5 things to know today: 'Racial taunting', Summit Carbon, Tax trigger, Tenure scrutiny, Speaking out

A select rundown of stories found on InForum.

A basketball player prepares to take a free throw shot while other players stand by.
A screenshot from video during Jan. 31 basketball game between Jamestown and Bismarck high schools. Bismarck High School sophomore Andre Austin is preparing to shoot a free throw shot.

1. 'Racial taunting' at North Dakota basketball game prompts call for harsher consequences

Four parents have sent the North Dakota High School Activities Association a letter of complaint claiming school administrators are allowing racial slurs and taunting that includes monkey screeches and war cries aimed at students of color during sporting events.

The complaint stemmed from a varsity basketball game between Jamestown High School and Bismarck High School on Tuesday, Jan. 31. Some of the taunts at Tuesday's game can be heard in video clips posted to social media.

The parents claim in their letter that on-site administrators did nothing to intervene. Parents told The Forum this is not an isolated incident.


Late Thursday, both school districts issued statements and promises of change, but concerned parents are seeking permanent, sweeping changes with more severe consequences for what they called "racial taunting."

“During a school-sanctioned basketball game on January 31, 2023, Bismarck High School vs Jamestown High School, multiple incidents occurred involving the use of racial slurs directed toward BHS student-athletes. These slurs were vocalized by the Jamestown student section directed toward the only nonwhite players for BHS,” the parents' letter of complaint said.

Read more from The Forum's C.S. Hagen

2. North Dakota sets 4 hearings on Summit Carbon pipeline

Summit Carbon Solutions log.jpg

The North Dakota Public Service Commission has set four hearings to gather public input on a controversial carbon capture pipeline.

The $4.5 billion Summit Carbon Solutions project aims to capture greenhouse gas emissions from 32 ethanol plants in five states and store it underground in western North Dakota.

The only ethanol plant in North Dakota that is part of the project is Tharaldson Ethanol at Casselton. Other plants are in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota.


A key issue in the 2,000 mile pipeline project is eminent domain, where private property can be taken if it is deemed to be for a public use.

As of Jan. 24, Summit said it has voluntary easement agreements on 58% of the North Dakota pipeline route and 85% of the sequestration area in Morton and Oliver Counties.

Summit says its goal has been 100% voluntary easements and is signing up new landowners daily.

Several North Dakota counties have passed resolutions against the use of eminent domain on the project

Read more from The Forum's Jeff Beach


3. Bill would remove North Dakota's oil tax trigger

The cause of recent egg price increases is multi-pronged and one consumers are struggling with.
Amy R. Sisk / The Bismarck Tribune

From the Bismarck Tribune via Forum News Service

North Dakota lawmakers have introduced a bill that would change state oil tax policy, removing a requirement for producers to pay higher taxes when oil prices reach high levels.

Supporters say it creates more certainty for oil companies, but opponents say it could cost the state millions of dollars of lost revenue.

Rep. Craig Headland, R-Montpelier, has sponsored House Bill 1286, which seeks to remove the so-called trigger from the oil extraction tax rate. Current policy requires oil producers to pay a higher tax rate when the average price of oil hits a certain price, known as a trigger. Last year, oil prices reached the trigger, leading North Dakota to collect an additional $135.6 million over five months of high oil prices.

Headland, who chairs the House Finance and Taxation Committee, said that having the best tax policy in place requires looking at what certainty there is for the oil industry and helping bring capital to North Dakota to produce oil.


“(This bill) is meant to try to keep the oil companies drilling (and) keeping them producing so we have a stable production level," he said. "That would in turn mean a stable revenue stream, and that’s what’s important.”

It’s bad tax policy to insert an additional tax on “an industry that we are so reliant on and that’s so significant and so important to North Dakota,” Headland added.

