Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Missouri education leaders say social-emotional learning guidelines an ‘ongoing discussion’

By Annelise Hanshaw

Missouri education leaders knew establishing social-emotional learning guidelines for public schools would draw controversy, with some celebrating the idea and others decrying it as government overreach.

So when the Missouri State Board of Education decided earlier this month to change course and pursue social-emotional learning as an optional framework instead of a statewide standard, the reactions were unsurprisingly mixed.

(Photo- Missouri State Board of Education Vice President Carol Hallquist and President Charlie Shields listen to feedback about the proposed social-emotional-learning standards during the Oct. 17 meeting- Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent).

Some Republican officials celebrated the move, declaring it a victory for critics of the idea. Proponents, meanwhile, were left scratching their heads and wondering how social-emotional learning got wrapped up in the culture war.

State Board of Education President Charlie Shields told The Independent the board’s decision will ultimately be a positive thing for social-emotional learning in Missouri.

“If we would’ve moved forward with standards, I think that, frankly, would have set us back in terms of trying to change what’s actually happening,” Shields said.

Missouri’s proposed social-emotional-learning framework is a set of goals intended to progress soft skills, like teamwork and self-motivation.

Board members spoke enthusiastically during the October meeting about expanding the current guiding document into resources for educators, hoping to curb teacher burnout.

According to Google Trends, social-emotional learning has had interest for much of the 21st century, being searched consistently but not widely until around 2016. The phrase dramatically increased in prominence in August 2020 before peaking in September 2020.

Christi Bergin, a research professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia and director of the prosocial development and education research lab, said social-emotional learning has been a tool to correct student behavior since the 1970s.

Social-emotional learning has grown in popularity as students returned to school from COVID-19 closures and teachers noticed additional behavioral issues.

“It was always a need,” Darbie Valenti Huff, a professional developer at the Missouri State Teachers Association, told The Independent. “When our students started to really struggle and had a hard time adapting after the pandemic, it just spotlighted that maybe they didn’t have those skills to help regulate and things like that beforehand.”

Valenti Huff was named Missouri’s teacher of the year in 2017, heralding her success as a result of her continuing education in social-emotional learning.

She told The Independent that she was always interested in social-emotional learning, but now others are taking notice.


The State Board of Education discussed improving classroom behavior and expanding resources for educators during the October meeting with a focus on teachers. The charge to bring SEL statewide came from a Department of Elementary and Secondary Education blue ribbon commission, a group that hopes to improve teacher recruitment and retention.

But some, following the meeting, spoke as though the blue ribbon’s recommendation was dumped entirely.

Jeremy Cady, lobbyist for conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, posted online that the board “halted“ the proposed standards. State Rep. Doug Richey, a Republican from Excelsior Springs who is running for state Senate, posted on social media that the board’s decision was “welcome news.”

“After my effort to defund (social-emotional learning), this past session, met with significant opposition, I wasn’t sure this day would actually arrive,” he wrote.

Richey sought in March to pull state funding of diversity, equity and inclusion programs, or DEI, not social-emotional learning. Though for some in Missouri, the two initiatives sound similar alarms.

State Sen. Bill Eigel, who is running in the GOP primary for governor, labeled social-emotional learning as “awful” during an appearance on a television program operated by Mike Lindell — creator of MyPillow and election conspiracist.

“As governor, I am going to dismantle DESE and continue to lead the fight against children being used as research experiments for leftist agendas. No to government bureaucracy in education. No to social emotional learning,” Eigel posted on social media alongside a clip of the interview.

A portion of Missourians who responded during the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s public-comment period on proposed social-emotional-learning standards linked the guidelines with DEI. There are more than 1,000 instances of commenters writing “DEI” in their messages about the standards.

Many negative responses are identical or nearly identical.

“Please focus on teaching students how to read, write, math, science, and etc.,” one respondent wrote. “Social-emotional learning and DEI programs do not help students learn and have no place in the students’ of Missouri education.”

Shields told The Independent he doesn’t understand why people draw a connection between DEI and SEL. He wondered if some opposing commenters read the 15 guidelines before condemning them.

Aggressive comments didn’t persuade the board’s actions to make the guiding social-emotional-learning document optional, Shields said. Instead, he was focused on others’ worries that the standards would become part of schools’ accreditation and scoring system.

“We were very careful that we didn’t set the effort backwards by moving it forward as standards,” he said. “We actually think we can move forward the guidelines and possibly have more impact.”

Shields said the board will continue to discuss social-emotional learning, including the development of resources for teachers to apply the 15 points outlined in the initial document.

Educators' take

Bergin, who is the co-chair of the work group who created the standards, described the following situation when talking to The Independent.

A teacher has a classroom of students that haven’t been behaving well this school year, perhaps bickering or calling one another cruel names.

It lingers in the teacher’s mind, and it would be nice to have a lesson on cooperation or respect — but there’s an intimidating list of core-subject lessons to complete.

If the state and district administration encourages social-emotional learning, that teacher will feel like there’s permission to pause and teach social skills. The feeling of permission is the reason Bergin likes standards instead of an optional framework.

Bergin has helped numerous districts implement similar programs.

“The climate of the classroom improves, and children are happier there,” she told The Independent. “They actually learn more because when children are in environments where they feel like all their classmates care about them, they care about each other. They are free to learn more, and they’re more engaged in the classroom.”

She has watched test scores improve as students learn social-emotional skills.

Valenti Huff was also part of the work group that created the standards.

“Our approach was, ‘let’s try to find that common ground that we all agree on…’ I don’t think that’s quite what happened,” she said.

She wonders if the name “social-emotional learning” caused some commenters to disagree.

The work group began meeting in February and prepared a document of standards members believed the whole state could appreciate. They presented a first draft in May.

The standards have three categories — me, we and others — to help students with a “healthy sense of self,” “relationship-building skills” and “prosocial skills.”

The most current version includes a glossary of traits for each category and student indicators of goals. Skills include cooperation, emotional regulation, respect and active listening.

The group included educators from Missouri’s urban districts and rural districts to ensure the goals worked for everyone because it was created to be a standard, and, therefore, not optional.

