two small bumps on his leg where Dobbins allegedly shocked him. Dobbins, who appeared in court and was ordered not to have any contact with her sons, said that both of her sons are on probation. She said of the 16-year-old, "He has an ankle bracelet on. He's under my custody and everything," but also told the judge she would make arrangements for the boy to live elsewhere as she awaits her next hearing on April 16. (KPHO)