City News Roundup
An 11-year ban on school construction in Los Angeles has been lifted, but too late to do much good, school officials say.
Overcrowding, particularly in Hispanic neighborhoods, is so severe that the Los Angeles Unified School District has resorted to year-round classes, doubling-up of first and second grades, portable classrooms, boundary changes, and the busing of children to less-crowded schools. Some 140,000 students--one-quarter of the system's total--attend 125 overcrowded schools, officials say.
From 1970 until last month, the system was prohibited by state court order from building new schools. The intent of the order was to prevent new schools from being located in such a way as to exacerbate segregation.
Now that a change in state law has ended mandatory busing for desegregation in the city, the system is free once again to build.
But there are "no funds and little likelihood of securing any" for construction, according to Roberta Weintraub, a member of the board of education.
Some state aid is available, but this year there will be only enough to expand 10 existing schools--far short of the 45 additions and 11 new schools needed to relieve the crowding.
In the meantime, Latino parents are so incensed by the overcrowding--and by the underutilization of schools in some white neighborhoods--that they have asked for help from the legislature.
The Port Huron, Mich., school district is fighting to keep male teachers out of girls' locker rooms.
Larry Grinder, a physical-education teacher who had been laid off, charged the system with sex discrimination when he was not rehired for a vacant position. Because the job involved supervising female students in the locker room, the board gave it to a female teacher with less seniority than Mr. Grinder had. An arbitrator subsequently found in Mr. Grinder's favor.
Douglas Touma, lawyer for the school system, said district policy requires that physical-education teachers assigned to locker-room duty be of the same sex as their students. The arbitrator exceeded his authority in interpreting the teachers' contract, Mr. Touma claims. The school district is appealing the arbitrator's ruling in the St. Clair County Circuit Court.
Some districts will do anything to keep students in school.
The Denver Public Schools' answer to the perennial problem of playing hooky was free airplane rides.
As part of a new "attendance-motivation contest," students last springth perfect records--those who attended every class every day for an entire semester--were promised free flights over the Rockies by the Colorado Air National Guard.
There was one snag. The Denver school district, using 1979-80 attendance records, booked 300 "seats" with the Air Guard. But more than 1,100 of the 15,800 students participating in the motivation program got through the semester without a mark against their name.
School officials were forced to resort to a raffle for the 300 rides. The "losers" got free passes the Elitch Gardens amusement park.
This year, school officials say, all the winners will have to restrict their free flights to the amusement park's Ferris wheel.
The federal judge presiding over school desegregation in St. Louis says another judge will have to decide whether school systems in suburban St. Louis promoted segregation.
U.S. District Judge William L. Hungate, in response to suburban school officials' charges that he is prejudiced against them, removed himself from the liability portion of the case. But he will retain control of other aspects, including planning for the possibility of metropolitan busing.
The judge wrote that he was withdrawing from part of the case "so that the disposition of this complex litigation may proceed in an atmosphere of calm reflection."
The city of St. Louis began busing for desegregation last year. But because the city system is nearly 80 percent black, both the city board and civil-rights groups are pressing for a countywide plan that would include 18 systems in suburban St. Louis County. This summer, after only four suburban districts agreed to participate in a voluntary busing plan, Judge Hungate ordered that a mandatory metropolitan plan be drawn up.