States News Roundup
The Metropolitan Edison Company, the utility that owns the Three Mile Island nuclear-power plant near Harrisburg, Pa., has been getting some fallout from school boards in the area.
The Northern Lebanon Board of Education has voted to not pay its March electric bill until the company improves its efforts to clean up radioactive waste at the crippled nuclear plant. The plant has been shut down since March 1979, when a malfunction in a reactor resulted in a massive leak of radioactive materials.
The 8-1 decision came in response to a request from the school board in neighboring South Middletown that all 62 school districts served by Metropolitan Edison withhold their March payments to protest what they believe to be inadequate clean-up efforts and unjustified rate hikes.
"It is now certain that the clean-up of Three Mile Island and continued rate increases will be the financial responsibility of the customers served by Metropolitan Edison," said the letter from the South Middletown board to other school boards in the vicinity.
The Northern Lebanon board said it will refuse to pay its March bill "until such time as quick and effective action is taken to remedy the conditions at Three Mile Island, both physical and financial."
Insurance representatives for the Faixfax County, Va. schools have filed a $6-million civil suit against three former students who were convicted in 1979 of setting fire to a county school building.
The legal action on behalf of the school board represents one of the more unusual examples of insurance companies' increasingly frequent attempts to recover money lost as a result of school vandalism, according to Michael L. Davis, the lawyer representing the school district's insurers.
Under Virginia law, Mr. Davis explained, the school district's four insurance representatives have the right to sue the young men for damages on behalf of the school district without the county school board's endorsement. Fairfax County school officials confirmed that they had no plans to sue the former students on their own, and added that the matter was totally up to the insurance companies.
Mr. Davis said that the 1979 school blaze caused $2.7 million in damages. "This case is a bit unusual because it's quite difficult to recover an amount like that in a civil suit when the defendants are all in their early 20's," he explained. "A judgment in our favor, however, would stand for 20 years under Virginia law, and there's always the chance that we might be able to recover something within that time."
Mr. Davis said that he expected the case to be heard in Fairfax County Circuit Court sometime next year.
National publicity notwithstanding, the parents who object to the assignment of Studs Terkel's book Working to a high-school English class in Girard, Pa., do not want the book banned, one of the parents said last week.
The parents, said Linda M. Burns, "want the school board to decide that if a book is required and is offensive--especially if the parents complain--students should have an alternative." Mrs. Burns, who has a son in the English class for vocational-education seniors, said it would be "fine" to continue teaching the book to other students.
Although the Girard school board had been expected to make a decision last week, the parents asked that it be delayed until the parents and the board could meet again. "The parents feel this has been publicized too much. We wanted time for things to settle down," said Mrs. Burns.
Alice Fulgenzio, president of the school board, agreed that the matter had been "pushed all out of proportion" and said that the board will meet with the parents at a later time. In the meantime, she added, "we have other things to do, like looking for a superintendent."
But Mrs. Fulgenzio said that she expected that when "there's a problem with sensitivity, the school board will probably encourage alternative assignments."
"There's no question of banning," she added.
As for Mr. Terkel's well-publicized visit to Girard several weeks ago, Mrs. Burns believes that he may have "won over a lot of students" who were not assigned the book in the first place, but he had "no influence on my opinion or on the other parents" who are opposed to the book.
Working, a collection of interviews with working people, is "blasphemous, it includes objectionable words and explicit sex scenes, it is offensive to Catholics, and the book itself is mostly negative," Mrs. Burns said.
"There are only a couple of stories where people are happy in their jobs," she added, "and I can't see the value of teaching that to students in vocational education."