Oklahoma Board of Education approves new school report cards

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma State Board of Education has approved the release of new A-F report cards for public schools that have previously been criticized by state educators for having flawed metrics.

Superintendent Joy Hofmeister says the new grading system approved by the board on Thursday was designed to correct previous flaws in the system and provide a more comprehensive overview of school performance.

Among other things, the new grading system will assess individual school performance on statewide tests, graduation rates and English language proficiency.

Former Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation in 2017 to create a new A-F grading system for public schools to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

Critics have said letter grading systems typically are closely tied to poverty and tend to oversimplify a school's performance.


Court OKs conviction of ex-cop who fatally shot black man

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma appellate court has upheld a white former police officer's conviction on a misdemeanor weapons charge related to the fatal off-duty shooting of his daughter's black boyfriend.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals Thursday rejected former Tulsa officer Shannon Kepler's appeal of a reckless-conduct-with-a-firearm conviction. A jury found Kepler guilty on that charge in the first of four trials involving the case.

He was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced in 2017 to 15 years in prison following three trials in which juries deadlocked. An appeal on that conviction is pending.

Kepler shot 19-year-old Jeremey Lake in 2014. Kepler claimed Lake was armed and he fired in self-defense. Police never found a weapon on Lake or at the scene.

Kepler's attorneys said he was trying to protect his adult daughter .


Bill seeks to regulate Oklahoma's booming marijuana industry

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma House has approved a bill to regulate the exploding medical marijuana industry in the state.

Known as the "unity bill " because it is supported by various factions of the marijuana industry, the 77-page bill easily passed the House on a 93-5 vote and now heads to the Senate.

The bill sets up guidelines for inspections, inventory testing and tracking, advertising and packaging and labeling, among other things. It also specifies that medical marijuana patients can buy and possess firearms.

Although it establishes various regulations, the bill is not aimed at curbing the explosive growth of the medical marijuana industry in Oklahoma.

The state's new Medical Marijuana Authority has approved nearly 55,000 patient licenses since August and has been overwhelmed with thousands of applications each week.


Bill aims to regulate use of data from license plate readers

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma lawmakers are considering legislation that would regulate how information captured by automated license plate readers as vehicles enter the state is retained and distributed.

The bill requires that individual data collected by the Corporation Commission be exempt from the Open Records Act, which grants citizens unrestricted access to public records, The Oklahoman reported.

The measure would allow the collected data to be published and released but it would not authorize revealing the activities or identifying specific vehicles or carriers. Other agencies would be allowed to use the information for law enforcement and regulatory activities.

"It's to allow them the ability to use the license plate readers and to allow them access to the (Department of Public Safety) information database," said state Rep. Ross Ford.

As a commercial vehicle approaches a weigh station, the readers scan the license plate and verify licensing details, Ford added. If the data isn't accessible, the driver must then stop at the weigh station.

The state only keeps images of license plates attached to heavier commercial vehicles, semi-trucks and trailers. The reader system does not collect other information, such as the details of license plates from non-commercial vehicles.

Matt Skinner, spokesman for the Corporation Commission, said the system saves a substantial amount of time for truckers as they drive through ports of entry, and past weigh stations.

"The real beauty of it is it speeds things up for trucks enormously. It used to be back in the day, you'd see long lines of truckers backed up at those tiny weigh stations, so much that it was dangerous," Skinner said. "Now, many trucks don't even need to stop."

The House Transportation Committee passed the proposal Wednesday. Rep. Roger Ford's sponsored bill can now be heard on the House floor.


Wintry weather slickens roads in Oklahoma and Arkansas

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A winter storm packing freezing drizzle and frigid temperatures has made driving treacherous and forced schools to close across Oklahoma.

The National Weather Service issued winter weather advisories Thursday for central and eastern Oklahoma and northwestern Arkansas. Forecasters say temperatures in the teens and 20s and freezing precipitation will affect travel throughout the region.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation says isolated slick spots have been reported on roads and highways. Law enforcement authorities say numerous accidents have been reported, including along icy patches of Interstates 35 and 40. Numerous accidents were also reported in Arkansas. Officials say road crews are treating highways and bridges to prevent icing in Oklahoma City, Tulsa and northwestern Arkansas.

Oklahoma City Public Schools, Oklahoma's largest school district, and many other school systems were closed.