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Paul Rolly: Power of the press is sometimes silent

Published April 11, 2014 8:59 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Sometimes a news reporter's best stories are the ones that are never written or aired.

They never come out because at some point during the reporting, their subjects think twice about a bad decision and reverse course.

My education sources told me this week of one such case.

School districts received notice recently from Lagoon officials that there would be some changes this year to the annual Lagoon Day enjoyed by graduating junior high school students.

In the past, the amusement park offered admission waivers to students who qualified for free or reduced school lunch because of their families' low-income status.

But this year, the districts were told, the waivers would be limited. The students who qualified for free admission would be able to go on only one ride.

Some education officials tell me they relayed that new policy to KTVX Channel 4 anchor Kim Johnson, who called Lagoon this week for a response.

She was told to call back the next day. When she did, she was informed that the policy had not changed. The kids who qualified would still get full waivers and could go on the same rides as everyone else.

Good for the school officials for telling the reporter about the now-abandoned policy change, and good for Johnson for her follow-up, which led to a happy ending.

The usual suspects? Amador Rivera is not letting an incident this week at Holladay's Bonneville Junior High go without notice.

He believes his daughter and a male student were singled out because they are Hispanic when a coin went missing from their seventh-period Career and Technical Education class.

The teacher had a collection of Chinese coins she had passed around for the students to see. When the collection was returned to her desk, one coin was gone.

Rivera says the school resource officer was called and students were questioned. Rivera says the focus turned to his daughter and the other Hispanic student. They were told to go out of the classroom and into the hall, where their bags and backpacks were searched.

Neither one had the coin, which was never found.

Bonneville Principal Karl Moody said all the students were asked to empty their pockets and that the two students who went in the hall were targeted because the male classmate said the last time he saw the coin was when he passed it to Rivera's daughter. So it seemed the coin's disappearance came where those two students were sitting.

Moody said the two were not taken into the hall because of their ethnicity. But Rivera said a third student who was questioned with the other two was not asked to go into the hall. She is not Hispanic.

Moody said the search was conducted in good faith, and the two students did not get in any trouble. Rivera is unsatisfied. He has contacted the American Civil Liberties Union.

Forbidding evil raffles • Salt Lake City's Uintah Elementary School, the scene of the lunch-tossing fiasco earlier this year, seems to be taking extra caution now.

Parents received notice that Uintah has called off its raffle fundraiser this spring "due to the legal issues associated with raffle baskets." For years, Uintah raffled off items during the school's Art Fair held each spring. Those raffles raised several thousand dollars a year.

But this year, the school is asking parents for direct cash contributions rather than donations of items for raffle baskets. The nervousness may have been triggered by a letter sent to all the schools from Kristina Kindl, director of policy and legal services for the Salt Lake City School District.

She warned that gambling is against Utah law and that the district "strictly prohibits" any activity that could be construed as gambling, including raffles.

District spokesman Jason Olsen said the policy has been in place for a long time and that a letter reminding schools of that is sent every year. Perhaps Uintah had not gotten the memo until now.

prolly@sltrib.com