District News Roundup
A Bethel (Wash.) High School production of a play based on the book Working by the Pulitzer-prize winning author Studs Terkel went on as scheduled this month, despite complaints by a group of local citizens that parts of the play were obscene and unsuitable for a high-school audience.
Opponents of the play, led by the Rev. Kenneth J. Doolin, pastor of a local Baptist church, said it contained obscene language and showed prostitution in a positive light.
Moreover, they charged that the school board's decision to allow students to present the play was "inconsistent" in view of the district's recent litigation involving a former Bethel high-school student, Mathew N. Fraser, who was suspended in May of 1983 for using "sexual innuendo" in a speech during a school assembly.
Mr. Fraser filed suit in federal court after his suspension, claiming that the school district had violated his First Amendment right to freedom of speech. The court ruled in his favor, a decision later upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
According to Clifford D. Foster, a lawyer for the school board, the district has appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, claiming that school officials have the right to regulate what students are "exposed to unwillingly" in the school environment.
Mr. Doolin said it is "inconsistent that the district, on one hand, would bar a young man from school for us-ing obscenities, and care enough about it to take it to the Supreme Court, and yet on the other hand would encourage young people to use obscenities in a play."
But Gerald E. Hosman, superintendent of schools, claimed that the two situations are not comparable, since attendance at the play was voluntary and the students at the school assembly were "captive audience.''
A federal district judge in Iowa has barred the Central Decatur Community School District from using traditional Christian invocations and benedictions at public-high-school graduation ceremonies.
An attorney for the Iowa Civil Liberties Union argued the case before U.S. District Judge Harold Vietor on behalf of Rebecca Graham, a Leon, Iowa, high-school senior, and her father, Robert Graham.
Judge Vietor ruled that the use of religious invocations and benedictions at high-school graduation ceremonies is a violation of the First Amendment's establishment clause. The judge found that because the purpose of such prayers is primarily religious, they violate the U.S. Supreme Court's three-part test to determine whether a practice breaches the Constitution's mandate for the separation of church and state.
Cryss Farley, executive director of the iclu, said Des Moines school officials have also responded to the decision by announcing that they will eliminate all religious benedictions, invocations, and prayers from their graduation ceremonies.
Mark Bennett, the lawyer who represented the Grahams, said Judge Vietor's decision may be used as a precedent in similar cases currently before state appellate courts in California and Washington.
A New York City Board of Education policy that denies teachers who have been fired the right to collect some of their retirement benefits has been found unconstitutional by a federal appeals court.
The city policy offers teachers who face dismissal the option of resigning or presenting their case in a predismissal hearing. If teachers resign while facing charges, they are allowed to keep their retirement benefits. But if they are dismissed following the hearing, the contributions made by the city and school board to the retirement fund are withheld.
In a 2-to-1 opinion, the judges ruled that the forfeiture provision has a "chilling effect" on teachers' 14th Amendment right to a hearing prior to dismissal. The case which tested the board's policy involved a teacher who had resigned rather than risk losing her pension benefits.
"The injustice of this is plain," wrote Judge Richard Cardamone for the majority. "Under the present scheme, a teacher who sexually molests a child may resign and receive a pension, yet a teacher forfeits his pension after a quarter-century of faithful and competent services if a hearing panel finds that he can no longer maintain discipline."
The judges recommended that the policy be rewritten to eliminate the option of resignation with benefits.
In the midst of a "moderate measles epidemic," more than 7,000 Maricopa (Ariz.) County students who could not prove they had been vaccinated against the virus were barred from school this month, according to a county health official.
Dr. Robert G. Harmon, director of public health for the county, said he issued the order barring the students after 34 cases of measles were reported at 14 of the county's 300 schools and more than 200 cases were reported in nearby Pima County. No measles cases had been reported in Maricopa county during 1984, he said.
"I took these special measures because the virus is still spreading," Dr. Harmon said. The order applied to all students in all county schools, including those not immunized because of religious, medical, or personal reasons.
"We've had hundreds of complaints," Dr. Harmon said, "but there have been no exceptions that I know of."
Students have been allowed to return to school as soon as they can present evidence of vaccination. Two days after the order was issued more than 4,500 of the 7,014 students affected had been vaccinated and were back in class, Dr. Harmon said.
A Peabody, Mass., high-school student and four other youths were arrested this month on charges related to two bombing incidents at Peabody Vocational High School.
According to John E. Colella, inspector for the Peabody Police Department, Steven E. Stasinos, age 17, was arrested on charges of manufacturing and selling homemade "infernal machines," or explosive devices.
One 14-year-old boy who was working with Mr. Stasinos was arrested for possessing and selling the devices at Higgins Junior High School in Peabody, and another 14-year-old was charged with posses-Continued on Following Page Continued from Preceding Page
sion of explosive devices. Two other youths face charges of possession of explosive devices and malicious damage to a school building, Mr. Colella said.
The two explosions at the vocational school, which is located in the same building as Higgins Junior High School, took place during the week of April 29. Subsequent investigations resulted in the arrests of Mr. Stasinos and the four juveniles.
When Mr. Stasinos was arrested on May 2, "a large quantity" of explosive material was confiscated, Mr. Colella said.
Ten explosive devices were sold at the junior high school, Mr. Colella said, and police confiscated another 51 uncompleted explosive devices at Mr. Stasinos' home.
According to the inspector, the students charged from five to 10 dollars apiece for the homemade bombs, depending on the size of the device, and each bomb had the explosive power of about a half stick of dynamite.
"I'd like to think it was stupidity, but [Mr. Stasinos] said in interviews that he was making them because of supply and demand," Mr. Colella said.
The Upjohn Co., a manufacturer of pharmaceuticals and health-care products, will celebrate its 100th birthday next year by contributing $2 million to establish a science and mathematics center for gifted secondary-school students in Kalamazoo, Mich., the home of its corporate headquarters.
The center, which will serve students from both private and public secondary schools in the area, will be administered by the Kalamazoo County School District.
Although school officials have not worked out specific selection criteria yet, the program will be limited to 300 students chosen on the basis of their academic achievement.
The $2-milliion gift will be divided into two separate grants of $1-million each. The first part of the grant will allow school officials to renovate an existing community-education center, purchase equip6ment, and hire a director for the center, which will house 12 classrooms, as well as chemistry, physics, computer-science, and mathematics laboratories.
The Kalamazoo district will use the next $1 million as an endowment to fund the permanent operating costs of the center.
"I'm very excited about the gift and the opportunity it will give to all of the secondary schools in the area to expand their math and science programs to a degree that wouldn't have been possible otherwise,'' said Frank E. Rapley, superintendant of the Kalamazoo district.
Mr. Rapley, who noted that dwindling enrollments have made it increasingly difficult to support small, specialized classes for advanced students, said the new center will replace many of the district's advanced-placement courses in science and mathematics.
Recent national concern over the low numbers of high-school students studying science and mathematics influenced Upjohn's decision to devote the new center strictly to math and the sciences, said Phillip Sheldon, a spokesman for the company.
Mr. Sheldon said the center will operate year round, hosting special programs during the summer while requiring students to attend for half-days during the school year. The center will begin operation in the fall of 1986.