State News Roundup
A bill that would prohibit sex discrimination in education and employment in Nebraska's public schools and colleges has a good chance of passing, according to observers of the state legislature.
Modeled on Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal law barring sex discrimination in education, Nebraska's LB628 is intended to take up the slack if the federal government "pulls out of enforcement of educational equity," said Sue Ellen Wall, a lobbyist for the Nebraska Coalition of Women.
Known as the Equal Opportunity in Education Act, the bill covers all public educational institutions in the state as well as the state's department of education. It provides for recourse through courts, once internal attempts to settle a grievance have failed.
The bill, as it stood last week, specifically includes employment practices, as well as educational programs, extracurricular activities, research, and occupational training. For the often-touchy issue of athletic programs, it specifies "comparable opportunities" for boys and girls, said Ms. Wall.
In recent hearings on the proposed legislation, there was no open opposition voiced by representatives of the institutions and agencies that would be affected, said Dale Siefkes, a research analyst for the education committee of the state's unicameral legislature.
But Ms. Wall cautioned that, despite the "unexpected" support, she was concerned that controversy might arise when the bill comes before the full complement of state senators for debate. She said she fears it will be labeled "an educational era [Equal Rights Amendment]." She and other representatives of women's groups plan to lobby heavily for the bill.
A suit challenging New Hampshire's school-finance system was finally filed late last month, after more than eight years of preparation.
New Hampshire's public schools, the suit contends, rely far too heavily on local property taxes, creating inequities among districts.
According to the class action, which was filed in the Superior Court of Merrimack County on behalf of students and taxpayers in property-poor school districts, some of the poorest school systems in the state have only $900 to spend on each pupil, while others spend nearly $4,000.
Furthermore, the state has a foundation program for the purpose of aiding poor districts, but the legislature has never appropriated enough money to carry it out. For the current biennium, the suit says, the legislature has allocated only 10 percent of the amount required under the state-aid formula.
The state's schools currently receive the lowest proportion of state aid in the nation; only 7 percent of the typical New Hampshire district's income comes from the state, compared with a national average of 48 percent.
The suit asks that the present system be declared unconstitutional and that the state be required to enact more equitable finance laws.
The parents of an 11-year-old West Virginia child have filed suit in the state's Supreme Court, challenging the right of teachers to use corporal punishment--not now prohibited--in the classroom. The suit alleges that inflicting corporal punishment over the objection of the child's parents violates their right to due process.
Filed on Jan. 19 by Daniel F. Hedges, attorney for the family, the suit also says that the child required medical attention after being paddled by his teacher earlier in this school year. The punishment caused "large and severe" bruises on the child's legs, and transformed his attitude toward school from favorable to negative, the suit alleges.
Defendants in the suit are the state board of education; Roy Truby, state superintendent of education; the Roane County Board of Education, and Charles R. Murray, superintendent in Roane County.
Florida Commissioner of Education Ralph J. Turlington last week offered his answers to the two unresolved is-sues in Debra P. v. Turlington, the court case over the state's controversial high-school "exit" examination.
The suit was filed by minority students who charged that the functional-literacy test was not valid since they had not been taught the material covered on the test. A federal appellate court upheld the validity of the test, but returned two unresolved issues to Judge George Carr for further proceedings.
The court must determine whether minority students are still affected by the vestiges of segregated schools, and whether the test covers material that is taught in school.
In a memorandum filed with the court, Mr. Turlington said that all students who could be denied a diploma if they fail the test will have spent all 12 years in racially integrated schools. Florida's system of "separate-but-equal" schools ended in 1971, Mr. Turlington said, and the exam will not be required of students until 1983.
In response to the second question, the commissioner proposed that students who felt they had not been taught the material covered on the test be granted a hearing on the matter. The local school superintendent would then have to prove that the student had been taught the material.
If the hearing showed that the student had not been taught the material in question, according to Mr. Turlington's memorandum, the school board would have to grant the student a diploma.
The judge could adopt the suggestions of either--or neither--party in his final decision.
"Any procedure that will accomplish the fair distribution of diplomas based on educational achievement, in place for the 1982-1983 school year, will be viewed positively," Mr. Turlington said.
Tennessee high-school students who excel in a field of study rather than on a football field now have a chance to gain the recognition hitherto reserved for athletes, the Tennessee Department of Education announced last week.
The aim of the Tennessee Honors Program is to "direct attention to many of our students who have achieved a high degree of excellence during their high-school careers," said Robert L. McElrath, the state's commissioner of education.
Students may be recognized in any or all of six categories: mathematics; social studies; health and physical education; science; fine arts; English, language arts and foreign languages; plus a special class for students who excel in a combination of any four areas.
High-school principals may nominate up to 5 percent of their school's senior class for the program; these students need not be in the top 5 percent academically.
"We hope that all Tennessee high-school principals will take this opportunity to showcase their very best young people who contribute so much to their schools and their communities," said John C. Gaines, director of the office of secondary education.
The Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled that school employees who leave their jobs because of work-related mental stress are not eligible for state worker's-compensation benefits.
In rejecting the claim of a high-school principal, the court also barred all employees in the state, in the public and private sectors, from seeking stress-related benefits in the future.
Most states do allow for mental-stress claims, the court noted. However, the opinion said, the court was "unable to determine that the [Minnesota] legislature ever intended such coverage." The court suggested that the legislature is "the appropriate policy-making body" to deal with the issue.
A Kahala, Hawaii mother who kept her four children out of school for more than one-and-a-half years was recently jailed on contempt-of-court charges.
The woman, Lynn Israel, was jailed on Dec. 12 after refusing to answer questions at a Family Court hearing regarding the whereabouts of her children, according to George Herman, a spokesman for the state Department of Education. He said it is still unclear where the children are staying.
According to Mr. Herman, Ms. Israel refused to appear in Family Court on Dec. 9 on an "educational-neglect" petition filed by the education department. She was then cited for contempt of court, and three days later was carried handcuffed into court. Judge Michael Town then sentenced Ms. Israel to jail until she agreed to cooperate.
Ms. Israel was released from jail shortly afterward, Mr. Herman said, following her decision to file an application with the state for home education. Parents in Hawaii can teach their own children, provided that they hold a college degree and can prove to their local school superintendent that they can provide an education equal to that offered by public schools.