States News Roundup
School officials in several Connecticut school districts announced last month that they would not comply with a request from the state office of the Selective Service System to supply the names and addresses of draft-age males in their schools.
"In no way is this an anti-military statement," said William Goldstein, superintendent of Rocky Hill public schools, who joined with school superintendents from New Britain, Newington, Southington, and Wethersfield last month in refusing to provide student records to the Selective Service.
District policy prevents the release of students' addresses, Mr. Goldstein said, adding that "we are not an agency that cranks out information--we are in the business of educating."
Officials in the Waterbury, Conn., office of the Selective Service said their effort to use school records to find the names of draft-age males may be the first such statewide effort in the nation. The agency's request for information, sent to 120 Connecticut high schools in early December, was intended to inform students about their obligation to register for the draft, officials said.
Failure to register is a felony offense and can mean the loss of federal education loans and grants, federal officials warn.
The Florida Supreme Court, in a reversal of a lower-court decision, has ruled that a parent who called a teacher "unqualified" at a school-board meeting cannot be sued for defamation of character.
The case was initially filed in 1980 in Broward Circuit Court by Patricia Galbreath, a high-school English teacher, against Joseph J. Nodar. In her suit, Ms. Galbreath claimed that Mr. Nodar damaged her professional reputation by calling her an "unqualified teacher" and claiming she "victimized and harassed" his son.
Ms. Galbreath, who has been a teacher for 15 years, gave Mr. Nodar's son a B in her 10th-grade advanced-placement English class. Mr. Nodar wanted the B changed to an A, according to Ronald P. Gossett, a lawyer for Ms. Galbreath.
The circuit-court jury awarded Ms. Galbreath $10,000; the award was upheld by the state's Fourth3District Court of Appeals in 1983. However, last month, the state supreme court overturned the decision, saying the evidence did not prove that Mr. Nodar acted with "express malice," Mr. Gossett said. Express malice, according to lawyers, indicates that a person made a comment or acted in a specific way to deliberately cause harm.
Mr. Gossett said he planned to petition for a rehearing of the case.
Nearly half of the South Carolina college students who took the state's teacher-education entrance examination in October failed the test, according to figures released by the State Department of Education.
The passing rates of students attending the state's traditionally black institutions were even lower, according to the figures. Only 17 of the 140 students who took the test at South Carolina State University passed it, while 2 of 20 applicants passed the test at Benedict College.
Overall, 46 percent of the 1,011 college students who took the examination on Oct. 20 failed.
The test, which measures students' basic skills in reading, writing, and mathematics, was instituted by the state legislature in 1979. All students seeking admission to teacher-education programs in the state must pass the examination. Most students enroll in such programs in their junior and senior years in college. Applicants are given three chances to pass the examination. All 48 of those who were taking the test for the second time failed.
Minnesota teachers should be given only one chance to threaten to strike, and the state should offer financial incentives to unions and school boards to encourage the early settlement of contracts, according to an advisory council to the state legislature.
The 11-member Advisory Council on Bargaining Impasse Resolution has recommended that teachers be able to file only one notice of intent to strike. Teachers can now file such notices numerous times.
The council's recommendation is an attempt to prevent teachers from threatening strikes prematurely, said Paul W. Goldberg, chairman of the council and director of the state bureau of mediation services. After filing a notice, the council proposes, teachers should be given 20 to 30 days to either strike or lose that right. The council also proposes reducing the mediation period from 60 days to 30 days. The recommendations, which are scheduled to be presented to the legislature this month, are opposed by the Minnesota Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union.
The Minnesota Federation of Teachers has endorsed most of the proposals.
The Connecticut State Board of Education has approved a resolution that would make certification standards for teachers stricter and tie the new requirements to unspecified "appropriate" increases in teacher salaries.
The board voted 4 to 3, with one abstention, to support the new standards, which would require that graduates of teacher-training programs pass a state examination before receiving their licenses, according to Lise S. Heintz, a spokesman for the department of education.
Teachers would also be required to renew their certificates every five years by completing 90 hours of professional-development work, Ms. Heintz said. Currently certification is awarded on a lifetime basis.
Although the resolution passed, there was disagreement regarding whether the recommendations for higher salaries should be tied to the tighter certification standards when presented to the state legislature, Ms. Heintz said.
