Kate Wells | Michigan Radio
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Kate Wells

Reporter

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist and co-host of the Michigan Radio and NPR podcast Believed. The series was widely ranked among the best of the year, drawing millions of downloads and numerous awards. She and co-host Lindsey Smith received the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists. Judges described their work as "a haunting and multifaceted account of U.S.A. Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s belated arrest and an intimate look at how an army of women – a detective, a prosecutor and survivors – brought down the serial sex offender."

Wells and her family live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Johnny McClung via Unsplash

Kelly Mickel is alone, in her office, at four p.m. on a Tuesday.

 

It’s a freaking miracle. 

 

Most days, the principal at Erickson Elementary in Ypsilanti barely gets a moment to breathe, much less eat lunch (unless she’s eating a school lunch with a student, “either as a reward or sometimes as a consequence”). Usually, lunch is a piece of fruit, or something from home that sits on her desk most of the afternoon.

 

Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

A high school football coach and teacher has agreed to resign and will receive $20,000 as part of a settlement with the Hanover-Horton school district. That’s after a district investigation found it “more likely than not” Coach Johnnie Stewart engaged in a sexual relationship with a former student some 20 years ago, beginning when the student was 16 years old.

metookit.com

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office issued a subpoena Tuesday to a small, New York-based startup that’s getting plenty of press for marketing an at-home, DIY sexual assault forensic medical exam. 

The 16th Circuit Court Building in Mt. Clemens, Michigan.
circuitcourt.macomb.gov

More than a year before ex-Assistant Attorney General Brian Kolodziej resigned for having an “inappropriate relationship” with a sexual assault victim in one of his cases, his previous employer, the Macomb County Prosecutor, moved him off the Child Protection and Sex Crimes unit. 

Michigan State University

Updated September 12 at 9:30 am: Michigan State University placed Tomas Hult, a marketing professor and director of the MSU International Business Center, on administrative suspension following complaints of sexual harassment.

A Title IX investigation cleared Hult, saying his sexual comments and inappropriate behavior didn’t violate the school’s harassment policy.

Updated September 10, 6:45 p.m.: A state sex crimes prosecutor is now the one under criminal investigation.

On Thursday, the Michigan State Police notified the state Attorney General that Assistant Attorney General Brian Kolodziej “had allegedly engaged in an intimate relationship with one of the victims” in a high-profile sexual assault case involving Central Michigan University students.

Kolodziej resigned on Friday after admitting to the relationship, which he says began in April of 2019 and continued through August.  

Rachel Denhollander
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Updated September 10, 11:18 am: MSU President Samuel Stanley is declining a call from some Larry Nassar survivors to restart an independent investigation, after the Board of Trustees announced it was "pausing" that investigation on Friday.

A section of the River Raisin near Monroe.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The state is retesting drinking water in several Southeast Michigan communities this week. That's after a recent test in the River Raisin watershed found extremely high levels of PFAS. This was at the intake area at the Deerfield water filtration plant.

  “[It is] more likely than not that [longtime teacher and football coach] Johnnie Stewart engaged in a sexual relationship with Angela Campbell Sturgill when she was a student at Hanover-Horton High School,” an investigation released by the school district on Friday says.  

teacher pointing at board in front of classroom full of children
Rawpixel.com / Adobe Stock

Most of Michigan’s public preschool teachers say they’ll leave their jobs in the next five years, or they’re thinking about it.

Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

Dozens of parents waited restlessly in the school library for an hour, then two, as the Hanover-Horton school board held a closed door meeting to decide whether to fire the football coach.

Johnnie Stewart, a longtime high school football coach and teacher, was accused this summer of starting a predatory, sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student, some 20 years ago. That student, Angela Sturgill, now has children of her own in the district, and says school administrators first learned about the existence of these allegations back in the fall of 2018, though not the details.

Drew Hays/Unsplash

The birth mom was due in March 2019, but “typically delivers a couple of weeks early,” Tara Lynn Lee told the couple in South Carolina. They knew Lee through her Michigan-based organization, Always Hope Pregnancy and Education Center. In October 2018, Lee set up a phone call with the South Carolina couple, and the woman they believed was considering them to adopt her unborn child.

Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

The Hanover-Horton School District’s investigation is done, school administrators are “analyzing” it, and a frustrated community is still waiting to see what will happen to a longtime high school football coach accused of having a sexual relationship with an underage student some 20 years ago.

NOAA

Five years after half a million Toledo-area residents were told not to drink or touch their tap water for two days, the same thick green sludge responsible for the 2014 water crisis has now spread across 600 square miles of western Lake Erie.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement - or ICE - agents
U.S. Air Force

Updated August 9, 2019 at 11:45 am

The ACLU of Michigan and the Michigan Immigrant Right Center is sending letters to 11 county sheriffs and police departments across the state, urging them to stop detaining people for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

children sitting on floor
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Kids in Flint are heading back to school Wednesday, as the district transitions to a year-round calendar.

