Illinois Kindergarten Teacher Suspended for Letting Minors Consume Alcohol

An elementary school teacher in Illinois has been placed on administrative leave after allegedly allowing minors to consume alcohol at her home.

Wendy Bunnell, 39, faces two counts of allowing minors to drink alcohol at her residence, which carries a possible $1,000 fine.  Bunnell teaches at a local elementary school, while all of the students involved attend a separate high school.

According to the report, Bunnell allowed her 14-year-old to throw a party where as many as a dozen of his friends attended.  The police were informed that although Bunnell did not provide alcohol for the minors, she knew that they brought it to her house with the intention of consuming it.

As is commonplace these days, police learned of the alleged incident after the teens began talking about the party on Facebook and Twitter.  A concerned citizen reported the posts to a local detective, who brought the matter to the authorities.

Police brought some of the teens in for questioning, where a few of them exchanged testimony for immunity.

According to another report, Bunnell might have bigger issues to worry about.  A parent one of the teens alleges that her son has been suspended from sporting activities at the high school because it was a second violation of the Student-Athlete Honor Code.  The mother said she believed her child when he said that he hadn’t been drinking, and she feels her son is being targeted by the school because he allegedly engaged in a sex act with the kindergarten teacher.  The student in question is 17 years old, meaning that he is viewed as an adult under Illinois State Law, but the most recent allegations may make it more difficult for Bunnell to keep her job.

Bunnell is due in court on April 4.

Brett Appelman comments

This woman is being charged with a misdemeanor, so it is highly unlikely that she will go to jail for the charge of providing alcohol to minors.

However, many jobs, particularly jobs that involve working with children, have a contract with a “Morals Clause.”  These contracts can state that any action that makes the school “look bad” or puts the school in a “Bad Light” can be cause for suspension or termination.  This teacher may very well end up being fired for this incident.

Much more troubling is the allegation that she had sexual contact with one of the high school students.  It is currently merely an allegation, and she is presumed innocent of any illegal actions, but if she is ever charged criminally with sexual contact with a minor she will find it very difficult to secure a teaching position in the future.  An allegation of this nature will certainly make any potential school board very wary about hiring her.

Again, we stress that these are merely allegations, and she has not been charged with any sexual crimes, and that she is presumed innocent of any criminal actions.

Related source:  DailyMail.co.uk, WJBDRadio.com

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St. Patrick’s Day Means More DUI Patrols in Kane County

If you plan on celebrating St. Patrick’s Day this weekend, you might want to think twice about driving if you’ve had a few beers.

The Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office has announced that they will once again be conducting a “no-refusal system” for suspected drunk drivers this holiday weekend.

Kane County is no stranger to the no-refusal system, as law enforcement officials conducted a similar operation over Thanksgiving last year.  Authorities did not specify which municipalities would take part in the operation.

The no refusal system is basically an expedited DUI procedure that allows officers to have direct contact with a judge that can issue a warrant at any hour of the day.  This ensures that suspected drunk drivers are required to submit to a blood or breath test.  Officers like this approach because most suspects consent to the test when they are told that a judge is standing by to issue a warrant, which in turn saves the officer time.

Joe McMahon, the State’s Attorney for Kane County, said he hopes the announcement will encourage citizens to make wise decisions this weekend.  He also said the program shows that the county is serious about cracking down on drunk driving.

“This office has a responsibility to prosecute DUI offenders, and to educate the public not to drive when they drink,” said McMahon “As has been our practice, I will not say which municipalities will participate. I only will announce when we will have the no-refusal operation.”

This weekend will mark the 12th time that Kane County has implemented the no refusal system.  105 drivers have been charged with DUI over the previous 11 operations.

The Kane County State’s Attorney’s felt that St. Patrick’s Day weekend was a good time to renew the program.  The county conducted the program on the same holiday weekend in 2012, and charged 22 people with driving under the influence.

