District News Roundup
Harold Raynolds Jr., state commissioner of education for Massachusetts, has asked the state's Attorney General to take legal action to compel the Lowell School District to integrate language-minority students into regular classrooms.
In a June 2 letter to Attorney General James M. Shannon, Mr. Raynolds said Lowell's school committee did not go far enough when it voted late last month to build eight portable classrooms to house the students, who have been receiving instruction in Boys' Club and Y.M.C.A. facilities.
"Despite the development of appropriate accommodation plans by the Lowell School Department,'' Mr. Raynolds wrote, "the school committee has failed to adopt a plan that would relieve the segregation of these students as of September 1987.''
That failure, if unchallenged, would "permit similar instances of segregation and denial of equal educational opportunities in the future,'' he continued.
The school committee, faced with the possible loss of $2.5 million in state and federal bilingual-education funds, voted in late May to transfer 160 Laotian and Hispanic students from their current facilities. However, the committee rejected proposals by the school department to establish a central enrollment plan for all students, and to merge a predominantly minority school with a predominantly white school.
Henry Mroz, Lowell's superintendent of schools, was unavailable for comment last week.
A federal appeals court, in a ruling that sets a precedent in Virginia, has determined that Fairfax County school officials do not have to pay to educate a handicapped boy at a private school not approved by the state.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit said that Fairfax school officials were correct to refuse to pay the $8,500 annual tuition for John Schimmel Jr., because state law "simply does not permit school systems to place and fund students in unapproved private schools.''
The May 18 decision was "a disappointment'' to the boy's parents, John and Betty Schimmel, who said their emotionally disturbed son has thrived since they enrolled him at the East Hill Farm and School in Rutland, Vt., three years ago.
Ms. Schimmel, who is a co-founder of a local lobbying group for parents of special-education students, said she chose the school over an institution accredited by Virginia on the advice of her son's psychologist.
County school officials said the ruling sets an important precedent for other school districts in the state.
"The school-approval process means protection for children and their families,'' said Beatrice Cameron, director of special-education programs in Fairfax County. "When a public agency is using public funds, it's only right that the private school passes some standards.''
A Minnesota school district has settled a six-year-old legal dispute with a former part-time teacher by acknowledging that it refused to offer her full-time employment because of her husband's political views.
The agreement last month between the Rosemount School District and Lynne Cybyske marked the final chapter in a dispute that had earlier reached both the Minnesota and U.S. supreme courts.
Ms. Cybyske's husband, Dan, had been a member of the school board in Burnsville, a community near the Rosemount district. While serving on the board, Mr. Cybyske had frequently expressed "pro-teacher'' sentiments, according to documents filed in the lawsuit.
Ms. Cybyske has argued that the Rosemount board refused to offer her full-time employment because of her husband's views. The decision, she contends, violated her right to freedom of association under the First Amendment.
A state trial court dismissed Ms. Cybyske's suit, but the Minnesota Court of Appeals reinstated it. That court's ruling was upheld by the state's high court, and later by the U.S. Supreme Court in November 1984.
According to Mark P. Wine, Ms. Cybyske's lawyer, the Rosemount board voted to settle the dispute shortly before the case was scheduled to go to trial. As part of the settlement, he said, the school board paid her $30,000 in damages and acknowledged that she had been discriminated against because of her husband's views.