Federal News Roundup
A Hispanic advocacy group, maintaining that parents' access to information is essential to community oversight of the Chapter 2 block-grants program, reports that some school districts were reluctant or unable to provide adequate documentation about the program.
The Washington-based group, National Council of La Raza, asked Hispanic groups in 31 school dis across the country that have large Hispanic enrollments to gather information on the effect of Chapter 2 on Hispanic students, on whether school districts were keeping data on their Chapter 2 programs, and on whether such data were made available to the community.
The groups gained access to Chapter 2 information in 17 of the 31 districts, according to the report, which was completed last month.
Some school districts refused the request for information and others obstructed the efforts by asking how the information would be used, LaRaza charges in its report. In addition, some of the Hispanic community groups were discouraged from seeking civil-rights monitoring forms or were denied access to the forms, which are by law public, according to the report.
La Raza, arguing that "recordkeeping and reporting requirements for this program need to be strengthened and made explicit," called on the Education Department's office for civil rights to investigate why districts refuse to provide access to public documents and records.
"The precarious educational position of Hispanic children demands that both the federal government and the Hispanic community work to increase local school accountability," the 18-page study concluded.
On Teen-Age Suicide
More than 5,200 teen-agers killed themselves in 1980, a figure that raised suicide to the third leading cause of death among 15-to-24-year-olds, a member of the American Psychological Association testified this month at a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Juvenile Justice Subcommittee.
"It is not that the problem of adolescent suicide is new, it is that the significance of the problem has only recently emerged," said Alan Berman, a professor of psychology at the American University in Washington, D.C., and president of the6American Association of Suicidology.
The hearing was called to investigate the possibility of targeting federal funds for suicide-prevention programs in schools, according to Senator Arlen Spector, Republican of Pennsylvania.
Myra Herbert, coordinator of school social-work services for Fairfax County, Va., told the subcommittee that the Fairfax County Schools began a suicide-prevention program three years ago. Since the program began, she said, the number of suicides has dropped from 20 to 3 a year.
The committee also heard testimony from the parents of a teen-age suicide victim and from a 16-year-old girl who attempted suicide three times.
Marcia Scherago of Burke, Va., whose son killed himself four years ago at the age of 16, recounted the impact of his death, saying she would urge parents to observe changes in their child's behavior that may indicate serious depression. "We do not know how to interpret their behaviors, which usually say more than their words or lack thereof," she said.
"Julie Smith" said she tried to kill herself three times, the first time at the age of 13. "Teen-agers need to be able to talk and trust people, and confide in someone," she said. "Any time someone is feeling suicidal, they should seek outside help. When you talk about things, they tend to shrink in size."
State of the Family
Assessed in Report