District News Roundup
School Volunteers for Boston Inc., a nonprofit organization designed to raise public awareness of the importance of community involvement in education, has launched a parent-education resource center.
According to a prepared statement, the center will enable the group to "help Boston Public Schools' parents to help their own children" and to "focus the attention of the community at large on the critical role that parenting, and the family, plays in children's success in school."
Among its programs, the center will sponsor a series of public forums on issues and concerns of family life and education; weekly "Parent to Parent" columns written for Boston's community newspapers by Lonnie Carton, a nationally syndi-cated journalist and child psychologist; and a telephone hotline for parents. The center will also maintain an advisory committee of key city agencies and individuals.
The center has received a $90,000 award from the Gannett Foundation to expand its activities.
The Los Angeles Unified School District plans to check 181 school sites near oil fields, oil drilling sites, and land fills for possible methane-gas seepage.
Methane gas, a by-product of decomposing trash and an ingredient of natural gas, becomes potentially explosive when it constitutes between 5 and 15 percent of the air by volume.
School Safety Supervisor Jack Waldron said the action was prompted by two recent incidents involving the explosion of methane gas in a landfill near an elementary school and the detection of high levels of methane in a high-school gymnasium. The methane in the high school was detected by a computerized monitor that had been placed at the site following an earlier incident in 1981, he said.
Mr. Waldron said that while methane explosions "are rare," the potential safety hazard makes checking the schools near methane sources "the prudent thing to do."
"If you had a natural-gas leak in your home, you would consider it a serious safety hazard," he added. "So while we don't know exactly what levels of methane we're dealing with at any of the sites yet, if you get the right mixture of methane in the air and an ignition source at some of these schools, we could be dealing with a very serious safety hazard."
Mr. Waldron said that if dangerous levels of methane are found on or near any of the sites, the schools will be closed while the gas is vented. At all schools where methane is detected, a permanent computerized monitoring system will be installed to alert school officials if there is a dangerous buildup of methane gas, he said.
The Bethel, Ohio, Board of Education cannot cancel a 3rd-grade presentation of the play "Sorcerer and Friends," U.S. District Judge Arthur S. Spiegel has ruled.
A parents' group had charged that the play was "un-American, satanic, atheistic, humanistic, and communistic," and a majority of board members opposed the play because of its contents.
The judge's ruling, according to Michael Fisher, the school board's lawyer, is "precedent-setting" and could "cause a lot of problems for boards of education" if adopted by other courts in similar cases.
The controversy surrounding the play began when, as a result of the concerns of a group of parents, the board ordered a poll of all parents of 3rd graders in the Ebon C. Hill Elementary School to determine their feelings about the play.
When 90 of the 115 respondents said they supported the production, the principal and the district superintendent recommended that it be presented. But three of the five school-board members voted to cancel it.
Subsequently, two 3rd graders, along with their parents and three teachers, filed a civil-rights action against the board claiming their freedom of speech had been violated. Teacher and student participation in the play, which was scheduled to be presented on May 13, was voluntary.
Mr. Fischer, who has indicated that he may appeal the ruling, argued in the case that the central issue was not civil rights but school-board authority.
William Bick, chairman of the school board, said the decision paves the way for questions of school authority in other extracurricular activities. "I have great concern about his decision," Mr. Bick said. "What Judge Spiegel is in essence saying is that the board has no control over extracurricular activities, and that has never been the thinking of boards of education."
A federal district judge has relinquished his control over the Columbus public schools' desegregation program, stating that the 67,000-student district is now probably the most desegregated school system in the nation.
U.S. District Judge Robert M. Duncan's April 11 order in Penick v. Columbus Board of Education ended eight years of court oversight of the district and released the local board and the state board of education from liability in the case.
Judge Duncan found in 1977 that the Columbus board had failed in its duty to desegregate the school sys-tem after 1954 and had, in fact, perpetuated segregation in the district through its construction policies, teacher assignments, and use of optional attendance zones.
On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld his findings and his order requiring the implementation of a districtwide desegregation plan. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case, opening the way for the busing of more than half of the district's students starting in 1979.
A federal district judge has ruled that the White Plains, N.Y., school district deprived a teen-ager of his constitutional rights when it neglected to inform him in writing that he could not attend school in the district.
Judge Lee P. Gagliardi of the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York also ruled that the district should have given the student, Allan Takeall, written notice that he could appeal the district's decision to exclude him to the state commissioner of education.
Both requirements for written notice are "new departures for New' according to Phyllis Jaffe, an attorney recently named legal counsel for the school district.
Mr. Takeall was denied admittance to White Plains schools on the grounds that he was not a resident, she said. Under state law, "a student may attend school in a district in which he or she resides without paying tuition. The student's residence is traditionally the same as that of the parents," according to Ms. Jaffe.
But Mr. Takeall had been living in a group home away from his parents. He was allowed to enter a summer program and admitted to the White Plains district on a part-time basis, according to Leslie F. Ruff, the lawyer representing the school district. Gordon M. Ambach, the state commissoner of education, ruled late last summer that Mr. Takeall was entitled to admission to the school district.
Mr. Takeall, now a student at White Plains High School, missed "the better part of a school year" and is now seeking about $15,000 in damages, according to his lawyer, Gerald Norlander.
The district is considering an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Mr. Ruff said.