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Trial canceled after former charter school teacher accepts plea deal for child abuse charges

A former Eagle Mountain teacher pleaded guilty on Monday to shoving an eighth-grade student against a wall and injuring him during gym class earlier this year.

In May, prosecutors filed a second-degree felony charge of child abuse against Anthony Robbie Chidester, 41.

The Cedar Hills resident entered a plea in abeyance in 4th District Court and Judge Kraig Powell canceled the jury trial scheduled for this week.

“I just want to apologize to anyone involved in this case, particularly I want to apologize to the victim and his family,” Chidester said on Monday. “I made a horrible mistake I’ve regretted every second of every day since.”

The judge ordered Chidester to have no contact with the student, as well as complete an anger management class and 100 hours of community service.

If he does not complete the requirements, he could face up to 15 years in prison for the felony charge, according to Utah County deputy attorney Craig Johnson.

Chidester worked as a PE teacher at Rockwell Charter High School when the incident occurred in April, court documents state.

During a morning class, a 14-year-old student reportedly refused to follow Chidester’s instructions to put away a basketball.

“The situation escalated and became physical,” charges state. “Surveillance footage shows the defendant holding (the student) with both hands by the shirt and slamming (the student) into the wall.”

Chidester then reportedly threw the student to the ground and used his knee and hands to push the student into the floor.

“Other students were able to separate the parties,” charges state, and several recorded the incident using cellphones.

Officers responded to the school and determined the student had bruising and redness on his chest, back and arm.

“That’s when the adult needs to be the adult in the room and he wasn’t,” Johnson said.

Administrators asked Chidester to leave the building, and school director Darren Beck later issued a formal statement noting the teacher was fired.

Both the student and his mother attended the court hearing and declined to comment on the case.

“She appreciates the closure this has brought their family,” Johnson said.

If Chidester completes the abeyance requirements and does not commit further crimes in the next two years, the charge will be reduced to class A misdemeanor on his record.

Thanksgiving holiday crash totals surpass 2018 by over 160, says UHP

The sun was shining Monday along the Wasatch Front and that gave the Utah Highway Patrol a chance to total up the number of crashes that occurred from Wednesday, Nov. 27 to Sunday during the Thanksgiving holiday.

From Odgen to Payson, there were 350 accidents, with a statewide total of 598, according to Sgt. Nick Street, UHP spokesman.

That statewide total is up from 2018 by 164. There were also four fatalities including three from one crash in the Kanab area and one in the Brigham City area.

Last year there was one snow event, according to Street, while this year included at least three events with Friday being the worst along the Wasatch Front.

Interstate 15 in Lehi was closed in both directions for about nine hours Saturday after a crash created a potentially hazardous situation.

I-15 was closed in both directions around mile marker 282 starting at about 10:45 a.m. Saturday after a liquid petroleum tanker crashed.

On Monday, in about the same area, another semitrailer had its back trailer turn over causing at least two lanes of northbound I-15 in the same Lehi area close down.

“The trailer is on its side,” Street said. “There are no injuries and no hazmat conditions, but the trail weighs about 16,000 pounds and may need a crane for it to be up righted instead of a tow truck.”

One of the greatest concerns for UHP troopers is drivers not paying attention and driving too fast. Between Nov. 25 and Dec. 2 UHP troopers had 10 vehicles hit, with some troopers inside the car and some outside.

“A couple of crashes happened where the drivers were impatient behind snow plows and passed them,” Street said. “Staying behind the plow is one of the safest places to be during a storm.”

Street said if he could impart anything to motorists it would be, “during inclement weather if they see us on the side of the road with emergency lights on it is for a reason.”

Street added that the road ahead might be dangerous and drivers should be driving as slow as in the 20 to 30 miles per hour.

“Please give first responders the lane,” Street said. “It is only by luck that troopers didn’t get hurt. We have got to change our (driving) behavior.”

Street said there are so many UHP vehicles needing repairs they are having to use older cars. This year alone 31 vehicles and troopers were hit, two of those troopers were outside of their cars.

Provo family fighting to prevent husband’s deportation hopes for a miracle this Christmas

Sofia describes the last 12 months as some of the hardest of her life.

Last November, her husband of 10 years, an undocumented immigrant who came to this country from Mexico when he was 13, applied to become a United States citizen so he could visit his parents in Mexico before they passed.

But doing so “backfired on us,” Sofia said, and now her husband is fighting to avoid being deported.

With all of her money going toward legal appeals and working toward pardoning her husband, Sofia said she has little left over to provide for their four children.

“I wish that I could put the money towards my home,” the Provo resident said. “But I can’t.”

Sofia’s oldest daughter, who is 15, wears a size 11 in women’s pants, size large in women’s shirts and a size 8½ in women’s shoes. Her favorite color is turquoise and she is in need of a warm coat, tennis shoes and socks. An avid comic book reader, she wants to read “Mastering Manga” by Mark Crilley and is always looking for new graphic novels and comics. The 15-year-old could also use a hair brush, makeup brushes and various art supplies.

