News Roundup: City Of Houston Will Defend Itself In Sex Discrimination Lawsuit

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelMarch 2, 2018 1:06 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

The City of Houston announced Thursday it will defend itself against a federal lawsuit alleging sex discrimination within the city’s fire department. The U.S. Department of Justice filed the lawsuit Wednesday, citing the complaints of two women working at one fire station.

Keri Blakinger covered the story for the Houston Chronicle and she says the allegations date back to about 10 years ago.

“The basic claim is that they were the only two women working at this particular station and that their male coworkers allegedly harassed them in a variety of ways: urinating in the women’s bathroom, on the sinks, on the walls, scrawling vulgar slurs on their belongings in the women’s dorm,” Blakinger says.

In response to the lawsuit, the City of Houston says after a thorough investigation, it couldn’t substantiate the claims of the plaintiffs when they were made. The statement added, “The City does not tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment.”

The lawsuit is the first the U.S. Department of Justice has filed as part of a new workplace sexual harassment initiative.

The number of child fatalities from neglect and abuse in Texas dropped in Fiscal Year 2017, down nearly 23 percent from the year before. That’s according to an annual report the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) released Thursday.

In total, Texas had 172 confirmed child maltreatment deaths. The report points out that in about half of these cases, the families had no prior involvement with DFPS. The agency found that just as the number of child fatalities went down – there was a reduction in certain causes of death too. Physical abuse fatalities decreased by almost 32 percent – the lowest it’s been in about seven years.

Confirmed neglect related fatalities were also down during the last fiscal year. The most common causes of those types of fatalities include drowning, unsafe sleep, and vehicle-related accidents. Over the last five years, children three-years-old or younger accounted for 80 percent of child abuse and neglect related fatalities. During Fiscal Year 2017, Hispanic children made up the largest percentage of children who died.

Almost 61 percent of full-time students are graduating from Texas public universities in six years. That’s according to a report released this week by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. From Texas Public Radio in San Antonio, Camille Phillips has the details.

While 61 percent might not seem that high, it’s slightly above the national average of 60 percent. Unlike the federal government, Texas counts transfer students in its graduation rate. Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes says the state has improved a lot since 2000.

“We were at about 49 percent, which is not satisfactory to anybody, and we’ve gone up 11 points in a very short period of time, speaking in education terms,” Paredes says.

The state’s goal is for 60 percent of Texans between the ages of 25 and 34 to have a certificate or college degree by 2030. Right now, about 42 percent do. Paredes says Texas public universities will need to have a graduation rate of roughly 71 percent in order to meet that goal.