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U.S Supreme Court to Hear Title IX, Other School Cases

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Washington--A sex-discrimination suit, a dispute over the educational rights of illegal aliens, and several other education-related cases await the attention of the U.S. Supreme Court as it begins its new term this week.

The Court has agreed to hear North Haven Board of Education v. Bell and a related case, Trumbull Board of Education v. U.S. Department of Education and Linda Potz. The suits, both filed by Connecticut school boards, challenge federal regulations prohibiting sex discrimination in employment under the rubric of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

The Scope of Title IX

Although Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell has maintained that Title IX should cover only students, not employees, the Justice Department took the opposite position in a brief filed with the Court.

In two related Texas cases, the Court will be asked to decide whether the children of illegal aliens are entitled to a free public education.6At issue is a 1975 state law permitting school districts to charge tuition for such pupils. The state argues that school costs would be raised drastically without restricted admissions.

This fall, some 11,000 illegal-alien children were admitted to the schools free pending the outcome of the case.

The state of California, which provides free public education to an estimated 40,000 illegal-alien students, has filed a friend-of-the-court brief opposing the position taken by Texas.

The Uses of Public Property

Two other cases accepted by the Court address the use of public property for religious purposes. While both involve institutions of higher education, they may have implications for public elementary and secondary schools as well. A full list of the school-related cases accepted so far for this term appears below.

There is no guarantee, however, that the cases will be decided during this term; the Court may defer arguments or decisions for up to several years.

"There are cases on that list that have beencarried over for three or four terms," noted a spokesman for the Court.

Last week, the Justices discussed a list of more than 800 other cases that they have been asked to hear; they are expected to announce this week which ones they will accept. More cases will be added to the list throughout the nine-month term.

Among the cases the Court has been asked to consider are the following:

Private Schools. At issue is the state of Nebraska's authority to regulate private schools by requiring that they hire state-certified teachers. One such school, operated at Faith Baptist Church in Louisville, was padlocked by state authorities last month because it was not accredited. Previous Supreme Court decisions have struck down similar state laws.

Busing. The school boards of Seattle, Pasco, and Tacoma, Wash., have challenged a state law, established by a 1978 referendum, that forbids school districts to reassign students for racial balance. Lower federal courts have found the law unconstitutional, but the Justice Department recently asked the Supreme Court to reverse the decisions.

In addition, the Court has requested the record of the St. Louis school-desegregation case, which is pending in U.S. District Court there. The Court's request, spokesmen say, indicates that the Justices "have an interest in the case," but does not necessarily mean they intend to accept it.

The state of Missouri has asked the Court to review several lower-court rulings requiring it to pay half of the city's desegregation costs. The state also is appealing lower-court orders requiring that plans be developed for metropolitan desegregation.

Special Education. The Hendrick Hudson Central School District in New York contends that it is not obligated under federal special-education laws to provide a sign-language interpreter for a deaf fourth-grader who reportedly performs at the top of her class. A federal appellate court has ruled that the school system must provide the interpreter in order to afford the child an appropriate education. In this case, the Justice Department agreed and has asked the Supreme Court to let the lower court's ruling stand.

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