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updated: 1/30/2017 10:33 AM

Elgin High teacher fears Trump will restrict climate change research

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  • Elgin High School teacher Deb Perryman was named the 2014 Environmental Educator of the Year by the Environmental Education Association of Illinois. She expressed concerns about the Trump administration's reaction to climate change research done by federal agencies.

      Elgin High School teacher Deb Perryman was named the 2014 Environmental Educator of the Year by the Environmental Education Association of Illinois. She expressed concerns about the Trump administration's reaction to climate change research done by federal agencies.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • A bike pauses at the pedestrian-activated flashing crosswalk light at Kirk Road and Prairie Path in Geneva. State Rep. David Harris of Arlington Heights has proposed a law that would make injuring a pedestrian at a crosswalk a felony.

      A bike pauses at the pedestrian-activated flashing crosswalk light at Kirk Road and Prairie Path in Geneva. State Rep. David Harris of Arlington Heights has proposed a law that would make injuring a pedestrian at a crosswalk a felony.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 

A former Environmental Educator of the Year has been staying up late at night to download climate change research from federal agencies' websites because she's fearful the documents will be removed under President Donald Trump's administration.

Elgin High School science teacher Deb Perryman says she's worried about the information "disappearing or being altered. The magnitude of the body of research is not really understood to most people outside the scientific community," she says, pointing out that various departments, from food security to health to those focusing on ecosystems, are all doing work regarding climate change.

"It's terrifying to know that our highest office is not only ignoring this huge body of work but literally making it a mockery," says Perryman, a Streamwood resident.

Trump has called climate change a hoax.

'Rogue accounts'

Reuters reported late last week that employees from more than a dozen U.S. government agencies have established a network of unofficial "rogue" Twitter feeds in defiance of what they see as attempts by Trump to muzzle federal climate change research and other science.

The move follows instructions from the new administration to departments including Agriculture, Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency to remove information from their respective websites or change how they're communicating with members of the public.

Illinois Education Association officials said they've not yet had reports from other teachers who have similar concerns to Perryman's, but they are monitoring the issue.

Crosswalk penalties

State Rep. David Harris, an Arlington Heights Republican, proposed a law that would toughen penalties for drivers who hit pedestrians in crosswalks.
  State Rep. David Harris, an Arlington Heights Republican, proposed a law that would toughen penalties for drivers who hit pedestrians in crosswalks. - Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

A suburban lawmaker is pushing to make failing to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk a felony if it results in death or injury. The move was inspired by the death of a Mount Prospect mother of five.

State Rep. David Harris, an Arlington Heights Republican, tells me he attended meetings after the June 9 death of 55-year-old Joni Beaudry, who was struck and killed as she rode her bike through a Central Road crosswalk near Melas Park.

"One of the things that troubled me so much is that over the years we've emphasized the right of the pedestrian in the crosswalk," Harris said. "But that's just one side of it. ... We've got to tell drivers, if you don't do it, there's a penalty."

Currently, there are no penalties on the books for striking a pedestrian in a crosswalk, though drivers are penalized for reckless driving. Hanna Burzynska, 56, of Elk Grove Village, pleaded guilty to three different traffic violations for hitting Beaudry. Burzynska lost her license for a period of time and had to pay $364 in fines and court costs.

Abstinence education funds

The Illinois State Board of Education is giving out $2.76 million this school year and $2.55 million in 2017-18 to districts for abstinence education. Officials say the move won't conflict with a state mandate requiring that teaching about contraception not be diminished. Spokeswoman Jaclyn Matthews tells me the board is currently developing application guidelines for districts.

For now, the American Civil Liberties Union has given the move a cautious blessing. "ISBE appears to believe that these funds can be used for more comprehensive sexual health education," spokesman Ed Yohnka said in a statement he emailed to me. "We hope so. As you know, we have opposed abstinence education, which too often has been fraught with factual misinformation and dangerous outright falsehoods." Yohnka says the ACLU will continue to monitor how the funding is being disbursed and used in Illinois to ensure that is in compliance with the state law,

An Emmy ... thanks coach

A former College of DuPage student was awarded a regional Emmy Award from the Chicago Chapter of the National Academy for Television Arts and Sciences.

Kristin Crowley, an evening news anchor at WREX 13 in Rockford, was part of the team honored for "Outstanding Achievement for News Programming." Crowley, 31, is a graduate of Downers Grove North High School. She says she got involved in journalism at COD at the suggestion of a soccer coach. She later transferred to Columbia College Chicago, and interned at ABC 7 and Fox Chicago. Crowley worked in Lafayette, Indiana, Green Bay, Wisconsin, and at WSIL in Southern Illinois before moving to WREX.

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