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Archive | February, 2011

Sexting: Pornography or high tech flirting?

By Judy Reed

It’s something no parent wants to hear—that their child is texting nude or semi-nude photos of themselves to others, or that their child is receiving them. But it is happening on a larger scale than parents might think, and it is not just high school age kids involved.

According to Sherie Kopenski, security at Cedar Springs Middle School, they have tackled three cases this year. “That doesn’t sound like a lot, but one is too many,” she said.

The Cedar Springs Police Department has also been involved in the cases. “If your teen has access to a cell phone, there’s a chance that they have received or sent naked photos,” said Police Chief Roger Parent.  “Sexting used to be between a young couple, boyfriend-girlfriend, but it has recently become an accepted practice for young teenagers who are not in a relationship.  A recent comment during an investigation that ‘Everyone’s doing it’ was alarming.”

The latest case was a 14 year-old female sending nude photos to a male friend of similar age, who was not her boyfriend. He showed the photos to others, and according to Parent, it spread so much in school that it became a school issue, and the police also got involved.  The case is being forwarded on to the prosecutor’s office.

“Given that these images are often minors, officials are taking a hard line approach and may charge the parties involved in an effort to discourage the practice,“ explained Parent.

He said that what parents need to talk to their teenage children about is that the person sending a nude or partially nude photo, even if of themselves, is in violation of existing laws.  The person who receives the photo is in violation by possessing it and other laws address distribution of the photos to others.

He said the prosecutor is looking at it on a case-by-case basis. “It falls under underage porn. She created it and disseminated it. The boy is in possession of it. If he sends it on without permission, that also falls under bullying,” said Parent. And parents need to know that if one of the teens involved is 17 or older, they will face an adult judge.

Kopenski noted that it could have serious side effects. “It’s a lot bigger than we realize. It’s criminal, but there’s the emotional aspect, too. The female sends it to her boyfriend, and then it gets disseminated. She then becomes traumatized.”

Asst. high school principal April Stevens said they haven’t run into cases of sexting affecting classes. “I’m not naïve enough to think it’s not going on, but we haven’t experienced that,” she said.

Several high school students have confirmed that it does go on at the high school level.  “It’s mostly girls sending photos of themselves to boys they want to date or sleep with. The boys then show them around or forward them,” they said. They added that they don’t think the kids look at it as being criminal.

The teens said that many kids also engage in sexually suggestive talk without photos—usually with a member of the opposite sex. “Like if you called a 900 number,” they explained.

A recent study by the National Campaign to prevent teen and unplanned pregnancy showed that one in five teen girls have texted or posted nude or semi-nude images of themselves, and that 39 percent of teens have sent sexually suggestive text messages or emails to other teens.

“Teens are vulnerable and can be very naïve,” said Parent. “Often they do not see all of the ramifications to this problem once involved. Sending a nude photo to a close friend can become a photo for all to see on Facebook or the Internet.  Photos are quickly shared with others and there is no easy way to delete or retract them.”

“It’s disturbing. It’s out there and moving on,” said Parent.

So what is a parent to do?
1.    Talk to your kids about what they are doing in cyberspace.
2.    Know whom your kids are communicating with.
3.    Consider limitations on electronic communication.
4.    Be aware of what your teens are posting publicly.
5.    Set expectations.
Download a complete copy of “5 Tips to help parents talk to their kids about sex and technology” below.

Sexting Parent Tips

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Foster mom pleads no contest in death of Cedar Springs girl

Joy Ann Heaven

A foster mother from Gaines Township pled no contest to second degree murder Monday in the death last summer of a 5-year-old Cedar Springs girl.

Joy Ann Heaven, 30, entered the plea Monday just as her trial on a felony murder charge in the death of 5-year-old Emily Meno was about to begin. She had refused a similar plea deal last August.

According to the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, Heaven called 911 on Thursday, July 15 and reported that 5-year-old Emily, her foster daughter, was unresponsive. Emily was transported to Spectrum Butterworth and put on life support. She died two days later.

An autopsy determined that the cause of death was a sub-dural hematoma with bi-lateral retina hemorrhaging, and was ruled a homicide.

Emily Meno

After the autopsy, she admitted to police that she was frustrated with Emily for wetting her pants and being in her way, and that at about 8 p.m. she shoved Emily really hard. She told them that Emily flew through the air with her feet off the ground and landed on her head in the kitchen. She was unconscious for several seconds, but she was able to get Emily to wake up and sent her to bed. Around 10 p.m., Emily got out of bed and threw up, and then fell to the ground unresponsive. Heaven tried to revive her and called 911 when Emily wouldn’t wake up.

Emily and her twin sister, Tiffany, both special needs children, were removed from their Cedar Springs home in February and put into foster care. Tiffany has since been moved to another foster home.

