Jacqueline Froelich

Jacqueline Froelich is an investigative journalist and has been a news producer for KUAF National Public Radio since 1998. She covers politics, the environment, energy, business, education, history, race and culture. Her radio segments have been nationally syndicated. She is also a station-based national correspondent for NPR in Washington DC., and recipient of eight national and state broadcast awards. 

Seventeen-year old Daniel Montgomery was born a girl but by age eleven knew he's a boy. He's always stood up for himself at school. He's bravely agreed to come forward to talk on the radio about what it's like growing up transgender in Fayetteville's public school system. But first, we discuss that pink tinge in his dyed blond hair?

“Oh that," he says. "That's way faded. I want to dye it half red, half blue but that’s so time consuming." 

Things are hectic for this high school senior with graduation on the horizon and getting ready for college. He wants to study art and German. He plans to teach high school someday. But right now he's being forced, he says, to reckon with the Trump administration's revoking of federal protections for transgender public school student school accommodations — for example bathroom and locker rooms. Montgomery, of course, prefers to use the boys restroom. And on rare occasion, he says, he's hassled. 

Last May, sisters Anais, Elise and Emory Bowerman spent the night at a Girl Scout slumber camp in Lowell. The girls came home the next day covered with ticks. 

“One second my life was going great," says Anais, 11. "Then a tick bites me and it’s all ruined.”

Anais, a budding artist, says her hands started to shake. Her sisters Elise, 10, and Emory, 7, also started to feel ill.

“I threw up twice," Emory says. "I felt sluggish and my head was kind of dizzy.” 

Winter is approaching, and tens of thousands of Middle Eastern refugees, fleeing political and religious persecution, languish in tent encampments in Western Europe. Clint Schnekloth, a pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Fayetteville is worried. Earlier this year, he petitioned the U.S. State Department to open a Lutheran-church sponsored refugee resettlement agency in Northwest Arkansas to help.

Arkansas has never been the destination for global political and religious refugees seeking asylum that states like New York and California are. But Canopy, a new federally approved refugee resettlement agency in Fayetteville — one of more than 350 religious and secular agencies like it operating across the U.S. —plans to change that.

In the autumn of 1965, on a 640-acre parcel near the tiny Ozarks community of Strickler, ground was broken on a secret nuclear fission energy test reactor operated by the Atomic Energy Commission and a consortium of 17 southern electric utilities.

After just four years, the Southwest Experimental Fast Oxide Reactor went dark. It was acquired a few years later by the big university up the road 20 miles—totally decommissioned. University scientists hoped to use it for nuclear research, but the program failed to launch. The site remained sealed. Now the U.S. Department of Energy has offered money to help tear it down.

But first media — as well as hundreds of curious locals — were briefly allowed inside.

Springdale resident Melisa Laelan caught the mumps last November from her kids even though she and her children were vaccinated. Her case is not unusual, one of 2,421 in Arkansas. What is unusual is that nearly half of all cases nationwide are in Arkansas.

“It was miserable,” she says. “I experienced severe pain on the side of my neck. You can’t swallow anything because if you do it hurts.”

The inflammation in her salivary glands caused her jaw to swell. She had fever and aches. The illness lasted ten days. 

“This is an epidemic,” says Dr. Dirk Haselow, state epidemiologist with the Arkansas Department of Health. “Our normal case count is 3 or 4 a year. And a majority of our cases are among the Marshallese.”

The Arkansas Supreme Court in early December denied same-sex couples the right to list both parents' names on birth certificates, without a court order. So why does this legal fight over equal access to birth certificates even matter?

The historic Southwest Experimental Fast Oxide Reactor, referred to as SEFOR, located 20 miles southwest of Fayetteville, Arkansas will finally be dismantled, and some nearby residents are wondering what might leak out.

The hand, the strap, or the paddle?

Choosing the preferred instrument of pain as well as number of strokes against the bottoms of unruly public school students remains legal in Arkansas, and twenty-one other states.

“My understanding is that it’s typically a wooden paddle,” says Kristen Garner, staff attorney for Arkansas School Boards Association. She monitors public school discipline practices.  “The most prevalent is to be spanked on the rear end.”

Protests over construction of the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota has triggered sympathy demonstrations across the nation, including in Arkansas. But Arkansas activists are also protesting a newly permitted 440-mile long underground oil transport project called the Diamond Pipeline.

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