District News Roundup
Officials in the District of Columbia Public Schools have tightened security and instituted child-abuse-awareness courses for educators and parents following seven acts of violence against schoolchildren in or around school buildings in the last month.
The incidents include the stabbing death of a 13-year-old girl, the rape of a 10-year-old girl, two instances of indecent acts against 5-year-old children, one kidnapping and one attempted kidnapping, and one report of an assault threat against a 16-year-old girl, according to Janis Cromer, director of communications for the 89,000-student district.
Police have arrested suspects in two cases and are investigating the others, Ms. Cromer said.
Although only two of the incidents occurred in school buildings during school hours, officials have increased security at elementary schools, said Ms. Cromer.
"We have instituted a procedure of issuing clip-on visitor badges," Ms. Cromer said. Prior to the incidents, visitors were directed to report to the office to sign in.
In addition, the district is recruiting and training volunteer security aides to help sign-in visitors, monitor hallways, and patrol school grounds, Ms. Cromer said. At Bancroft Elementary School, where two 5-year-olds were physically abused and a 6-year-old was lured from the building to a nearby wooded area but not injured, 72 parents have volunteered to join the program. In conjunction with the District of Columbia Police Department, all of the volunteers are undergoing a "rigorous" screening and training process, she said.
Ms. Cromer said district officials also plan to: work with police to encourage adults who suspect that a child has been abused to file a report; conduct safety profiles and review the emergency plans of the district's 185 schools; and train after-school recreation staff members to monitor playgrounds. The district also plans to assign school psychologists to those schools that have experienced an incident of violence.
And Ms. Cromer said the district is working with the Children's Hospital National Medical Center, the Mayor's Task Force on Child Abuse, and the District of Columbia Congress of pta's to conduct workshops for parents, teachers, and administrators.
The Oakland Unified School District's bilingual-education procedures have erupted in an acrimonious legal dispute in which the district is countersuing those who are protesting its policies, on the grounds that their suit is a waste of public money.
At issue is the claim of nine Oakland families that the district violated state law by failing to issue forms to determine a student's home language and to conduct English-proficiency tests. A state-court suit on behalf of the families was brought against the district last April by the San Francisco Public Advocate's Office.
The court issued preliminary injunctions in April ordering the school district to distribute the surveys and conduct the tests over the summer.
Lois Salisbury, the public advocate, said the judge required the nine families to put up a $7,500 bond to cover the possible costs that may be incurred by the school district if the injunctions are later reversed. She said this is quite common in civil cases.
But the judge also ordered each plaintiff in the case, Zambrino v. Oakland Unified School District, to agree to an open-ended bond that would cover any costs that may be incurred by the district above the $7,500, according to Ms. Salisbury. The plaintiffs refused, and the judge dissolved the preliminary injunctions in August.
Ms. Salisbury appealed the ruling to the court of appeals, which declined to hear the case. She has now appealed to the state supremeel40lcourt, on the grounds that the open-ended bond order was illegal.
Ms. Salisbury said the district already completed about 600 bilingual-education tests over the summer, but had between 600 and 800 tests left to complete. She said since the court dissolved the injunction, the school district is no longer under a court order to complete the testing.
Miles Washington, the attorney for the school district, noted that the plaintiffs are not liable for any costs incurred by changes in the program that simply bring the school district into compliance with state law.
In another twist in the case, the school district last month filed a counter suit against the public advocate and two of the plaintiffs for costs and legal damages, and punitive damages of $4 million. Mr. Washington said the two plaintiffs headed the district's bilingual advisory committee, whose responsibilty, he said, is to work with the district to implement adequate bilingual-education programs. They not only failed to do this, he contended, but they brought a lawsuit that was "unnecessary and a waste of public money."
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