Published Online:

News Update

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

A closed administrative hearing was held July 30 and 31 in the case of Alice Zook, an Illinois high-school teacher who was fired for showing a video tape of male aerobic dancers to her female gym classes. (See Education Week, May 23, 1984.)

Ms. Zook said she asked for the hearing because she feels she was illegally fired.

The decision of the hearing officer, which is expected by Oct. 1, can be appealed in the courts. Under Illi-nois law, a tenured teacher has the right to a hearing if he or she is fired.

Trustees of the Limestone High School in Bartonville, Ill., unanimously voted to dismiss Ms. Zook in April for showing "Muscles in Motion," a 60-minute video tape of the Chippendales, a male dance troupe from Los Angeles.

A second Manhattan Beach, Calif., preschool was closed early this month, as law-enforcement officials investigate allegations that its students were sexually abused.

Four months after a Los Angeles County grand jury charged the owner and six employees of the Virginia McMartin Preschool on 115 counts of sexually abusing preschool students--a charge that was later increased to include 207 counts of child molestation against 42 students--the Los Angeles District At-torney is investigating the possibility that officials at a school located a mile away may have "swapped" children with the McMartin school and engaged in sexual abuse, according to Al Albergate, a spokesman in the district attorney's office. (See Education Week, April 4, 1984.)

The Manhattan Ranch Pre-School and Kindergarten was closed temporarily and its license suspended early this month by the California Department of Social Services because of what investigators called a threat to the health and safety of the children, Mr. Albergate said.

The district attorney's office has charged a 17-year-old playground aide who worked at the kindergar-ten with "various sexual acts involving children," Mr. Albergate said. The aide's name is being withheld until it is decided whether he will be tried as an adult or a juvenile.

No other staff members have been charged at this time, Mr. Albergate said early this month.

In the McMartin case, a federal grand jury last month began investigating various aspects of the alleged molestations, including charges that staff members violated interstate laws banning the transportation of pornography and the making and distribution of saleable child pornography.

The North Haven Board of Education has agreed to pay $50,000 to a special-education teacher who filed a discrimination suit against the board in 1977.

In filing the lawsuit, Elaine Dove of Hamden, Conn., said the board had discriminated against her by refusing to rehire her after she took time off to care for her newborn child.

The case gained national attention in May 1982, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bars sex discrimination in education programs, applies to school employees as well as to students. (See Education Week, May 26, 1982).

The U.S. Education Department later ruled that the North Haven school board had discriminated against Ms. Dove "in retaliation for asserting [her] civil rights secured by Title IX" and that federal funds could be withheld from the district.

The June settlement was less than the $124,000 in back pay and legal fees and the reinstatement that Ms. Dove initially had sought.

For the first time in three years, the Cleveland Board of Education has gained full fiscal control of school-district operations.

A tax levy, approved by the electorate last November, has generated an additional $31 million for the school system each year, said Frank Huml, assistant superintendent. The increased revenue has allowed the district to repay a $25 million state loan and project balanced budgets for the next two years.

Large budget deficits had forced the board to seek state loans, the terms of which required the Ohio superintendent of schools to appoint a state controlling board that has had broad authority over the system's finances since the latter part of the 1981-82 school year. (See Education Week, March 3, 1982.)

Cleveland school officials said they are committed to doing "everything possible" to keep the system operating in the black from now on.

A $15-million lawsuit has been filed against the Las Virgenes (Calif.) Unified School District by five teachers who allegedly participated in a scheme to receive raises for phony college credits. (See Education Week, March 17, 1982.)

According to Mary Jo McGrath, the attorney representing the school district, Las Virgenes is the only district that has attempted to dismiss any of the teachers involved in the investigation, which began in 1980 and involved approximately 160 teachers in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Only one dismissal was upheld by the state commission on professional competence, and that was later overturned by a superior court judge.

The state commission on teacher preparation and licensing, however, has recommended the revocation of credentials for the five teachers and 89 others involved in the investigation, Ms. McGrath said.

The five Las Virgenes teachers responded to the district's efforts to dismiss them by filing the suit against the school board and several district administrators, claiming that they had been libeled and slandered and that school officials inflicted upon them "intentional emotional damage."

The New York City Board of Education has dismissed John Chin, the school official whose arrest for firing a gun into a neighbor's apartment led to the investigation and eventual resignation of the former Schools Chancellor, Anthony J. Alvarado.