“Without them being a set of standards that we all agree should be a priority and should be taught, I just am afraid that it will fall by the wayside in some districts,” Valenti Huff said. “It will maybe be used as a resource, but I’m afraid it might be an afterthought.”

Others were opposed to another statewide standard.

“I think teachers barely have time to teach what we were trained to teach and that SEL is the responsibility of counselors and families,” one public comment says. “I am not a trained therapist or life coach.”

The Missouri National Education Association, the state teachers’ union, has not made a formal statement on the guidelines. But its policy is in favor of character education and prefers local school boards to have the final say on curriculum issues.

“It is really about these policies and maintaining some flexibility for districts so that they are not looked at as cookie-cutter communities, but instead are allowed to do what’s best for their students where their students are at,” Mark Jones, the MNEA’s communications director, told The Independent.

He said teachers will be looking for clarity and consistency if their district adopts the guidelines.

“It’s really about helping educators have tools and access those tools that benefit their students while conducting their normal lesson plans during the day,” Jones said.

He sees social-emotional learning as an additional layer of learning that is incorporated into the school day, like having students work in groups and practice collaboration.

Bergin said social-emotional learning can be applied in many ways, but she also sees it fit into the everyday rhythm of the classroom.

“My preference for approach is what we call interactional, which is when we just work on tweaking the way that educators interact with students during their regular academic curriculum,” she said.

Currently, the state has not prepared any directions for educators or materials for professional development.

Valenti Huff said the original plan was to have a team help with implementing the standards by creating resources for teachers and detailing them further.

Shields said the board has not abandoned the next steps and has directed DESE staff to look at best practices nationwide and provide options to districts.

“This is not a one-and-done discussion,” he said. “This is an ongoing discussion, so we will circle back on this in the future.”

Appeals court swats down Ashcroft arguments on Missouri abortion rights petitions

By Rudi Keller

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft wrote ballot titles for six proposals to restore abortion rights that were “replete with politically partisan language,” a Missouri appeals court unanimously ruled Tuesday.

In an expedited decision issued a day after hearing arguments, a three-judge panel of the Western District Court of Appeals upheld, with only minor revisions, the revised ballot titles written by Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem.

(Photo- Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey speaks to reporters Monday outside the Western District Court of Appeals building in Kansas City while Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft waits for his turn the microphones. Bailey and Ashcroft had just attended arguments over the abortion initiative ballot titles rewritten by a Cole County judge- Rudi Keller/Missouri Independent)

In a decision by a separate panel, the court upheld the fiscal note summary written by State Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick. Rejecting arguments from two lawmakers and an anti-abortion activist, the court said Fitzpatrick’s summary was “fair and sufficient.”

Ashcroft issued a statement that he would appeal the decision to the Missouri Supreme Court, a process likely to take several weeks. The ongoing court battle narrows the time for gathering signatures to put the proposal on the 2024. Backers must secure more than 170,000 signatures from registered voters by early May.

A key error in Ashcroft’s ballot titles, states the opinion signed by Judge Thomas Chapman, was its single-minded focus on how it would impact the legality of abortion. The proposed constitutional amendments, he wrote, cover all aspects of reproductive health care.

“The absence of any reference to a right to reproductive health care beyond abortion in the summary statements is misleading,” Chapman wrote.

There was little to be saved from Ashcroft’s summaries, he wrote.

“The secretary’s summary statements do not fairly describe the purposes and probable effects of the initiatives,” he wrote. “The secretary’s summary statements are replete with politically partisan language.”

Chapman zeroed in on particular phrases as especially troublesome. In the ballot title for each of the six proposals, Ashcroft wrote that passage would “nullify longstanding Missouri law protecting the right to life, including but not limited to partial-birth abortion.”

The phrase “right to life,” like its counterpart in the abortion debate, “right to choose,” is a partisan phrase intended to trigger a particular response, Chapman wrote.

“The use of the term ‘right to life’ is simply not an impartial term,” he wrote.

The same is true for “partial birth abortion,” he wrote, calling it “a politically charged phrase” that “carries no fixed definition.”

The lengthy battle to get ballot titles written began when Anna Fitz-James, a St. Louis physician, filed 11 proposed constitutional amendments with Ashcroft’s office in March on behalf of a political action committee called Missourians for Constitutional Freedom.

The proposals would amend the constitution to declare that the “government shall not infringe upon a person’s fundamental right to reproductive freedom.”

That would include “prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, birth control, abortion care, miscarriage care and respectful birthing conditions.” Penalties for both patients seeking reproductive-related care and medical providers would be outlawed.

Each version of the proposed amendment says there must be a “compelling governmental interest” for abortion restrictions to be put in place. But while some allow the legislature to regulate abortion after “fetal viability,” others draw the line at 24 weeks of gestation.

Some versions make it clear the state can enact parental consent laws for minors seeking abortions. Others leave the topic out entirely.


Under Missouri law, Ashcroft had up to 56 days to obtain certifications of the form and fiscal note, write a ballot title and certify the petition for circulation.

Attorney General Andrew Bailey tested his authority during that process, refusing to certify the fiscal note summary written by Fitzpatrick until the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in July that his role was limited to determining whether it fit the form required by law.

With legal backing of the ACLU of Missouri, Fitz-James sued Ashcroft over his ballot titles. That led to Beetem’s ruling on Sept. 25 and the subsequent appeal.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the ACLU called the appeals court ruling a complete victory.

“Today, the courts upheld Missourians’ constitutional right to direct democracy over the self-serving attacks of politicians desperately seeking to climb the political ladder,” the statement read. “The decision from Missouri Court of Appeals is a complete rebuke of the combined efforts from the Attorney General and Secretary of State to interfere and deny Missourian’s their right to initiative process.”

Ashcroft said in a statement that Missouri courts “refused to allow the truth to be known. The Western District essentially approved the language that was entirely rewritten by Judge Beetem. Not only is the language misleading but it is categorically false. The circuit court’s opinion admits the real issue is about abortion. The Western District today continued to gloss over the issue in its affirmation. We stand by our language and believe it fairly and accurately reflects the scope and magnitude of each petition.”

Bailey also said in a statement that he disagreed with the decision.