“Is it any different than us saying to a wheat farmer, ‘You know what? You’re getting $10 a bushel for your wheat, so maybe we should apply some kind of a tax on you.’ I just don’t philosophically believe that it’s good policy,” Headland said.

The trigger price is “formula driven,” State Tax Commissioner Brian Kroshus said, adding that the trigger price changes annually.


In 2022, the trigger price was $94.69 for a barrel of West Texas Intermediate oil, a common benchmark. On June 1, oil prices reached that level in the formula, requiring producers to pay 6% oil extraction tax rather than the standard 5%. Producers also pay a 5% gross production tax, a rate that does not vary based on price.

Read more

4. Higher ed faculty question the need for North Dakota tenure scrutiny bill

The North Dakota House of Representatives meets in the state Capitol on Feb. 11, 2021.
The North Dakota House of Representatives meets in the state Capitol on Feb. 11, 2021.
Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service

Faculty from multiple North Dakota colleges and universities spoke out in a virtual public forum against a bill to give presidents more scrutiny over the tenure process at two higher education institutions.

Some expressed confusion about why such a bill is necessary, and frustration that their questions weren’t answered during the hour-long forum on Thursday, Feb. 2.

Julee Russell, an English professor at Valley City State University and tenured since 2004, said higher education institutions already have a review process for employees, including tenured faculty.


“I'm not sure what the purpose here is unless the sponsors of the bill think perhaps that the presidents aren't doing their jobs,” Russell told The Forum afterward.

The Northern Plains Ethics Institute (NPEI) hosted the event that featured House Majority Leader Mike Lefor, R-Dickinson, who introduced House Bill 1446 in mid-January.

The forum was moderated by Tim Flakoll, provost of Tri-College University and NPEI Advisory Board chair, who asked questions of Lefor based on comments from participants.

Approximately 160 participants logged on for all or at least part of the session, Flakoll said.

The bill seeks creation of four-year pilot programs at Bismarck State College and Dickinson State University, with a goal of improving the tenure process. Lefor has said he first wanted the changes system-wide, but instead opted for limited implementation as a trial run.

Under Lefor’s plan, tenured faculty members would be expected to generate more tuition or grant revenue than the combined total of their salary, fringe benefits, compensation, and other expenses.

Read more Robin Huebner

5. 'Humans don't want to die by suicide:' Searching for answers following the suicide of an 11-year-old

Mental Health experts along with suicide prevention educators and others have provided valuable links and resources for families. If you or a loved one is in crisis, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.
Ryan Longnecker / WDAY News

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention North Dakota Chapter is working with Clara Barton Elementary School staff and students' families following the suicide of fifth-grader Nolan Wilson. The active nonprofit is providing research based resources and guides on how to talk about suicide.

When WDAY News told the heartbreaking story from Shushanna Perez-Noriega , Nolan's mother who wants more parental options for internet site access, she hopes the loss of her son helps families start the conversation about mental health, and keep the lines of communication open.

Perez-Noriega told WDAY her boy could hide his pain.

"The way he acted throughout the day, with your everyday interactions, that boy probably could have gotten an Oscar if he grew up to be an actor. He put on a good mask," she said.

As we reported on Wednesday night, Nolan had been in counseling following the death of his father. But recently, no red flags would indicate Nolan was considering suicide. However, following his death, a note in his school desk confirmed that he was suffering.

"Adults aren't the only ones that can put on a mask and a fake smile and get through the day, making everyone think like, 'oh, they're having a good day,' but deep down inside, we're suffering, we're struggling. (W)e carry our demons and our burdens," Perez-Noriega said.

Watch the story from WDAY's Kevin Wallevand

Our newsroom occasionally reports stories under a byline of "staff." Often, the "staff" byline is used when rewriting basic news briefs that originate from official sources, such as a city press release about a road closure, and which require little or no reporting. At times, this byline is used when a news story includes numerous authors or when the story is formed by aggregating previously reported news from various sources. If outside sources are used, it is noted within the story.
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