Archive for  January 17th 2019

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Around 240,000 kids ride Iowa school buses each day.  Their safety is a school bus driver’s number one priority.  “They’re our kids when they are on the bus.  It’s a huge responsibility but it is a great reward,” said Robin Witt, Safety and Training Specialist with the Des Moines Public School District.  Safety is not always guaranteed beyond the school bus walls.  Witt said, “We are not just bus drivers.”  The United Nations International Children’s Fund estimates up to half of all human trafficking victims may be children something the Iowa Department of Transportation has spent years cracking down on.  Dave Lorenzen, Chief of Motor Vehicle Enforcement said, “Unfortunately we have seen human trafficking cases that can be as young as 10,11,and 12 years old.”

The alarming trend caused the Iowa Department of Education to take action and make Iowa the first state to require human trafficking training for all school bus drivers.  “This training is going to help make everybody just be more alert,” said Witt.

Drivers will watch videos, read literature and even be quizzed on signs to spot human trafficking.  “These bus drivers see these kids every day and they can tell if there is something not going right,” said Chief Lorenzen.

Not all victims go missing entirely.  Drivers will be trained on looking for changes in clothing or behavior, unexplained gifts, bruises and unexpected absences from school.  Lorenzen said, “We know it occurs here.  We do receive info from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.”

Wisconsin authorities recently arrested a man named Jake Patterson who allegedly abducted 13-year-old Jayme Closs for three months and killed both her parents.  Authorities said Patterson came up with the idea after spotting the teen get off a school bus near her home.  Witt says they are no stranger to unusual interactions with strangers during their route.  She said, “We do see cars follow us at times and we will call in to dispatch and say hey there`s a car following us.”

Another set of eyes behind the wheel, helping to keep Iowa children safe.  Witt said, “One kid getting hurt is too many.  If we can get more to be saved and helped then that`s even better.”

On Thursday, Governor Kim Reynolds is expected to sign a proclamation declaring the month of January slavery and human trafficking prevention and awareness month.

DES MOINES, Iowa–  Secretary of State Paul Pate has already certified the election totals but the results in one statehouse district are being disputed.

“I don’t feel cheated. This is not about me. The people who have been cheated are the voters themselves,” Democrat Kayla Koether said.

Koether requested a hearing to contest the results of November’s House District 55 race in Northeast Iowa.

“It doesn’t matter if I win or not, they will change the vote count and their voices should be heard and counted,” Koether said.

Koether lost the race to Republican incumbent Michael Bergen by nine votes but says not all votes were counted.

“To me these are not just 29 ballots. These are 29 Northeast Iowans we know we cast their vote on time and in good faith and it’s the cornerstone of our Democracy,” Koether said.

The 29 absentee ballots were among 33 received after election day. The post office determined they were mailed before the election deadline. However, the ballots lacked a postmark, white is required under state law.

“These voters followed the law but now the government is knowingly and intentionally disenfranchising these 29 voters at that point when we deny voters the right to have their ballots counted,” said Koether’s attorney Shayla McCormally.

The U.S. Postal Service doesn’t postmark absentee ballot envelopes. Instead relies on the bar-code for a date stamp.

Representative Michael Bergen’s attorney says that is the problem.

“We cannot refer to the bar-code that the challenger is requesting to sue here it would be completely unfair to change the meaning of that phrase and apply it differently,” Matt McDermott attorney for Rep. Michael Bergan  said.

The House committee is asking for more information. There’s no timeline about when a decision will be made.

Both Representative Bergen and the Secretary of State’s office declined an on-camera interview.