“We remain undeterred in our fight to protect the health and safety of women and children from the radical abortion activists working to turn Missouri into California,” Bailey said.

The appeals court ruling will likely guide litigation over similar language Ashcroft applied to proposals seeking to add rape and incest exceptions to the state’s abortion ban. Those ballot titles, on proposals pitched as a middle ground between the ban currently in place and more expansive rights included in the Fitz-James initiatives, are being challenged in a lawsuit filed last week.

Abortion became illegal in Missouri in June 2022 when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that recognized a constitutional right to abortion. The only exception is for emergency abortions to save the life of the mother or when there is “a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.”

In its ruling, the court of appeals upheld only one aspect of Ashcroft’s original ballot title – that the proposals would bar the government from discriminating against individuals or organizations that support reproductive rights or provide reproductive services.

The court restored the language, substituting “reproductive services” for “abortion” in Ashcroft’s sentence because “the Secretary’s singular focus on abortion in addressing the nondiscrimination provisions is, as previously noted, misleading.”

In upholding Beetem’s decision to rewrite all the ballot titles, Chapman said he had no choice.

“After removal of the inaccurate and partisan language of the secretary’s summary statements, the circuit court was left with largely unworkable summary statements,” Chapman wrote. “The circuit court was authorized to write alternative language to fulfill its responsibility that a fair and sufficient summary statement be certified.”

In the decision on the fiscal note summary, Judge Alok Ahuja, also writing for an unanimous panel, ruled that Fitzpatrick had accurately summarized the fiscal note. State Rep. Hannah Kelly, R-Mountain Grove, state Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, and Kathy Forck, a longtime anti-abortion advocate from New Bloomfield, filed the challenge, arguing that the state could lose federal Medicaid funding and trillions in future tax revenue.

Their briefs cited no authority that showed Medicaid funding was in danger and Fitzpatrick received no information from state agencies that showed it was likely, the court ruled.

On another point, the panel rejected the idea that Fitzpatrick should have used an estimated loss of revenue from Greene County and projected it statewide. The assumptions used by Greene County were dubious, Ahuja wrote, because they are based on a pure revenue-per-person calculation of local tax collections.

Newborns aren’t likely to have the same spending patterns as adults, Ahuja noted.

“Moreover, despite Kelly’s glib contention that extrapolating the Greene County estimate would be a ‘simple’ exercise, she ignores that sales and property tax rates are not uniform state-wide – nor are the value of real and personal property, or the wealth, income and consumption patterns of individuals and businesses,” Ahuja wrote.

In a statement, Fitzpatrick said he was gratified that his work had been upheld again.

“I oppose these measures and wholeheartedly agree with the other opponents that protecting innocent life is vitally important,” Fitzpatrick said, “but that does not and cannot influence my duty to honestly inform the voters of the state as to their potential costs.”

Probable cause: Joplin man drove drunk, crashed with 2-year-old in car

The Newton County Prosecuting Attorney's office filed driving while intoxicated and endangering the welfare of a child charges against a Joplin man who allegedly drove drunk October 6 with a 2-year-old passenger and crashed.

According to the probable cause statement, Connor J. Schlegel (DOB 1994) registered .234, nearly three times the legal limit on a portable breath test.

A witness saw Schegel  "toss multiple empty bottles of 50 ML shots of alcohol into the grass," the statement said.

The Joplin Police Department conducted the investigation.

Joplin woman with three previous DWI convictions bound over for trial on DWI charge

A Joplin woman with three previous DWI convictions in Utah waived her preliminary hearing today in Jasper County Circuit Court and was bound over for trial on a felony driving while intoxicated charge.

Mary Ann Hunter (DOB 1965) will be arraigned 1:30 p.m. November 15 in Division 2.

According to the probable cause statement, Hunter (DOB 1965) was pulled over by a Joplin Police Department officer October 4, had a difficult time with the field sobriety tests, "provided a positive preliminary breath sample and refused a chemical test of her blood under implied consent."

Joplin woman bound over for trial for fourth DWI arrest, arraignment scheduled for fifth

A Joplin woman who has been arrested for driving while intoxicated five times, but never convicted on that charge, was bound over for trial today in Jasper County Circuit Court after waiving her preliminary hearing on her fourth DWI arrest.

Brittney Nichole Bird (DOB 1986) will be arraigned December 11 in Division One.

According to the probable cause statement, the Webb City Police Department arrested Bird July 3 after she committed a lane violation, exhibited slurred speech, bloodshot and watery eyes and smelled of alcohol.

She performed poorly on field sobriety tests, according to the statement, and refused to submit to a breath test.

Forty-seven days after that arrest, the Joplin Police Department arrested Bird on yet another DWI charge.

The probable cause statement on the August 19 arrest, her fifth, says it took place in Joplin's bar district where Bird allegedly sideswiped a vehicle that was parked on the side of the road.

The statement indicates Bird's eyes were bloodshot and watery, her breath smelled of alcohol and she did not do well on the field sobriety tests.

Bird's arraignment on that charge is scheduled for 9 a.m. November 7. 

Plea bargain agreements with the Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney's office reduced two of Bird's previous DWI arrests to guilty pleas on excessive blood alcohol content. During the first case, she was arrested by the Jasper County Sheriff's Office October 16, 2009 and pleaded guilty to the reduced charge December 28, 2010.

She was sentenced to seven days in jail, which she had already served, fined $500 and assessed $141.50 in court costs, according to online court records.

After the Webb City Police Department arrested for drunk driving January 14, 2012, Bird reached another plea agreement with the Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney's office and once again pleaded guilty to excessive blood alcohol content, was fined $500 and assessed $141.50 in court costs.

The probable cause statement for the July Webb City arrest says the Joplin Police Department also arrested Bird for drunk driving February 10, 2010, "but it shows {the case} as closed."

Following the Webb City arrest, Bird's attorney at the time, Brian Glades, petitioned the court to direct the Department of Revenue to restore Bird's driving privileges arguing the police did not have probable cause to stop his client.

Judge John Nicholas issued the stay order July 17 allowing Bird to continue driving.