Brett Appelman comments

Normally, a driver who is arrested for a DUI can refuse to take any and all sobriety tests – the “Field Sobriety Tests” which include standing on one leg, walking a straight line, and a vision test, as well as the two different breathalyzer tests, the PBT at the car and the official breathalyzer at the police station.

Illinois law allows a driver to refuse these tests with no criminal repercussions.  The only real consequence of refusing is that your driver’s license will be suspended for a longer period of time than if you had done the tests.

We normally counsel our clients to refuse all tests.  It is far better to have your license suspended for a longer period than to give the prosecutor direct evidence that you were driving under the influence of alcohol.

These no-refusal weekends force drivers to consent to the tests, or wait to see if the judge on call will grant a warrant to take their blood.  A driver can still refuse to do the breathalyzer test, but the warrant will allow the police to forcefully take blood from the driver.  This can result in the license consequences for refusing the tests, along with the police obtaining the DUI evidence anyway.

Related source:  Huntley Patch

Woman Dies after Health Care Staffer Refuses to Perform CPR

Police in California are investigating a refusal by a staff member at an independent living facility to perform CPR on an 87-year-old woman who collapsed on the floor and later died.

Lorraine Bayless was discovered by a resident services director after she collapsed at Glenwood Gardens independent care facility.  The staff member called 911, but refused to render first aid as she believed she was following company protocol.  Below is a partial transcript of the call.

Dispatcher: OK, is there anyone there who is willing to help this patient?

Caller: I am, but…

Dispatcher: OK great, then I’ll walk you through it all. EMS takes the liability for this, Colleen. I’m happy to … OK? This is EMS protocol. OK?

Caller: (To someone off the phone) I don’t know where he is. She’s yelling at me to have one of our other residents perform CPR. And I’m not gonna do that, and make that call.

Dispatcher: Colleen, is there anyone that works there that’s willing to do it?

Caller: We can’t do that.

Dispatcher: Are we just gonna let this lady die?

Caller: Well that’s why we’re calling 911.

Dispatcher: We can’t wait. She can’t wait right now. She is stopping breathing. She can’t wait for them to get there.

Caller: She’s taken three breaths.

Dispatcher: It’s not enough. We need to get CPR started.

Caller: (Chatter in background) He’s saying we don’t. You can talk to my boss, and I don’t know what to say.

Dispatcher: OK. (To someone off phone.) They’re refusing CPR, they’re gonna let her die. By the facility, yeah.

Caller: When will the fire department be here? When will the ambulance …

Dispatcher: They’re coming. They’ve been on the way all this time but we can’t wait. This lady’s gonna die.

Caller: Yeah.

Dispatcher: OK, well then if you get anybody, any stranger that happens to walk by that’s willing to help. I understand if your boss is telling you can’t do it. But if there’s any human being. … Is there anyone that’s willing to help this lady and not let her die?

Caller: Um, not at this time

Glenwood Gardens offered an immediate statement saying the staffer had adequately followed protocol.

“In the event of a health emergency at this independent living community, our practice is to immediately call emergency medical personnel for assistance and to wait with the individual needing attention until such personnel arrives. That is the protocol we followed,” said Jeffrey Toomer, executive director at Glenwood Gardens.

Andrea Turner, a spokeswoman for Glenwood Gardens, echoed Toomer’s sentiments, saying there is a clear distinction between independent living facilities and assisted care centers.

“Independent Living communities do not provide medical services, as they are not licensed to do so. In an emergency, staff will call 911 and then wait with the person in need of assistance. Glenwood Gardens is an independent living facility which, by law, is not licensed to provide medical care to any of its residents,” said Turner.

Public Backlash

There has been an overwhelming amount of public backlash chastising the facility for not rendering CPR.  Arthur Caplan, who acts as the head of the Division of Bioethics at New York University Langone Medical Center, said the facility’s failure to render aid cost this woman her life.