Sofia’s 10-year-old daughter, whose favorite color is purple, wears a size 12-14 in women’s pants, 12-14 in women’s shirts and a size 5 in women’s shoes. She is a fan of the “Junie B. Jones,” “Judy Moody” and “Harry Potter” books. Other gift ideas include Easy-Bake Oven food, Calico Critters (the panda bear is her favorite) and a pair of roller blades.

The youngest daughter, 8, wears a size 8-9 in women’s pants, 10-11 in women’s shirts and 4 in women’s shoes. She loves the color yellow and reading “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and Dr. Suess books. She is in need of a new baby doll with accessories, as well as an L.O.L. Surprise! doll.

The only boy in the house, 14, has autism and loves games and activities that challenge him. This Christmas, he would love getting Legos, coordination games, “Fortnite,” dragon and fantasy books and drawing supplies. He wears a size 31-32 in men’s pants, size medium in men’s shirts and a size 10 in men’s shoes. His favorite colors are neon green, blue and red.

Sofia said having a good Christmas would give her family a “spark of hope” as her husband fights to stay in the U.S.

“The only place he knows as home is here,” she said.

All names of Sub for Santa participants have been changed. To help a family like this one, call the Sub for Santa hotline at (801) 356-6300 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays or visit http://subforsanta.org.

BYU closes out year of mental health initiatives, including campaign and addition of more counselors

As the holidays get closer, the weather gets chillier and finals creep nearer, Brigham Young University wants to make sure its students feel loved.

“We don’t want any of our students to be suffering this time of year,” said Nathan Ward, an associate dean of students at BYU.

The university is in the middle of You Are Loved, a multi-week campaign that closes out a year of efforts to boost the mental health of its student body. In addition to the campaign, BYU has also adopted an app aimed at prevention and added three new licensed psychologists to BYU Counseling and Psychological Services.

BYU has added five positions in the last five years to come to a total of 32 full-time counselors, bringing the university’s ratio to one full-time therapist per 1,047 students. The national standard is about one full-time therapist per 1,500 students, according to the university.

“I think the announcement of three new counselors is not a small thing,” Ward said.

BYU began meeting in January to formulate ideas for the You Are Loved campaign. Ward said students can be stressed near the end of the year due to a combination of reasons, including stress about the upcoming holidays, seasonal changes and going from situations where they may have been the top students at their high school to now competing with other high-performing students at BYU.

The university had seen the need for additional counseling and an increase of depression and anxiety among students. Ward said it’s a topic that’s on administrators’ minds.

“You are loved” is a message they thought would resonate well with students. The campaign, which began Nov. 18 and continues until Dec. 12, includes events like free hot chocolate and cookies, caroling, suicide prevention training and therapy dogs. It’s also included a BYU Instagram Story on respect, a 30-day self-care challenge that includes items such as finding positive social media accounts, reading a book for fun and meal planning. They also had customizable compliment cards and stickers with the campaign’s four themes — you belong, you are valued, you matter and you support. Stickers and buttons are given in pairs, with the idea that students should give the extra to a friend.

The campaign hopes to alert students about mental health services on and off campus.

Ward said something as simple as giving a student a free cookie can help them feel seen and acknowledged.

“We wanted this to be something where we could impact a large amount of students,” he said.

BYU is interested in repeating the event.

The university has invested in other preventative measures, including making the app Sanvello available for free for its students.

The app provides self-care tools to help manage stress, anxiety and depression. More than 5,000 users at BYU have joined the app in the three months since it’s launched there, according to Sanvello. BYU is one of eight university systems to offer the app for free and is the first in Utah to adopt it.

“The apps don’t do the same thing as therapy, but they do improve mental health and they are convenient,” said Klint Hobbs, an assistant clinical professor and psychologist at BYU.

Hobbs said BYU chose Sanvello after looking for ways to expand mental health options for students. The app focuses on emotional regulation, includes mood tracking and has different levels of involvement.

“We have liked Sanvello so far,” Hobbs said.

It’s been free for students since the beginning of the fall semester. Sanvello is normally $8.99 a month or $53.99 for a year.

BYU promoted it to students during new student orientation and has offered free food in exchange for downloading it. It has also sent out mass emails to the campus community about it.

Hobbs said most students who see a counselor at BYU only go once. The most commonly presented issues in sessions are depression and anxiety.

He hopes students will start using preventative systems like Sanvello at the beginning of the semester, when stress is lower, and therefore avoid more severe mental health issues.

The new initiatives signal a change as BYU moves away from the idea that education is purely academic and instead adopting a more comprehensive approach. Hobbs said the university has been monetarily investing in mental health initiatives over the last year.

“I think BYU as a whole is trying to look at the whole student,” Hobbs said.