Bird's attorney on her current charges, Jared Stilley of the Stilley Law Firm, filed a petition in Jasper County Circuit Court August 24, asking the court to require the Director of Revenue to restore Bird's driving privileges.

 A hearing on the petition is scheduled for Thursday, December 14, before Nicholas in Jasper County Circuit Court in Carthage.


The Turner Report has provided news and commentary for 20 years, often tackling stories and issues that have been ignored by other media outlets. Inside Joplin and Inside Joplin Obituaries will soon celebrate 10 years in business, providing local news and free obituaries. Help this news operation continue to grow with a one-time or recurring contribution by using the "donate" button below. Or contributions can be mailed to Randy Turner, 2306 E. 8th, Apt. A, Joplin, MO 64801. Thanks.

Joplin man bound over for trial on meth trafficking charge

Dylan Dwight Dodge (DOB 1987) waived his preliminary hearing today in Jasper County Circuit Court and was bound over for trial on a meth trafficking charge.

Dodge will be arraigned 9 a.m. December 11 in Division One.

The allegations against Dodge are detailed in the probable cause statement:

On July 31, 2023, Ozark Drug Enforcement Team Detectives and Joplin Patrol Officers stopped two pickup trucks after they left a residence in the City of Joplin, Jasper County owned and occupied by Dylan Dodge. 

Both trucks were determined to be stolen, methamphetamine was discovered inside the trucks and a gun was found in one of the trucks. 

A search warrant was obtained for the residence of Dylan Dodge and when Detectives and Joplin Police Officers served the warrant approximately 150 grams of methamphetamine, a loaded Taurus G3C .40 caliber handgun and documents were all found together in a backpack claimed by Dodge. A cell phone was also seized from Dodge. 

Upon review of the contents of the cell phone and documents evidence of Dodge storing and distributing methamphetamine was discovered. Under Miranda Dodge admitted to selling methamphetamine.

Anderson woman charged with meth possession, endangering the welfare of a child


The McDonald County Prosecuting Attorney charged an Anderson woman with possession of a controlled substance and endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree after the Anderson Police Department found methamphetamine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia were discovered in places that were accessible to the woman's 2-year-old daughter, according to the probable cause statement.

The police executed a search warrant at the home of Mary L. Lowery (DOB 1995) after receiving information indicating drugs were in plain view at the home and her daughter was dirty and had glass embedded in her foot, as well as loose glass in her hair.

The police found meth, marijuana, glass pipes and six syringes, with one of the syringes testing positive for methamphetamine, the probable cause statement said.

Bond for Lowery was set at $1,500 cash only.

Monday, October 30, 2023

"Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" theme for Joplin Christmas Parade

(From Freeman Health)

For the ninth straight year, Freeman Health System will manage the Joplin Christmas Parade. That commitment involves a donation of countless man-hours to organize and orchestrate the event.

In a press conference held Monday, October 30, at Freeman Hospital West, Doug Lawson, City of Joplin Mayor, presented a 2023 Joplin Christmas Parade permit to Paula Baker, Freeman President and Chief Executive Officer.

“Freeman has produced the Joplin Christmas Parade since 2014, and we’re honored the City of Joplin entrusts us with this job,” Baker said during the press conference. “It’s a big production and takes hundreds of volunteer hours and many dedicated hearts to pull off an event of this magnitude. We embrace this challenge because it’s our way of giving back to the community that has supported Freeman Health System for more than 98 years.”

Both Baker and Lawson unveiled this year’s theme, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” along with the emblem, which is dominated by a smiling snowman sitting next to a Christmas-green electric guitar.

“We appreciate Freeman Health System and all of their team members who give their time and talent to host this annual holiday event,” Lawson said. “We look forward to seeing everyone come out to enjoy this year’s parade as part of their family tradition in kicking off the holiday season.”

Funds generated by the 53rd Annual Joplin Christmas Parade will go to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals®, which provides assistance to children from birth to 21 years of age.

“One hundred percent of every dollar raised locally stays local and helps children across 14 counties in Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas,” Baker said. “Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals helps furnish and maintain the Freeman Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, which provides funding for local community organizations’ pediatric needs and pediatric emergency equipment for area agencies.”

The parade will take place at 6:00 pm Tuesday, December 5, with a route starting at 15th and Main Streets and running north to Second Street.


Freeman is seeking entries for Joplin’s biggest holiday tradition. There is no fee for schools or bands, $15 for non-profit organizations with an active 501(c) status and all other registrations are $50. Space is limited – a maximum of 75 float entries are sought. The last day to register is November 25, but we presume spaces will be sold out before then. You can register at freemanhealth.com/christmasparade.

For more information about placing an entry in the 2023 Joplin Christmas Parade, call Sally Currence, Freeman Special Events Coordinator, at 417.347.4624 or email joplinchristmasparade@freemanhealth.com.


Granby woman charged with fifth DWI

The Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney's office charged a Granby woman with felony driving while intoxicated after she was pulled over by the Carthage Police Department Sunday while allegedly under the influence of drugs.

The Carthage Police Department and Highway Patrol were alerted that a suspected drunk driver had been at Pete's Convenience Store in Carthage where she nearly backed into the gas pumps and climbed out of her Jeep without putting it in park.

Tammy L. Sifferman, 51, Granby, was stopped after swerving in and out of her lane on Garrison Avenue. A Highway Patrol trooper who was called in for backup wrote in the probable cause statement that Sifferman said she had been released from the hospital earlier that day and said she had taken one Valium and one Tylenol.

Sifferman has four previous DWI convictions. She was arrested by the Highway Patrol on December 20, 2010 and February  20, 2011 and was found guilty on both charges July 26, 2011 in Jasper County Circuit Court.

The Highway Patrol arrested Sifferman March 8, 2012 and was found guilty September 14, 2012 in Jasper County Circuit Court and the Newton County Sheriff's Office arrested her December 7, 2019 and she was found guilty in Newton County Circuit Court October 20, 2021.

Newton County Circuit Court records indicate Judge John LePage sentenced Sifferman to four years in prison for her fourth DWI and suspended the sentence, placing her on supervised probation for five years.

