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State Briefs

by the associated press • Jun 27, 2019 at 8:00 AM

School district near Grand Rapids is banning cellphones

CASCADE TWP. (AP) — A school district in Kent County is banning cellphones during school hours.

The Forest Hills district near Grand Rapids says students won't be allowed to use their phones but can keep them in their lockers. The district says it's "clear that excessive exposure to cellphones has a negative effect" on kids.

If students need to reach a parent, they can use a school phone. Forest Hills says its schools have plenty of technology to allow students to go online when necessary for classroom work.

Superintendent Dan Behm noticed the problem when having lunch with students. They told him how social media posts caused anxiety.

Assistant Superintendent Christine Annese told WOOD-TV that a parent advisory committee approved the plan.

Forest Hills has more than 15 schools, including three high schools.

Report: State, Benton Harbor schools reach tentative deal

DETROIT (AP) — A report says state officials have reached a tentative agreement that would avoid the closure of Benton Harbor's high schools and dissolution of its district.

The Detroit News reported the deal was reached Wednesday in a meeting among Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's staff, Benton Harbor school officials, and members of the state education and treasury departments. The deal still needs approval from Benton Harbor's school board.

The newspaper said a copy of the tentative agreement wasn't immediately available.

Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said the plan requires the school district "to meet attainable benchmarks and goals to show improvement in academic outcomes among Benton Harbor area students while stabilizing the finances of the district."

Whitmer, a Democrat, has faced criticism in predominantly black Benton Harbor over potentially closing the schools under a turnaround proposal.

3-year-old drowns in swimming pool near Paw Paw, police say

PAW PAW TWP. (AP) — A 3-year-old girl has drowned in a backyard swimming pool in southwestern Michigan, police said.

The Van Buren County Sheriff's Office said the girl was found unresponsive in the water and rushed to a Paw Paw hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

The incident occurred Wednesday afternoon southwest of Paw Paw, WOOD-TV reported.

Deputies said the girl was a friend of the family who was visiting the home. They believe she slipped away from the adults and was out of their sight for only a short time.

Police said the death is considered accidental.

The girl's name wasn't immediately released.

Woman wanted for fatal hit-and-run fled Michigan, cops say

WARREN (AP) — Police believe a woman accused of a fatal hit-and-run in suburban Detroit has fled the state in a bus.

Peter Chisolm was struck and dragged for a mile June 5 in Warren. A Chevrolet Impala registered to Valerie Bostle was discovered in Detroit. The 36-year-old Eastpointe resident is charged with manslaughter and other crimes.

Warren Police Commissioner William Dwyer called Chisolm's death "tragic and senseless." The 55-year-old lived in a group home.

Police believe Bostle boarded a bus June 12 and might have a 3-year-old daughter with her. Georgia was a possible destination. Detective Kevin Bailey said Bostle has shaved her hair on the sides.

The Macomb Daily said federal marshals have joined the search.

Authorities seize more than 100 animals from Michigan home

COLUMBUS TWP. (AP) — Authorities investigating an animal welfare complaint concerning the living conditions of rabbit at a Michigan home ended up seizing more than 100 animals.

St. Clair County Animal Control went to the home Tuesday. Erika Stroman, the shelter's director, said an officer found a "pungent" odor coming from the house in Columbus Township, about 35 miles northeast of Detroit. No arrests were made, but Stroman said charges are expected.

The Times Herald of Port Huron reported that officials ended up seizing 123 animals, including domestic birds, dogs, kittens, ducks, chickens and rabbits. Stroman said investigators found several rooms of cages full of birds, along with some deceased animals.

Immigrant siblings sentenced in death of cousin

SANDUSKY (AP) — Two siblings who authorities said were in the U.S. illegally are headed to prison after entering plea agreements in the slaying of a relative who worked with them at a Michigan dairy farm.

Francisca Vargas-Castillo was sentenced Wednesday in a Sanilac County courtroom to 20-40 years in prison after pleading guilty last month to second-degree murder and other charges. Leobardo Torres-Castillo received a sentence of 3-10 years sentence after pleading guilty to assault and other charges.

The body of 42-year-old Brica Flores-Rivera was found Sept. 1, 2018, in Buel Township, 85 miles north of Detroit. Witnesses testified Vargas-Castillo beat and stabbed Flores-Rivera during what authorities described as a fight between them.

Prosecutor James Young said Flores-Rivera was the siblings' cousin and they shared a trailer. All three were from Mexico.

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