Heaven reportedly worked with Bethany Christian Services, and this was her first foster experience.

A no contest plea is not a guilty plea but is treated as such for sentencing. Prosecutors agreed to a minimum sentence of 15 to 35 years in prison on the charge. Heaven will be sentenced in March.

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Student gives up 8th grade trip to serve

Members of the Springs Church mission team that went to Peru are shown standing in front of the Presidential Palace in Lima, Peru with a Post newspaper. Shown (L to R) is Judy Stark, Shila Kiander, Kelsey Kiander, and Pastor Barry Briggs.

Most 13-year-olds would give anything to spend a week away from home, traveling with their friends. But Kelsey Kiander, of Cedar Springs, is not your average kid.

Each year, 8th grade students at Cedar Springs Middle School have the opportunity to go on an East Coast trip to visit Niagara Falls, Washington D.C., and many historic sites. But Kelsey’s parents, Shila and Kevin Kiander, gave Kelsey another choice.

“In early spring of 2010, my husband and I gave our daughter a choice to either plan to participate on the East Coast trip at the end of her 8th grade year in 2011, or to go on a mission trip.  She chose a mission trip,” explained Shila. “Peru was her choice, as our former pastor (Garry Cruce) and his wife had become missionaries to Peru.”

Kelsey spoke with the missionaries, then went before the board at the Springs Church and asked them to approve the mission trip, which included team members Kelsey, Shila, Pastor Barry Briggs, and former Cedar Springs school teacher Judy Stark.

They decided to participate in “Brighten Their Christmas,” a Christian program that has ran for the last two years with the focus on raising funds to give Christmas gifts and supplies to needy children in Peru.

They went to Peru over Christmas break, and provided “Chocolatadas” to 5 different communities in the Tarma area. “Chocolatadas are a Peruvian custom that was started by the Catholic church that provided hot chocolate and ponetone (a Peruvian Christmas Sweet bread) to poor children in the community.  A small gift is sometimes also given to the children,” explained Shila.

The team ministered to over 150 children in 5 different communities that included two churches in Tarma, the Village of Yanamayo (a farming community), Ayas (a dairy farming community), and Huacapo (a sheep herding community).

While there, they had the opportunity to visit all three regions of Peru. They visited the desert coastal region, hiked in the Andes, found all manner of bird and sea life, trekked through the jungle, visited the presidential palace, a world famous water park, and the Huaca Pucllana ruins that date back to 400 A.D., 900 hundred years before the Incas. They also experienced many types of Peruvian cuisine.

Kelsey said she had a great experience that was life changing.  She said she learned three things.  First, that a language barrier can’t stop people from communicating God’s love to others; second, sometimes we don’t think we have enough things but the Peruvians they met don’t have many things and yet they are happy and content with what they do have; third, serving God is more than going to fun youth group events.  Serving others is about sacrifice, which is giving up something for others.

“She learned this from the four teens who asked for time off of work and didn’t get paid to travel with the team to serve others,” said Shila. “That was sacrifice.”

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Birds enjoy a bite after the storm

These birds didn’t let a little wind and snow come between them and their afternoon meal Monday.

Mary Lou Fuller, of Solon Township, sent us this photo of two robins—yes, you read it right—eating berries from her mock cranberry tree Monday afternoon. “Maybe spring is just around the corner!” she said.

Diane Noorthoek Butler sent us this photo of a beautiful cardinal at her feeder in Sand Lake.

Remember that now is the time to help feed the birds, during these cold winter months.

Check out what types of birds were seen in the area on January 1, during our annual Christmas Bird Count.

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Fun in the snow

Judy Porter sent us this photo of Cousins Kalab Palmer, 8, and Nicolas Hernandez, 8, making snow trails waist-deep after the recent blizzard. It was a snow day from school, and a play day at grandma’s!
If you have winter fun photos you’d like to send us, email them to news@cedarspringspost.com.

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Man uses baby as cover in thefts

Roman Lewis Vanderniet

A Howard City man was arrested last week for stealing from an 84-year-old Reynolds Township woman.

According to Howard City Police Chief Steven DeWitt, Roman Lewis Vanderniet, 26, of Howard City, his girlfriend, and their baby stopped unexpectedly at the elderly woman’s house (she is an acquaintance) to visit. After they left, she found her purse was open, and cash was missing, along with a large amount of prescription painkillers from the home.

On the evening of February 16, they stopped by again. The victim reported that Vanderniet asked if he could lay the baby on the victim’s bed to rest. He then entered her room and closed the door, while his girlfriend engaged her in conversation in the living room.

When the elderly woman went to her bedroom to check Vanderniet, she found him standing in her closet. After they left, she found her closet had been gone through, more cash had been stolen from her purse, and a birthday card with cash was missing. She also found the window in her bedroom unlocked, and fresh footprints in the snow outside of the window.