Conditions of her probation include staying away from alcohol and any location where alcohol is sold to be consumed on the premises, not possessing or using any controlled substance that is not prescribed for her by a doctor and successfully completing a court-ordered program.

Judge LePage restored Sifferman's driving privileges December 19, 2022, according to Newton County Circuit Court records.

Under LePage's order, Sifferman was required to have an ignition interlock device installed. The probable cause statement for Sunday's arrest indicates the vehicle she was driving had an ignition interlock.

Utah man charged with sexual misconduct at Carthage Quality Inn

A misdemeanor sexual misconduct charge was filed in Jasper County Circuit Court today against a Payson, Utah man who blamed intoxication for his decision to indulge in a solitary sex act in the pool area at the Quality Inn in Carthage Sunday.

Bond for Troy Jackman Veatch (DOB 1967) was set at $5,000 surety or $600 cash. His arraignment is scheduled for 9 a.m. November 29 before Judge Joseph Hensley.

The probable cause statement indicates Veatch was walking northbound on Hazel Avenue, followed by Quality Inn employees, when Carthage Police arrived. Veatch "became aggressive" with officers and was upset because Quality Inn had kicked him out of his room "just because they saw his penis."

Two witnesses told officers they had seen Veatch's actions in the pool area. One asked why he was touching himself. Veatch said he was intoxicated and apologized, according to the probable cause statement.

Veatch was handcuffed, tried to pull away from the officers and did not follow their orders to sit in the patrol car.

After Veatch was taken to the jail, he continued to resist officers and "went completely limp" and had to be carried to the jail cell, the probable cause statement said.

Joplin man charged with felony DWI has four previous drunk driving convictions

A Joplin man may be headed for his fifth conviction for driving while intoxicated.

Felony DWI charges were filed Friday against Darren Gene Shockley (DOB 1990), three days after the Joplin Police Department found Shockley in the driver's seat with his vehicle running and car in gear.

Shockley was also charged with driving while revoked, a misdemeanor.

From the probable cause statement:

EMS on scene advised that Mr. Shockley was overdosing opiates. 

Mr. Shockley was transported to the hospital due to him being unconscious where a blood sample was obtained. 

Mr. Shockley showed to have four previous driving while intoxicated convictions in Joplin and Jasper County. He also showed to have a revoked Missouri driver’s status in Missouri as well as two previous driving while revoked convictions.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Eric Burlison: New Speaker of the House is "godly Christian man"

(From Seventh District Congressman Eric Burlison)

For the past several weeks, the House has been without a Speaker of the House.

In that time, I was proud to support Jim Jordan each and every time he ran for speaker.

The simple truth is we need a Speaker who will accomplish conservative wins.

We need to secure the border, cut out of control spending that has created the record inflation that is punishing every family, and rein in bureaucrats who are using their positions to push woke policies and attack Americans that disagree with them.


Those reasons are all why I’m proud to have supported Mike Johnson, who was elected Speaker of the House this week.

Speaker Johnson is not only a strong conservative, but he’s also a Godly Christian man. He is a constitutionalist that fights for individual liberty and against government overreach.

With Speaker Johnson at the helm, I’m confident we’ll get back on track and pass the remaining appropriations bills.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Initial court appearance Monday for Webb City woman charged with DWI with granddaughter in car

The initial court appearance for a Webb City woman facing misdemeanor charges of driving while intoxicated and endangering the welfare of a child is scheduled for Monday in Jasper County Circuit Court.

The Highway Patrol arrested Rhonda K. Glover, (DOB 1968) following an accident the evening of July 17 on MO 171 north of Ivy Road.

From the probable cause statement:

Troop O radio advised the vehicle, a gray 2006 Honda Odyssey traveled off the right shoulder and struck multiple MoDOT signs. l began traveling to the crash location. 

Upon my arrival, I noticed a vehicle with moderate front end damage in a ditch. I was approached by a Jasper County Sheriff's deputy who advised me the driver was in another vehicle. I re-located to where she was and spoke with her. 

The driver identified as Rhonda K. Glover who advised she was taking her granddaughter camping at Zan's Creekside Camping Ground. in Joplin. Missouri. While speaking with the driver. I noticed her eyes were watery. bloodshot, glassy and the odor of intoxicants emitting from her person. 

I asked Glover to submit to a series of field sobriety tests. It was apparent Glover was intoxicated. Glover advised she had been drinking throughout the day and was smoking marijuana hours prior to the crash. 


The Turner Report has provided news and commentary for 20 years, often tackling stories and issues that have been ignored by other media outlets. Inside Joplin and Inside Joplin Obituaries will soon celebrate 10 years in business, providing local news and free obituaries. Help this news operation continue to grow with a one-time or recurring contribution by using the "donate" button below. Or contributions can be mailed to Randy Turner, 2306 E. 8th, Apt. A, Joplin, MO 64801. Thanks.

Trial of Joplin man charged with murdering his 17-year-old daughter to begin Monday

The first degree murder trial of Todd John Mayes, 61, Joplin, is scheduled to begin Monday in Jasper County Circuit Court.

Mayes allegedly shot and killed his daughter January 9, 2022, after she threw a bottle at him during an argument. 

The allegations against Mayes are detailed in the probable cause statement:

On the above date, Mayes and his seventeen-year-old biological daughter (P.N.) were in a verbal argument on the second floor of their residence located at the above address.

During the argument, P.N. picked up a glass alcohol bottle and threw it at Mayes. Mayes walked downstairs while P.N. stayed upstairs. While downstairs Mayes retrieved his Taurus 9mm Model PT111 handgun (serial number TYJ43689) from the desk drawer located in his bedroom.

After retrieving the handgun, Mayes went back toward the stairs to confront P.N. While walking up the stairs, Mays contacted P.N. who was walking down the stairs. Mayes extended the handgun from behind his back and shot P.N. in the abdomen.

Mayes did not attempt to render aid. Mayes then returned his handgun to the desk drawer.

Medical staff stated P.N. suffered a single gunshot to the abdomen. The bullet traveled through a major artery which caused substantial bleeding. After being transported to a local hospital, P.N. died as a direct result of the gunshot wound.