“It’s inexcusable,” said Caplan. “You call 911, you trigger a process to do a resuscitation.”

Caplan added that the staff member had nothing to lose by rendering CPR, as all states have laws that protect “good Samaritans”.

“There’s never been a successful lawsuit against someone who tried to help using CPR,” he said. “Every state, if you make a good, safe attempt to help, will indemnify lawsuits.”

Caplan went on to say that some states are even levying punishments for those who fail to render aid.  He cited a Vermont law which states that a person can be fined $100 for not helping a person in distress.

Family Absolves Center of Fault

Bayless’ family issued a statement Tuesday saying that they absolve the care facility of any wrongful activity in Lorraine’s death.  The family said although Lorraine did not have a legal “Do Not Resuscitate” order, she wanted to die naturally.

“It was our beloved mother and grandmother’s wish to die naturally and without any kind of life prolonging intervention,” the family said in a statement.

Less than two hours later, the medical facility issued a statement saying that the employee’s failure to render aid stemmed from a misunderstanding of company policy.

Sean Sullivan comments

Legally, I would say that this nursing home breached its duty of care to the elderly patient.  As a patient, this nursing home had a legal responsibility to make every effort to save this woman. By not doing so, they clearly violated their legal standard of care to her. It sounds as if this nursing home has enacted a policy that they cannot legally enforce.  Legally, this staff member must render aid to help this patient. It sounds as if they have enacted a policy that is contrary to this idea and legally it will not give them a defense.  As a general rule, the courts will not uphold policies that are against the best interests of the public’s safety.

If this patient had a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Order this would be a different case. In the case of a DNR, a patient has legally expressed their wishes to not receive extraordinary life saving measures.  In fact, in the case of a DNR, the nursing home legally cannot do anything.  But absent that fact being brought to light, this is a case of extreme negligence and an outrageous breach of care to a patient on the part of this nursing home.

Although it seems that there had been a family discussion about Lorraine’s final wishes, it’s always a good idea to come to a written agreement with a primary care facility in case an event arises.  It looks as if the family will not be seeking legal damages, and I hope that other care facilities use this incident to evaluate and discuss their emergency procedures.

Related sources:  ABC News, Washington Times

11-Year-Old Dies in Traffic Accident

A chain reaction crash proved deadly Wednesday night as an 11-year-old boy died from injuries sustained in the traffic accident.

The incident occurred around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday while a line of cars were stopped because of an accident on Route 64 near Virgil Township.

According to the police report, Benjamin Black, 28, was driving his Ford Expedition westbound when he came upon the line of stalled cars.  Black was unable to stop in time, and his Expedition crashed into the back of a Chevy Cavalier.  The Cavalier was pushed into a Bucik Luceme, which was knocked off the road.  The Cavalier then continued forward and hit the back of a Hyundai.

All three people in the Cavalier were taken to Kishwaukee Hospital for treatment.  Among those in the car was 11-year-old Matthew Ranken, who died as a result of his injuries.  The other two individuals were treated for non-life threatening injuries.

Officials said poor road conditions played a factor in the crash.  Authorities noted that the roads were covered by blistering snow drifts at the time of the incident.

Black was cited with failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident and operating an uninsured motor vehicle.  Both citations carry a maximum fine of $1,000.

Attorney Sean Sullivan comments

What’s most tragic about this accident is that a young child lost his life, especially since it sounds as if the accident could have been avoided.

The driver was cited with failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident. No doubt the weather played a factor in this accident, but a driver has an obligation to take the weather into consideration.

With all the electronic devices available to drivers these days, distracted driving is becoming an all too frequent phenomena.  Illinois law expressly prohibits texting while driving (see 625 ILCS 5/12-610.2).   If the investigation clearly shows the driver was at fault because he was distracted or doing something else negligent, then this young child’s family should hold him responsible.  A lawsuit will not bring the child back, but it may help bring awareness to unsafe driving.

Related source:  Chicago Tribune