When police located Vanderniet in the early morning hours of February 17, he admitted to taking some money from the victim and unlocking the bedroom window with the intention of returning.

He was arrested and lodged in Montcalm County Jail. Vanderniet was charged with larceny from a building, a four-year felony and/or $5,000 in fines. He was arraigned on February 17 and released on a $1,000 personal recognizance bond.

Chief DeWitt reminds citizens to beware of who you let into your home, and not to keep prescription pills in your bathroom or medicine cabinet where they are easily accessible to other who use the room.

“This is a very common method of theft of prescription medication,” said DeWitt.

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Donations needed for Easter baskets

North Kent Community Services (formerly the North Kent Service Center) is collecting items in February and March to make 500 Easter Baskets for the children they serve in northern Kent County. They are in need of the following items by March 31:
•    Candy or Fruit Snacks
•    Easter Baskets and  Grass
•    Small Stuffed Animals ~ Beanie Baby size
•    Bubbles and Sidewalk Chalk
•    Jump Ropes and Balls
•    Markers, Colored Pencils and Coloring Books
•    Small Cars and Trucks ~ Matchbox/Hot Wheels size
•    Any other suitable Easter Basket items for children ages 1 – 10
NKCS is located at 10075 Northland Drive, just north of 12 Mile Road. They are open Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call (616) 866-3478 for more info.

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Winter storm dumps more snow

The scene on US131 at the Jefferson/Morley exit Sunday during the snowstorm.

The last traces of the late January blizzard were just melting away when Mother Nature dealt us another blast on Sunday, February 20 and into the early morning hours of Monday.

Heavy snow, winds, sleet and freezing rain made traveling dangerous, and caused accidents on US131 near the Morley/Jefferson Road exit Sunday afternoon that involved 50-60 cars. The highway was shut down for several hours during the cleanup.

According to the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids, the Cedar Springs, Sparta, Sand Lake area received 8-10 inches of new snow. Schools across the area were closed both Monday and Tuesday.

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Gas prices jump 25 cents

Gas prices were $3.35 in Cedar Springs Wednesday.

Gas prices took a hike Tuesday, when they jumped to $3.39 in Cedar Springs and across the metro Grand Rapids area. That was a 25-cent jump that had people lined up at Admiral on Main and Muskegon, historically the last gas station in the area to raise its price. The price had shifted downward to $3.35 at press time Wednesday.

Tom Kloza, publisher and chief energy analyst for the Oil Price Information Service, said in a recent blog that if not for the Egyptian uprising, we would probably be looking at cheaper prices for gasoline and diesel this month.

He also explained that our gasoline inventory is at its highest since 1989, but that it’s winter gasoline. Pipelines and terminal operators will soon be purging the supply system from winter gasoline (which needs to be volatile because of cold temperatures) to spring/summer gasoline, which requires much lower vapor pressure.

“My best guess is that U.S. refinery runs will scrape bottom in late February or early March, and thereby incite a 2011 round of “petronoia” that will lift nationwide retail prices to $3.50-$3.75 gallon,” predicted Kloza.

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Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

A Golden Eagle was spotted int he recent Christmas Bird Count.

By Steve Mueller

2010 Kent County Christmas bird count

Held January 1, 2011

The annual bird count is a fun out endeavor. This year’s was held January 1, 2011. If you would like to participate next year contact Ranger Steve.

Forty-nine participants observed 57 species of birds on count day. No owls were sighted this year during count day nocturnal searches, and no additional bird species were added during count week. Total individuals sighted on count day were 10227.

Two unexpected and rewarding species sightings were an American Pipit sighted by Nathan and Zachary DeBrine and a Golden Eagle by Bill Sweetman. Red-shouldered Hawk was in the area again this winter. A beautiful male Ring-necked Pheasant paraded his beauty; a lone Red-winged Blackbird and single Pied-billed Grebe were also sighted.

The 49 participants included two bird feeder watchers. The other 47 were in a field in the morning with 29 continuing throughout the afternoon. There were 18 morning parties and 11 afternoon parties beginning at 8 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m. Conditions were sunny and a comfortable 42 F to start the morning. Cloud cover increased from 10 percent to 85 percent during the day, with temperature dropping to a low of 25F. Snow flurries did not begin until the count had concluded but the wind increased from 10 mph to 25 mph. Birds were difficult to locate in the afternoon windy conditions.

We totaled 82.75 hours with cars traveling 756.5 miles. On foot we spent 12.75 hours covering 21.25 miles. An additional 8 hours was feeder-watching. A total of 777.75 miles accounted for walking and driving. The total birding hours was 95.50 not including 3 hours owling for 27.5 miles.

Mark your calendars now for the December 31, 2011 count.

Contact Ranger Steve with inquiries and suggestions for Nature Niche Topics odybrook@chartermi.net or 616-696-1753.

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