Mayes is represented by Brett Meeker, Carthage, while Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Nate Dally is the attorney of record for the state. The judge will be David Mouton.

The trial is scheduled to last five days.


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Woman charged with assaulting Jasper police officer charged with attempted murder after jail fight

Kansas officials may not be able to keep their promise to return the woman who allegedly ran over a Jasper police officer twice October 16.

New charges, including attempted murder, have been filed against Raven Cheyenne Gomez, 26, Columbia in Allen County, Kansas, following an attack on another inmate in the Allen County Jail.

The following news release was issued today by the Allen County Sheriff's Office:

An arrest warrant alleging charges of criminal damage of property, aggravated battery and attempted murder in the first degree against Raven C. Gomez, 26, Columbia, Missouri, was issued and served after a complaint was filed in Allen County District Court Wednesday, October 25, by Allen County Attorney Jerry Hathaway.

Gomez and her boyfriend, Brandon David, were arrested on October 18 by Allen and Bourbon County deputies at a residence southeast of Moran following an assault the day prior on a Jasper, Missouri police officer.

Incarcerated in the Allen County Jail since her arrest, on Wednesday, October 24 Gomez reportedly assaulted another female inmate with a food tray during their noon time meal period. The attack caused the inmate to fall to the floor and her eyeglasses were broken, possibly by Gomez stepping on them.

Holding onto the other woman's hair, Gomez used a piece of the broken glass as a weapon and struck her in the face, neck, head and body but {she} was not fatally injured.

According to a court document, Gomez indicated to an investigating deputy that she had premeditated her actions and intended to kill the other inmate. Bond was set at $100,000.

All charges are merely accusations, and suspects/defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.

Gomez is charged with first degree assault in Jasper County.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Springfield businessman Mike Hamra joins Democratic race for Missouri governor

By Rudi Keller

A political newcomer joined the Democratic race for Missouri governor on Thursday, bringing a big checkbook and a message that he can stop “partisan food fights” that plague state government.

Mike Hamra Springfield, CEO of Hamra Enterprises, said in an interview with The Independent that he’s jumping into the race that already includes another Springfield Democrat, Crystal Quade, because he is “not a career politician.”

“I’m a very different type of candidate that’s going to generate the kind of support that’s needed to be the next governor in the state,” Hamra said, “and I also believe I’m the best candidate to put our state on a path towards greater opportunity and prosperity.”

The primary would be the first significant Democratic nomination contest for governor since 2004, when then-State Auditor Claire McCaskill defeated incumbent Gov. Bob Holden. Whoever emerges from the primary will face an electorate where no Democrat has won a statewide race since 2018.

On the Republican side, three candidates are running full-scale campaigns for the GOP nomination – Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and state Sen. Bill Eigel.

Incumbent Republican Gov. Mike Parson is barred from running for another term.

Hamra’s announcement video shows he intends to lean heavily on his business background to attract votes. The family business begun with a single Wendy’s Hamburgers restaurant now has 200 restaurants – Wendy’s, Panera and Noodles & Company franchises – in five states, up from 26 when Hamra took over as CEO from his father, Sam Hamra.

“Different parts of the business and running a state are very similar in the complexity level, and you need skills to be able to manage that job,” Hamra said in the interview. “And I believe it’s the most authentic and natural thing for a business leader to take on as far as the role of running state.”

Quade, House Minority Leader for the past five years, is not eligible to run for another term in the House. She could not be reached Thursday for comment on Hamra’s entry, but her campaign released a statement that highlighted the battles she has had with the Republican majority.

Quade also took a veiled shot at Hamra’s lack of experience in state government.

“Missourians need a governor who can take decisive action on Day 1 to reverse policies that have failed to keep rural hospitals open and allowed the worst state teacher pay in the country,” Quade said.

In his announcement video, Hamra said his administration would implement policies to help small businesses grow, train workers for high-tech jobs and “refocus education to produce the next generation of innovators and inventors.”

Asked for specific initiatives he would propose for education, Hamra said he wasn’t ready to discuss them.

“We just launched the campaign this morning,” Hamra said. “So I don’t have details on what that’s going to look like but I will and I will be getting that out at some point. I just don’t have that right now.”

The video also stated that he intends to enact policies that would ease the strain on family budgets with “new ways to make childcare and healthcare more affordable.” In the video, an employee of Hamra Enterprises praises the company because it “offers full health care and retirement benefits.”

The company, like many in Missouri, requires employees to pay a portion of the cost through payroll deductions, Hamra said.

Ninety percent of eligible employees participate, he said.

“We provide, in that health care we provide, a very, very competitive and I think a very solid health care plan for our employees,” Hamra said.

The last Democrat to become governor following a Republican administration was Jay Nixon, elected in 2008. Nixon had been attorney general for 16 years when he was elected and Democrats won three of the four other statewide offices on the ballot, including one by more than 700,000 votes.

In the 2020 election, Parson won re-election by 500,000 votes, Ashcroft won by the largest margin of more than 710,000 votes and no Democrat won statewide office.

The Democratic Party needs to build its election infrastructure throughout the state to make it competitive again, Hamra said.

“It’s important that candidates that are running for office also support other candidates that are running for office, and they support each other, and that’s going to be very important for the Democratic Party,” Hamra said.

Hamra has donated to campaigns for the party’s highest profile races – he gave money to Democratic nominees for governor in 2016 and 2020, and to Trudy Bush Valentine’s campaign for Senate in 2022 – but he has not contributed significantly to lesser races. In the past 10 years, Hamra donated once to a legislative candidate, giving $1,000 to a Springfield Democrat who lost a House race in 2016.

Money isn’t the only measure of his help to the party, Hamra said.

“We’ve done other things to support Democrats other than just purely coming out of my pocket, but our family has absolutely supported the Democrats consistently, year after year after year,” Hamra said.

For the past two years in the legislature, passing significant legislation has become vastly more difficult, due in large part to Republican factionalism in the state Senate. A filibuster nearly derailed the only must-pass legislation – a state budget.

His business experience will help him negotiate solutions to multi-sided fights, Hamra said.

“In the last 22 years,” he said, “I have been really skilled at laying out a vision and creating jobs and working with people that I don’t always agree with to get things done.”

