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State Briefs

By The Associated Press • Feb 1, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Abuse victims say they were required to see disgraced doctor

CHARLOTTE (AP) — Another wave of victims confronted Larry Nassar on Wednesday, this time about sexual abuse at an elite Michigan gymnastics club where young athletes felt they had to use the disgraced doctor's services and could not question the adults who ran the facility.

The judge presiding over the case said the number of people who allege they were abused by Nassar has topped 265. That total includes 150-plus victims who offered statements at a different hearing last week, as well as scores of new ones expected to speak over the next few days.

Nassar, 54, faces another long prison sentence on top of the two he has already received.

Nassar, once the doctor for the national gymnastics team, sat at a table with his lawyers as nearly 30 accusers rebuked him.

"You are the most vile, disgusting creature I have ever met," said Katherine Ebert, a gymnast who started seeing Nassar at age 15. "There are black holes in my memory that come back as nightmares or flashbacks, not wanting to believe they're true."

The case centers on Nassar's assaults at Twistars, a Lansing-area gymnastics club that was run by 2012 Olympic coach John Geddert. Nassar admits penetrating three girls with his hands when he was supposed to be treating them for injuries.

Ottawa County school district makes changes after religious complaints

HUDSONVILLE (AP) — A West Michigan school district will hold a staff workshop regarding religious discussions in school after a civil rights group complained that some teachers' practices violated the Constitution.

Hudsonville Public Schools plans to hold the workshop in March about the Constitution's Establishment Clause and how public schools can't endorse or sponsor religious activities, The Grand Rapids Press reported. Handouts are also being created to show how the clause applies to school employees and outline when actions are in violation, Assistant Superintendent Scott Smith said.

The moves come after the Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists complained in November 2017 about teachers' faith-based activities. The association raised concerns about Baldwin Street Middle School teacher Jeff Henderson, saying he was holding Bible study in his classroom before school, engaging in discussions about faith during school hours and collecting prayer requests in the classroom.

Henderson, who is youth ministry director at his church, was instructed to stop collecting prayer requests and engaging in religious discussions during school hours. But the Bible study wasn't found to be in violation of the Establishment clause because it occurred before school hours.

The association also complained about Alward Elementary School teacher Christopher Karel, who was meeting with students for lunchtime Bible studies. The district ended such discussions in November 2017.

Body of missing girl, 16, found in southwestern Michigan

KALAMAZOO (AP) — Authorities said a body found last weekend in a wooded area of southwestern Michigan has been identified as a missing 16-year-old girl.

Police said the body was found Sunday in a wooded area of Kalamazoo. The girl was reported as a possible runaway on Jan. 25 in the Grand Rapids area, about 50 miles away.

Police said the girl’s death is being investigated as a homicide. Details about the cause of death weren't immediately released.

Police said they found her body after it was spotted by two people out for a walk.

Former Benton Harbor schools chief sentenced to jail time

ST. JOSEPH (AP) — The former superintendent of Benton Harbor Area Schools has been sentenced to 90 days in jail following his embezzlement convictions.

A Berrien County judge also sentenced Leonard Seawood to five years of probation on Wednesday following the former superintendent's December 2017 convictions on five counts of embezzlement and obtaining money under false pretenses. He was accused of embezzling more than $40,000 by taking payouts for unused vacation days.

WSBT-TV reported Seawood's attorneys asked for leniency. They said their client has already lost a lot and incarceration wasn't necessary.

Seawood has maintained that he received authorization for the payouts.

The Benton Harbor man was suspended from the district in 2015 and later fired following an investigation by Michigan State Police. He had been superintendent since 2010.

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