The board dismissed Mr. Chin, who chose not to exercise his right to a hearing, for conduct unbecoming an employee of the school system, according to Robert Terte, a spokesman for the board. Mr. Chin had been suspended with pay from his $32,000-a-year administrative position after his arrest on Feb. 27.

The board has also passed a resolution requiring background checks of some 900 senior school-system officials and their successors. And it has voted to require annual financial-disclosure statements from the same officials, a move that has prompted threats of legal action from the city's school administrators' organization.

Lillian Barna, 55, will become the first female superintendent in the 100-year history of the Albuquerque, N.M., public schools.

Ms. Barna, who resigned as superintendent of the San Jose (Calif.) Unified School District in June, was the unanimous choice of the Albuquerque Board of Education for the superintendency of the city's 113-school district.

She will share her new position for six months beginning in January with the person she is replacing, Francisco D. Sanchez Jr. Mr. Sanchez, who has served as superintendent since July 1980, is retiring.

During Ms. Barna's tenure in San Jose, the district became the first in 40 years to declare bankruptcy.

However, that experience, said Mark Sanchez, president of the Albuquerque Board of Education, "is certainly something that will help her in the future."

"She did what she was supposed to do," he added, "which was to keep kids in the classroom, keep people on the payroll, and pay the bills, and that mechanism [bankruptcy] allowed her to do it."

Mr. Sanchez said the board had received 55 applications for the $65,000-a-year position.

The teacher-shortage "emergency" that last spring led New York City school officials to drop the district's requirement that new teachers successfully complete education courses has apparently turned around: The change in requirements has produced an "overwhelming number" of teaching applicants, the officials say.

More than 4,000 people have inquired about the 3,500 positions available, and half of them have committed themselves to taking the district's teaching examination, said Gerald Brooks, a personnel administrator for the school system.

Fearing a severe shortage of teachers for the coming school year, the school board voted last spring to accept applications for teaching positions from college graduates who had not completed the required courses in education. (See Education Week, May 16, 1984.)

New teachers will still have to earn the six education credits, but they will be allowed to complete the course work during their first year on the job.

"This is something we did not do lightly," Mr. Brooks said. "It was an emergency situation."

As part of the recruiting strategy, informational sessions were held this summer in hotels throughout the city at which interested candidates could talk in small groups with people currently teaching in New York schools.

The strategy also included a "very heavy" advertising campaign in the metropolitan area's print and broadcast media, officials said.

"We have been meeting very high-quality people," Mr. Brooks said, including professionals, retirees, and education majors who, for various reasons, have not been teaching.

School officials blame the current shortage of teachers on the low status of the profession and on fears about the safety of many of the schools, Mr. Brooks said.

In addition, many area teachers never returned to the profession after the massive layoffs that occurred in 1975, according to Mr. Brooks.

"A lot of people left the system and just didn't come back," he explained.

The quality of the education a handicapped child receives in a public school takes precedence over the wishes of parents, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in June that the Marana (Ariz.) Unified School District acted "reasonably" when it transferred a handicapped child to a neighboring district with superior special-education facilities.

Parents of the child had filed suit against the district because they did not want their daughter, who has cerebral palsy, transported to a school 25 minutes away from their home.

Sending the child out of the area would "inflict psychological damage" and isolate her from other children in the neighborhood, the parents said.

The parents said they were prepared to accept the education the neighborhood school could provide, even though the school did not have staff members trained to teach a physically handicapped child.

"They felt it would be better to have a Band-Aid kind of education than have her sent to another district," said Ann Haralambie, the lawyer for the parents.

But school officials argued in the case that the district is required by federal and state law to provide handicapped children with an "appropriate" education that includes teachers trained in the areas of specific disabilities.

"This is the reverse of a normal handicapped case," said Richard Yetwin, the school district's attorney. "The parents wanted to keep her in the school district, but the state thought it would be inadequate."

The Philadelphia school district's $130-million special-education program is fraught with administrative difficulties and is not meeting the needs of the population it was designed to serve, a citizens' panel charged in a report released this summer.

The eight-month study, conducted by the Council for Educational Priorities, a coalition of 17 citywide parent and educational organizations, reports that administrative shortcomings have limited the program's ability to meet the needs of the 33,300 children in Philadelphia who require special education.

