<![CDATA[NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth - Texas News]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcdfw.com/feature/texas-news http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC+5-KXAS+Logo+for+Google+News.png NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth http://www.nbcdfw.com en-us Thu, 24 Apr 2014 16:21:42 -0500 Thu, 24 Apr 2014 16:21:42 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[USDA Designates 240 Texas Counties as Disaster Areas]]> Thu, 24 Apr 2014 15:29:33 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/drought5.jpg

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated 240 counties in Texas as primary natural disaster areas due to the lingering drought.

On Wednesday the USDA made a list that named all natural disaster areas. The entire list of counties can be found on the USDA website.

All farm operators in those areas can apply for low-interest emergency loans from the USDA's Farm Service Agency. These loans are created to help farmers cover part of their losses due to the recent drought.

"Our hearts go out to those Texas farmers and ranchers affected by recent natural disasters," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "President Obama and I are committed to ensuring that agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation's economy by sustaining the successes of America's farmers, ranchers, and rural communities through these difficult times. We're also telling Texas producers that USDA stands with you and your communities when severe weather and natural disasters threaten to disrupt your livelihood."

The application can be filled within the first eight months after the declaration has been made. Certain requirements will have to be met to qualify for any loans.

The FSA will overlook each application and will take into consideration the extent of losses, security available, and repayment ability of each applicant, said the USDA in a news release.

Aside from the EM loan the FSA has many other programs that assist eligible farmers recover their losses. Anyone interested in finding out more about these programs can go to the USDA FSA online page.

<![CDATA[Teacher Accused of Not Allowing Student to Read Bible]]> Wed, 23 Apr 2014 11:54:23 -0500 http://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/464314459.jpg

A Houston-area teacher is embroiled in controversy after allegedly telling an elementary school student she can't read the Bible in class during "read to myself" time and is not even allowed to bring the Bible to school.

Some parents at Hamilton Elementary in Cypress are outraged.

"If it were a time when the child could have silent time and read what she wants to read during that time period, she should be able to read whatever she wants to read," said parent Germaine Tanner.

The second grade student's parents contacted the Liberty Institute, a religious rights group, to ask if the little girl was actually allowed to read the Bible or not.

Attorneys for the Liberty Institute not only said it was OK to read the Bible, but sent a letter to the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District superintendent as well as the school's principal.

"We expect Cy Fair ISD officials to resolve this unfortunate incident quickly and amicably by informing us that they have addressed this matter with District employees, and by assuring us that this will not happen again," said Michael Berry, Liberty Institute Senior Counsel. "More than forty years ago, the Supreme Court famously stated that students do not ‘shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.' That means that second graders have the right to read the Bible during 'read to myself' time."

Cy-Fair ISD hasn't confirmed the allegation but released this statement:

"During a student's independent reading time, students are required to read a book that is 'Just Right.' A 'Just Right' book is when the student can read most of the words, comprehend the text and that the book is appropriate for the type of text or genre that is being taught. As such religious material, including the Bible, that meets these guidelines would be permissible for a classroom assignment and/or independent reading."

When contacted by Houston NBC affiliate KPRC-TV, the parents of the student at the center of all of this do not want to go public in fear of retaliation.

Liberty Institute represented the Kountze High School Cheerleaders in last year's Bible banner controversy. Cheerleaders at the southeast Texas high school won the right to display Bible verses on banners at football games. Kountze ISD is appealing the court ruling.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>