District News Roundup
New Jersey Chief
To Decide Penalty
For Off-Campus Act
The New Jersey commissioner of education should decide whether officials can punish a student for offenses committed off school grounds, a state appeals court ruled earlier this month.
The ruling from the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court involved a case in which school officials suspended a student at Woodstown High School when they learned he had been arrested off campus for possession of marijuana.
A lower-court judge, ruling that the suspension was proper, said he deferred to school officials' "assessment of the need for discipline.''
In transferring the case to the commissioner of education, the appellate division agreed that school officials could suspend the student but added that "whether [the judge] was correct or incorrect, few will quarrel with the conclusion that the entire problem suggested by the facts of this case invokes substantial educational policy considerations."
Daniel A. Zehner, attorney for the student, argued that state laws on school discipline prohibit school officials from punishing students for infractions that have not occurred on school grounds.
Allowing school officials to punish students for such infractions creates "all kinds of problems," Mr. Zehner said. "It opens up a whole area I think should be left to the juvenile courts."
Of Passaic School
Construction of a vocational-technical high school in Passaic, N.J., will not continue until school officials give the state a plan for venting and controlling the methane gas generated by the former garbage dump on which the school is being built.
As of last week, officials in the state's department of environmental protection said, they had received neither the plan nor any notice that the school board had hired an engineering consultant to replace the one who resigned in early March.
The 180-student school, which has already cost an estimated $3.8 million, is being built on a landfill. According to the environmental protection department, school officials were notified in 1981 and several times thereafter that they had to submit the "disruption plan" required for any landfill construction. Such plans describe the way that problems such as liquid run-off, erosion, and solid-waste disposal will be dealt with in the design and construction.
A representative of the technical school's board, however, said information about the requirement was given only to county officials, not to officials from the technical school. A spokesman for the environmental protection department said that the department had notified the officials involved in planning the school and given them the necessary forms to fill out.
"We did not advise them to build a school on that site, because we had reservations about the site, but without plans, we withheld our final recommendation for their project," the environmental department's spokesman said. Tests on the site in November and February revealed concentrations of methane of more than 5 percent, which is above the acceptable level.
Construction work on the school cannot resume until its officials provide the environmental department with an acceptable plan. If there is no way to vent the methane safely, the project could be scrapped.
'Sick-Outs' Over Pay
For the second week in a row, Montgomery County, Md., teachers staged organized "sick-outs" to protest their proposed pay raises and what they view as too-large class sizes and inadequate planning time for teachers at the elementary level.
The board has offered the county's 6,000 teachers a 5-percent cost-of-living raise for 1984-85 school year; the Montgomery County Education Association, which has not endorsed the sick-outs, has asked for a 6.5-percent raise.
A total of 688 teachers from 26 schools have called in sick on one of seven days in the last two weeks, according to Kenneth K. Muir, director of information for the Montgomery County Public Schools. That figure involves 11 percent of the district's teaching force and 17 percent of its schools, Mr. Muir said.
To counter the organized sick-outs, the Montgomery County Board of Education, following the third day of the sick-out, approved a suggestion by Superintendent Wilmer S. Cody that teachers who call in sick be required to present a doctor's certificate or be docked a day's pay.
"We are getting some doctor's certificates," said Mr. Muir. "Since teachers have a week to bring them in, we won't have a tally for a while."
In a related development, Marian L. Greenblatt, a board member, called on the board to censure Blair Ewing, a fellow member, for violating the board's code of ethics when he discussed contract negotiations in public. Mr. Ewing had told reporters that he thought the teachers' salary request was reasonable and that he hoped the board returns to the negotiating table.
A Bronx, N.Y., teacher was arrested earlier this month and charged with illegally collecting over $31,000 in salary based on his false claim that he held a Ph.D. degree from Fordham University.
According to New York City's Department of Investigation, Victor Incardona, a teacher at P.S. 721, earned the money over a nine-year period after submitting a forged Fordham Ph.D. transcript to the city's board of education.
In New York City, as in most school systems in the country, teachers and administrators with advanced degrees are paid higher salaries.
Mr. Incardona was charged with grand larceny and forgery; he also faces disciplinary charges made by the board of education.