"The state has no direct involvement in salaries now," she explained. "Local control is paramount and some people feel strongly that it is inappropriate for the state to impose its feelings on salaries. Some also feel that while higher salaries are important, the concept of linking tighter standards and higher salaries is inappropriate."
The percentage of blacks and Hispanics passing Florida's basic-skills test for college graduates seeking a teacher's license rose last fall, according to Commissioner of Education Ralph Turlington.
Thirty-seven percent of the blacks who were first-time applicants passed all four of the subtests on the Florida examination, up from 32 percent last June and 35 percent in October 1983, Mr. Turlington noted. Fifty-five percent of the Hispanic teaching applicants passed in October, compared with 49 percent last June and 47 percent in October 1983. Mr. Turlington reported that 83 percent of all first-time applicants passed each of the four subtests on the Florida examination, up from 79 percent last June.
The New York State Board of Regents will vote in February on whether to ban corporal punishment in all public schools beginning in September 1985.
Meanwhile, the board voted in December to require all local school districts and boards of cooperative educational services (boces) that allow corporal punishment to adopt regulations for the investigation of complaints stemming from the use of such punishment.
The local regulations must be adopted no later than March 1985.
The board also ruled last month that each district must submit semi-annual reports to the commissioner of education detailing the investigation and action taken by school authorities for each complaint filed.
Districts that prohibit corporal punishment--about one-third of New York's districts and boces--will have to submit similar reports for complaints of the unauthorized use of corporal punishment.
The Regents define corporal punishment as "any act of physical force upon a pupil for the purpose of punishing that pupil."
Roughly one-fourth of Pennsylvania's 3rd-, 5th-, and 8th-grade public-school students need remedial work in mathematics and reading, according to a preliminary analysis of results from the state's new competency test.
Beginning this month and next, local school districts will enroll around half--or 40,000 of those students--in new state-supported reContinued on Following Page Continued from Preceding Page
medial programs. Districts can opt also to include those students who currently receive special-education or federally funded Chapter 1 services for remediation, according to Timothy W. Potts, a spokesman for the department of education.
The current state budget includes $24 million for remedial instruction through June, Mr. Potts said. Gov. Richard L. Thornburgh plans to recommend that the state spend $48 million in the 1985-86 remedial-instruction program, Mr. Potts added.
The competency-testing and remediation program are part of the Governor's four-year reform program, "Turning the Tide: An Agenda for Excellence in Pennsylvania Public Schools."
Nearly 350,000 public-school students took the state's new Testing for Essential Learning and Literacy Skills (tells) exam in October, Mr. Potts said. Statewide results of the tells test, he said, should be available by Jan. 16.
Parents of a Nebraska child who won a lawsuit charging denial of due process during hearings to determine the child's educational placement are entitled to lawyer's fees under an 1871 civil-rights law, a federal appeals court has ruled.
In so deciding, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit became the first federal court to identify an exception to a controversial U.S. Supreme Court ruling last July that appeared to shut off all awards of legal fees to parents who claim that education officials have discriminated against their handicapped children.
In Smith v. Robinson, the Justices ruled that the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, P.L. 94-142, is "the exclusive avenue through which a plaintiff may assert an equal-protection claim to a publicly financed special education." (See Education Week., Aug. 22, 1984)
Because P.L. 94-142 does not provide for legal fees, the plaintiffs in Smith--as have most other people alleging bias against the handicapped in education--also claimed violations of Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which do provide for legal fees.
In its decision in Rose v. Nebraska, the Eighth Circuit Court held in late November that the Nebraska parents were entitled to legal fees because, unlike the equal-protection claim raised in Smith, their case centered on an alleged denial of due process in the state's administrative procedures.
A Rhode Island law that prohibits the state and its municipalities from providing teachers and other public employees with health insurance covering abortions is unconstitutional, a federal district judge has ruled.
The Dec. 3 decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island came in a lawsuitel5lbrought by a coalition of groups and individuals that included the state affiliates of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. According to the court, the 1981 law, which was blocked by a restraining order in 1982, created an unconstitutional "obstacle" to pregnant women seeking abortions.
The judge also struck down a second state law that required private insurers to exclude from comprehensive health-insurance policies coverage for abortions except in cases where the mother's life was in danger or where the pregnancy was the result of incest or rape. The law allowed women to purchase optional coverage for abortions for which they had to pay additional premiums. The case is National Education Association of Rhode Island v. Garrahy.