Refugees came to Noel for opportunity. Tyson’s plant closure leaves their futures uncertain

By Clara Bates

NOEL, Mo. — On a Sunday afternoon in rural southwest Missouri, dozens of friends and family gather at a modest one-story home to sing and celebrate in the language of their homeland, more than 8,000 miles away.

Some arrive from church, crowding into a living room to celebrate two brothers — one turning 7 and the other 17. 

(Photo- Main Street in Noel, Missouri, (Clara Bates/Missouri Independent).

Speeches and blessings are delivered in a mix of English and Karen, the language of the Myanmar refugees who make up most of the partygoers.


Years ago, they escaped persecution in Myanmar, where the government has targeted various ethnic minorities for decades.

They’ve constructed tight-knit communities in Noel — and the town is all that many of the children have ever known. Kids bounce on a trampoline outside the party in the crisp fall air, the 7-year-old’s clip-on tie dangling haphazardly as a rendition of “Happy Birthday” breaks out.

But an air of anxiety coexists with the revelry.

A 10-year-old guest talks about all he’ll lose when his family has to move — pointing to the hill where he loved going sledding every winter.

“I’m kind of sad,” he says between bites of noodles off a paper plate. “I’ll miss my friends from school.”

In one corner, the birthday boys’ father huddles with a church volunteer, ticking through questions on a job application, some of which he doesn’t understand.

“Computer skills?” the volunteer asks.

For three decades, migrants have been drawn to the town to work at the Tyson poultry plant, which offered jobs that didn’t require English proficiency at higher-than-minimum-wage pay. Immigrants from Mexico arrived in the 1990s, followed years later by refugees and migrants from countries in Africa, Asia, Central America and the Pacific Islands.

They came to Noel — which had a population of 2,124 people in 2020 — in search of a better life. But with the plant now shuttered, many of its 1,533 workers are scrambling to find new jobs.

Job prospects in the remote surrounding areas are slim for many of those laid off in the plant closure. For the migrants who call Noel home, they can seem even slimmer. Many have already begun moving away, scattering across the country.

Pastor Joshua Manning, who helped organize multilingual Christian church services for the last seven years, speaks of the plant closure with despondency.

He provided space in the Community Baptist Church for services in three different Micronesian languages and Spanish. He led an English-Karen service himself.

Manning wondered whether the birthday party was doubling as a goodbye party.

“It’s like watching a family member die,” Manning says. “There’s mourning, grief.”

'The American Dream"

Tucked in the hills of the Ozarks near Arkansas and Oklahoma, Noel is a summer tourist destination that spans just two square miles.

The Elk River winds through it, attracting canoers and rafters. A small main drag features an ice cream shop, Mexican restaurant and African store. Wedged between the river and stark bluffs, beneath a limestone overhang, is a stretch of highway long considered the most scenic in the region.

And just off the highway, over a bridge, is Tyson — the economic hub of the town whose population numbered in the hundreds until 1980 and just recently surpassed 2,000.

(Photo- Say Jaw and Gideon Po celebrate their seventeenth and seventh birthdays at a party Oct. 15, 2023. Their family has been in Noel since 2016- Clara Bates/Missouri Independent).

“The county has kind of grown up around that plant,” Mayor Terry Lance said, “and it’s basically in the middle of everything now.”

Several former workers interviewed by The Independent said they learned about the closure on Facebook or in the media before Tyson informed them. Rep. Dirk Deaton, a Republican who grew up in Noel, said the company gave no indication it was planning to close the facility, and even spent money last year on renovations.

“They’re here for the long haul,” he remembers believing. “So there was really no indication that it was coming or that’s what was going to happen until — until it was.”

The decision to close the plant, which was announced in August and effective this month, was made to cut costs amid falling profits, Tyson said. It was among six plants the company announced it is closing this year to make operations more efficient.

Of those six plants, the Noel plant employed the most people.

The poultry plant transformed the makeup of a small, nearly all-white town in the span of just three decades. More than one-third of Noel’s overall population is now foreign-born, 36%, which is nine times higher than the state’s average.

What began in 1959 as what the Los Angeles Times called a “modest little country factory” morphed by the turn of the century into a massive industrial operation.

Then-giant meatpacker Hudson Foods bought the plant in 1972 and set out to ramp up production. With the advent of industrial practices to breed chickens and automate processing — the rise of “big chicken” — came reduced prices and soaring demand nationally. (“America Goes Chicken Crazy,” the New York Times proclaimed in 1984.)

Americans ate 40 pounds of chicken in 1970; by 2000, that number had nearly doubled, to 77 pounds.

Hudson needed more workers to keep up. They said the jobs couldn’t be filled in a town that then had just over 1,000 residents — in an industry the company characterized as too hazardous and difficult for most American workers to do.

So the company recruited immigrants from Mexico to the town, at first putting them up in roach-infested hotel rooms. Over time, families joined and set down roots.

Reports of the ‘90s and early aughts portrayed a difficult arrival: The homes of migrants being tagged with graffiti and kids not being allowed to play on sports teams were some examples University of Missouri Extension gave in a 2002 report. Over time, though, accounts became more positive.

Tyson acquired Hudson in 1997.

There were seven Hispanic students at Noel Elementary School in 1992, making up less than 2% of the student body. A decade later, there were 240 — half of all students.

“Most people are going to Noel,” the report said, “in search of the American dream.”

'On the run'

On a late Sunday afternoon last month, a group of Somali men were the only patrons at Paisa’s Mexican Food, a sit-down restaurant on Noel’s main drag. Around the corner, the Karen-English church service had just let out.

Around 15 years ago large groups of more far-flung migrants began arriving in Noel, from Somalia, Micronesia, Myanmar and elsewhere.

Some, especially the Somali and Karen, came to the country as refugees, eligible for resettlement because they were persecuted or feared persecution in their home country.

(Photo- Pwe Loe, a refugee from Myanmar, in Community Baptist Church in Noel (Clara Bates/Missouri Independent).

