• Attorney General Derek Schmidt addresses students from Chanute at the Bowlus Fine Arts Center on Thursday.
  • Students from Chanute's Royster Middle School view an exhibit on the Magna Carta.
  • Attorney General Schmidt addresses the Rotary Club of Iola.

Attorney General Schmidt Visits the Bowlus Fine Arts Center

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt surprised students from Royster Middle School in Chanute who had traveled to the Bowlus to visit an exhibit on the Magna Carta on Thursday afternoon. The exhibit was created by Schmidt’s office to emphasize the role due process plays in our legal system today and how its roots lie in the 803-year-old charter.

As Schmidt began to address the students, he asked for a volunteer. A young girl raised her hand, and Schmidt hastily declared he was going to send her to jail. She’d committed a crime, and he’d seen it. 

“What’s to stop me?” Schmidt pressed her. “What’s to stop me to sending you to jail?” The girl froze, unable to answer the question.

Over 150 eighth-graders laughed uneasily. The students were rather surprised to see the attorney general there in the first place, let alone attempt to incarcerate one of their peers.

“The Constitution, of course,” Schmidt remarked, answering his own question. “And the roots of self-government lie in the Magna Carta.” That’s what they had come to see. The students, realizing the volunteer was now safe, laughed off the tension.

The traveling exhibit is making its way through the state and will be here until the end of the month. It has 16 different panels explaining the importance the Magna Carta still holds in our democracy today. Daniel Kays, Bowlus director, reported over 200 students have seen the exhibit in the past week.

Earlier, Schmidt spoke about the exhibit and several other topics with members of the Iola Rotary Club. Addressing a crowd of about 30 over lunch, Schmidt touched on his involvement with a task force working to help prevent youth suicides. Between 2005 and 2015, youth suicides more than doubled in Kansas, rising from 1.1 to 2.5 per 100,000 population. 

(Read about a September meeting of the task force in Iola here.)

Schmidt also mentioned his office’s efforts to fight human trafficking, most of which is domestic minor sex trafficking. Polaris, a non-profit dedicated to ending modern slavery, reported human trafficking cases in Kansas have been increasing steadily since 2012.  The attorney general told Rotarians that last year’s Kansas Legislature allocated funding for a new branch of Kansas’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. It will soon open in the KBI headquarters in Topeka.

Lastly, Schmidt discussed elder finance abuse. Kansas’s population is aging, and with that come risks of scams. Former Allen County Commissioner Tom Williams was hired to work with Schmidt’s office on this very topic. 

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