Such shortcomings include a failure to provide teachers with adequate instructional support and the lack of a systematic evaluation of personnel and clear lines of authority, the study says.

"Instead of being a vehicle for helping students with special problems attain the school district's goals for all children," the report states, "the special-education program is on its own course, guided not by the goals of the district, the needs of its students, the wishes of parents and community, nor even the judgment of the special-education administration itself."

But while the study is critical of the program, members of the panel report that they are "optimistic about the potential and desire within the system for sweeping changes."

In response to the report, Constance Clayton, the superintendent of schools, appointed eight task forces to address various problem areas.

New York City school officials are in the process of revising the school system's sex-education program, the first substantial modification of the program in nearly two decades.

"This revision has been going on for several years," said Robert Terte, a spokesman. "It has also been piloted in a number of schools. It was developed in consultation with a variety of organizations, including religious groups and family-planning agencies."

In April, when school officials released a draft of the document outlining changes in the sex-education program, some religious leaders objected to the changes, Mr. Terte said, saying that the role of the family was underplayed and that some charts on anatomy were too explicit.

"Some modifications were made at that point, but we did not change the direction or intention of the document," Mr. Terte said.

The document will be presented to the board in the fall. The sex-education program is voluntary and in every school where the K-12 curriculum is introduced, a note will be sent to parents informing them of its contents. Parents can withdraw their children from the class.

"The document as a whole significantly changes documents in effect since 1967," Mr. Terte said. "For example, in the Bronx now we have a scandal about sexual abuse of preschool children. This simply was not discussed in 1967."

School-board members in Hicksville, N.Y., voted this month to reinstate a policy allowing teachers and administrators in the public schools to require student participation in a "moment of silent meditation" at the beginning of each school day.

Board members voted on the issue following a July election in which the Hicksville community voted favorably on a nonbinding referendum to reinstate the moment of silence. Only one-seventh of the electorate voted against the moment of silence, according to Alayne Shoenfeld, a spokesman for the district.

The Hicksville school board had changed the policy last February because a parent of one child complained that the policy was "akin to school prayer," said Ms. Shoenfeld.

The moment-of-silence policy was an issue during the school-board election this summer, Ms. Shoenfeld said, adding that a number of the newly elected board members ran on a platform that favored its reinstatement.

Strip searches of students will be strictly prohibited under a new discipline policy that will go into effect in the Meridian, Idaho, public schools this fall.

School officials adopted the policy last May less than 24 hours before a $100,000 lawsuit was filed by two students in the district who claimed they were illegally stripped and searched last year by school personnel at Meridian Junior High School.

According to Philip Peterson, assistant superintendent for the school district, the students who filed the suit were not actually strip-searched. School personnel had the two male students "unbutton their pants," he said. "At most, it was a moderate search of clothing."

Although the district's new policy does not prohibit the type of clothing search that led to the students' lawsuit, Mr. Peterson said he believed school officials would discontinue such searches.

The students' lawsuit, filed on their behalf in U.S. District Court by the American Civil Liberties Union, contends that the searches violated the students' constitutional rights to privacy and to protection from illegal search and seizure.

Rats and mice have contaminated the central food-storage facility of St. Paul public schools for several years, according to recent reports from the city's health department.

Inspections of the school district's food warehouse consistently have shown rodent contamination of food stored in the building, said Donald Miller, the health inspector who filed the reports.

Rodent contamination of food is a serious problem that can cause food poisoning and various digestive ailments, Mr. Miller said. "I doubt if anybody has gotten sick over it," he added, "but it is a possibility."

The likelihood that students would actually eat the contaminated food is "nil," however, according to Candace Witter, food-services director for the school district. Food-services personnel have never used any of the contaminated food, she said, and health reports indicate that the food-preparation area of the facility has not been contaminated.

School officials are working on the problem in the storage area, said Jene Sigvertsen, executive director of school-plant planning and maintenance. Plans are in the works to have the building "rodent-proofed'' this fall by filling in all holes of more than one-eighth inch, he said.

which is expected by Oct. 1, can be appealed in the courts. Under Illinois law, a tenured teacher has the right to a hearing if he or she is fired.

Trustees of the Limestone High School in Bartonville, Ill., unanimously voted to dismiss Ms. Zook in April for showing "Muscles in Motion," a 60-minute videotape of the Chippendales, a male dance troupe from Los Angeles.

Web Only

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login | Register
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories