District News Roundup
Two students were killed and five others were injured this month when high winds snapped a flagpole in the schoolyard of a Philadelphia Catholic school.
About 200 St. Barnabas School students who were outside for lunch recess had lined up to re-enter the school, explained Rose Lombardo, assistant director of communications for the school. When the 75-foot flagpole fell in the girls' section of the yard at 12:45 P.M., it hit seven students, she said.
The National Weather Service reported winds gusting up to 40 miles per hour that day.
Maureen Wiseley, a 12-year-old 8th-grade student died of head injuries within an hour, Ms. Lombardo said. Eileen Augustine, a 13-year-old 8th grader, died the next day.
Of the others who were injured, one has been released and four remain in the hospital in good condition, Ms. Lombardo said.
The school, which has 937 students in grades K-8, has had the flagpole since 1942.
A federal judge has declared a mistrial in a $17.3-million lawsuit involving five Maryland schoolchildren who were placed in a storage closet by school administrators as a form of punishment.
U.S. District Judge Walter E. Black Jr. acted late last month after a jury of five men and five women failed to reach a decision on whether administrators at the Germantown Elementary School had violated the children's constitutional rights to due process and equal protection under the law when they imposed the disciplinary measure.
The children, who were between the ages of 7 and 12 in 1981 when the incident occurred, testified that they had been placed in solitary confinement in closets for up to five consecutive days. Two children testified during the trial that the administrators had turned out the lights in the closets, leaving them in darkness for several hours.
The suit also claims that administrators used the disciplinary measure far more frequently for black children than for others. According to Barbara Mello, a Maryland American Civil Liberties Union attorney who represented one of the children in the case, 28 children were placed in the storage rooms in 1981. Of that number, 25 were black, she said.
Attorneys for the administrators claimed that the disciplinary proce-dure was proper and that the children were exaggerating.
Attorneys for the children may ask to have the case retried, Ms. Mello said.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, citing the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision on special-education services, has upheld a lower court's ruling that the Kent City (Ohio) Public Schools had provided a multi-handicapped student with an "appropriate" educational program.
The court of appeals ruled that it would not interfere with the district's implementation of an educational program for Thomas M. Rettig, a student described as mentally retarded with symptoms of autism.
Citing the Supreme Court's decision in Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley, the appeals court concluded that the courts "are not free to choose between competing educational theories and impose that selection upon the school system."
The student's mother had filed suit in 1980 alleging that the school district had denied her son "a free appropriate education" when it did not provide him with a 12-month educational program and continuous occupational therapy. The lower court disagreed, but ordered the district to provide the student with one hour of extracurricular activities each week. The court of appeals ordered the case, Rettig v. Kent City School District, back to the lower court for reconsideration of the order requiring extracurricular activities for the student.
The unanticipated large number of students seeking to enroll in New York City's new all-day kindergar-ten programs has caused two problems for the city's school department: how to cut down long waiting lists and how to pay for the program, which will cost nearly twice the amount projected.
According to Robert Terte, spokesman for the New York City Public Schools, the cost for converting the half-day programs into all-day kindergartens has risen to $39 million from the $22 million anticipated by Chancellor Anthony J. Alvarado and from the $15 million allocated by the city council.
No one anticipated the "overwhelming" number of students who signed up, Mr. Terte said. Last year, there were 8,000 children in all-day programs and 44,000 in half-day programs. Today, there are more than 55,000 in full-day programs and 2,500 in half-day programs.
Although school officials cite the unanticipated demand as a reason for the lack of spaces this year, the city's Legal Aid Society has said that the city, over the last several years, has never had enough spaces, even for part-time students. It filed suit against the district in September, claiming that--with its long waiting lists for kindergarten--the school board was violating the state law that says a person over age 5 is "entitled to attend public schools maintained in the district in which such person resides without the payment of tuition." The suit also charged that the fact that all students who wished to attend kindergarten could not attend violated equal-protection and due-process rights, according to Frances Pantaleo, Legal Aid Society laywer.
The city board of education has worked with the Legal Aid Society, agreeing to implement a timetable for enrolling all students.
Waiting lists, which numbered 4,400 students in September and 3,000 students in October, have gradually been whittled down, Mr. Terte said. Now, about 1,300 students requesting to be enrolled in all-day kindergartens have yet to be placed. The timetable requires that all students be enrolled by Jan. 2, and that students from the overcrowded districts that could not otherwise enroll be bused to schools in nearby areas.