It’s an increasingly popular model with a mixed track record, but school leaders in Flint say they’ve had some success with the “balanced calendar” already in one of the district’s elementary schools. And it’s worth trying, says Flint Community Schools Superintendent Derrick Lopez, if it can reduce summer brain drain and help instructors reach struggling students sooner. 

Get Budding/Unpslash

If you live in one of 19 communities around the state, Michigan officials would like to help you break into the legal recreational marijuana business; a business that in other places has often been segregated by race and income.

Charles DeLoye/Unsplash

The future for some private colleges will come down to their ability to think “outside the [traditional tuition] box,” says Jayson Boyers, President of Cleary University, a small business school based in Howell.

And for Cleary, that means partnering with private companies to allow the company’s employees, and those employees’ spouses, kids, and even grandkids, a free online education.

close up of Gretchen Whitmer
Photo courtesy of www.senate.mi.gov/whitmer

Last updated Aug 2, 3:14 pm: Governor Gretchen Whitmer appears to support changing state law to allow undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses. Her position seems to come as a bit of a surprise, even to immigration advocates.

Whitmer was backstage at the Democratic presidential candidates’ debate Wednesday night in Detroit, when she was approached by a volunteer organizer.

Multi-colored books.
Kimberly Farmer / Unsplash

A new report maps out which neighboring Michigan school districts are the most segregated by race, poverty, and revenue. It comes 45 years after the U.S. Supreme Court told white families in Michigan (and by extension, the nation) if they wanted to avoid mandatory school integration, all they had to do was move to a whiter district.

“As if quarantining students of color, we have forced them into racially dense and underfunded systems, and then built walls around them,” reads the report from EdBuild, an activist group aimed at disrupting “the status quo of illogical and inequitable school funding.”

Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

“Angela, thanks for coming out!” one woman shouted at the end of a tense, emotional Hanover-Horton School Board meeting Monday night. 

Feliphe Schiarolli/unsplash.com

Hanover-Horton school officials chose not to remove a teacher accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old student, even as that allegation was investigated for months by the Michigan State Police, because the district’s lawyers told them not to. 

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Michigan college grads are borrowing 42% more on average than they were 10 years ago. Today, your average Michigan student with school loans has about $31,000 in debt, compared to roughly $21,600 a decade earlier.

Ammar Alhaidar

 

“ICE RAIDS STARTED IN DEARBORN,” the social media and Whatsapp messages warned on Monday afternoon. Dearborn residents sent the messages to each other after agents from Homeland Security Investigations visited Hamido, a well-known Middle-Eastern Dearborn restaurant.

The manager, Kassem Rizk, says he wasn’t sure at the time if the agents were from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but he says two officers came in, and one officer asked for employment verification forms.

“He said that he was sweeping the area. He said this was his tenth stop,” Rizk says.

Stewart

“‘I can’t wait until you’re 18,’” Hanover-Horton teacher and football coach Johnnie Stewart told her in the high school gym, “because of all the things he could legally, physically do to me,” the young woman recalls. It was 2015. She was his 16-year-old student.

The former student, who has asked not to be named because the incident happened when she was a minor, says she reported Stewart’s comments to school adminstrators that very day. But Stewart wasn’t suspended or fired. Ultimately, administrators told her it was a “he said, she said” incident, she says.

titikul_b / Adobe Stock

It’s not Camila Trefftz’s job to track this, but she tries to give the best estimates she can: so far this year, she’s says she's probably seen about 12 cases of kids being temporarily placed in Michigan after they were separated from their parents at the southern border.

But if you count the kids separated from relatives overall, not just parents? Then that number skyrockets, Trefftz says. Dozens, definitely. Maybe close to 100? She's not sure. The youngest they’ve seen was four months old. Another is younger than two, she says.

C/O Ben Hershey via Unsplash.com

Two graduates of Hanover-Horton High School’s class of 2000 say it was an “open secret” that Johnnie Stewart, the school’s football coach and physical education teacher, was in a sexual relationship with underage students.

Kate Wells

She looks small in the high-ceilinged lobby, her hair pulled back in a heart-shaped barrette, wearing a sundress and pink ruffled socks. She holds hands with her caseworker, gazing up silently at the security guards as they smile at her, beckoning her through the metal detectors and telling her how pretty she looks.

Michigan State University sign
Michigan State University

Here’s some news you’ve seen before: Michigan State University is launching a new investigation into how its former sports doctor, Larry Nassar, was able to sexually abuse so many patients for decades, despite numerous victims reporting to authorities.

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