One of them was Pwe Loe, from the Karen (“kuh-ren”) ethnic minority in Myanmar, formerly called Burma — a now 39-year-old single mother of five children, whose singing opens the weekly services at the Community Baptist Church, run by Manning. The white congregants sing in English in tandem with congregants singing in Karen.

Pwe Loe, who has an expressive face and wears her black hair pulled back into a ponytail, said her life in Myanmar was characterized by constant flight.

She was “on the run all [the] time,” she said, fleeing Burmese soldiers in the jungle with other members of her village. The Karen have been persecuted for decades, along with other ethnic minorities in Myanmar.

In 2011 she made it to a refugee camp in neighboring Thailand — an improvement, she said, because she no longer had to run. But there was no work, and refugees relied on humanitarian aid groups for food. After qualifying for refugee resettlement in the United States that July, she was moved to Austin, Texas, but said it was hard to find work.

Two years later, she says a friend told her Tyson was looking for workers, so she and her family moved to southwest Missouri. She relied on the network of Karen people in town to help her adjust and came to like Noel.

Refugees are free to move around the country and many do. They must apply for lawful permanent resident status after one year and can apply for citizenship after five years (Pwe Loe is a citizen).

Refugees are expected to be self-sufficient after just 90 days in the country, when federal direct assistance, including help paying for food and rent, ends. Support services to help refugees find and maintain employment are available for the first five years they’re in the country. The government doesn’t track secondary resettlement.

Pwe Loe worked on the poultry line deboning chicken thighs — slicing out bones using a knife, on an assembly line, which involves highly repetitive movements for hours on end.

At Tyson, the starting wage was $16.35.

Many of the Karen migrants said it was a job they were proud to have — a job that, while difficult, enabled them to support their families.


Several Karen churchgoers in September wore Tyson merchandise they’d been gifted: A camouflage baseball cap with the red oval logo, a smattering of red t-shirts. In the living room of the family that hosted the party, a “5 Years of Service” silver plaque bearing the Tyson logo was hung up on the wall, still in its plastic protective wrapping.

'Everything has an ending'

Manning will step down as pastor of the Community Baptist Church on December 1, to go full-time with his current job at the post office, he said.

Hundreds of migrants have passed through the church in his seven years leading and organizing services — the size of services ebbing and flowing as some moved away and others arrived.

The essential fact of new arrivals, though — and the need to provide space for them to worship — remained steady. Some, like the core group of Karen families at the party, stuck around.

Now, he said, the church will take another form, reinventing itself.

The town will change too.

In the span of three weeks — from late September to October — “for sale” signs in Noel seemed to proliferate. At least one store on Main Street, which coordinated sending remittances home to Somalia, closed.

Three suitcases are near the entrance to a Somali-run store on the same stretch, called Sky Grocery. One of its owners, a young Somali woman who was born in Kenya because of the civil war in Somalia, said she moved to Noel just five months ago from Minnesota to help run the store.

She expects it will soon close.

“The majority are moving,” she said of other Somali refugees, “to different states.”

“Everything has an ending.”

Most white residents of Noel got along with their foreign-born neighbors and appreciated their contributions to the local economy, according to Mike Newman, executive director of RAISE, a nonprofit which provides refugee services in Southwest Missouri.

“But there was certainly a minority,” Newman added, “that said they would be fine if all the immigrants and refugees left Noel — and now we’re going to see if that’s going to be a good thing for them.”

Around 250 workers, or 16% of the workforce, plan to relocate to other Tyson facilities, said Derek Burleson, the company’s spokesperson, who added that the company held hiring events after announcing the closure. (The company offered them a $5,000 transfer bonus and up to $5,000 for moving expenses, Burleson said.)

Tyson provided a $1,000 bonus for those who’d stay until the closing date. Some of the church volunteers at the birthday party speculated that workers may have been hoping for the best, or unsure how to proceed in applying for new jobs while they were still working.

Now that the end has arrived, they’re scrambling for work or leaving. The town’s mayor said Noel could lose 20% of its population.

Their final paycheck arrived last Friday. A church-run food pantry has seen “increased need,” said Chloe Pfrimmer, who helps run the pantry and estimates around 70 families came to the most recent one.

Deaton, the state representative for the area, said the federal government should do more to help the refugees who came to Noel for jobs.

“They have something of an obligation, you know, to not leave those people just in limbo,” he said.

But government assistance to refugees is limited and short term, said Emily Frazier, assistant professor of human geography at Missouri State University in Springfield, who studies refugee resettlement.

The system is designed to integrate refugees, especially economically, and bring them to self-sufficiency quickly. They’re subject to the same challenges any American faces when losing a job, like the concurrent loss of health insurance: a more “systemic” American problem, Frazier said.

“Losing your job,” she said, “means losing benefits, security, possibly housing — especially in states like Missouri…There’s just not a social safety net for anyone, let alone refugees.”

Migrants’ language proficiency varies widely — many of the Karen adults, like Pwe Lo, speak limited English, which constrains job options. The federal government’s quick timeline for refugees to become economically independent, Frazier said, can “often supersede their ability to really learn English or…get their GED or get higher education.”

Refugees have to work quickly after arriving in the U.S., in jobs that require little English, and are then swept up in that difficult, time-intensive work.

Brittany Martin, who teaches English as a second language, said few of her adult students worked at Tyson because the company “works a lot of overtime and so kept their employees very busy.”

Tyson is accepting bids for the plant, but it isn’t clear yet what will replace it.

Pwe Loe is getting worried. She is surprised to hear, at the party, news that many of the Somali have already moved away for work.

She said she would apply to a nearby plant, Simmons Foods, in Southwest City, but worries, because she’s heard it doesn’t have many open positions.

Those who stayed on until the closure were, Pwe Loe among them, promised an extra $1,000. But other plants in the area may have filled their openings, and the time it takes to find a new job could quickly eat up the bonus.

Pwe Loe worries about taking her children from school and their friends. Three of her sons are school-aged — 14, 13 and 9. She also has an 18-year-old daughter who attends a nearby college and a one-year-old son.

If they stay in Noel, she said, she may not be able to pay their bills. But if they leave, it will be “so difficult for my kids.” Sinking into the couch in the entry room of her home, baby asleep in the next room, she looks around with apprehension.