State News Roundup
The New Jersey Supreme Court has upheld the right of state education officials to force public schools to admit students with acquired immune deficiency syndrome or AIDS-related complex.
The ruling, issued on April 15, is believed to be the first by a top state court on the issue of admitting children with AIDS to schools, state education officials said.
In handing down the unanimous ruling, the court upheld regulations promulgated last year by New Jersey's education commissioner, Saul Cooperman, and the state board of education. The regulations state that an infected child must be allowed to attend school unless he or she has a history of incontinence, excessive drooling, biting, or aggressive behavior, according to Roger Shatzkin, a spokesman for the department.
He said the ruling stems from a lawsuit involving two infected kindergarten girls who were denied admission to schools in the Plainfield and Washington boroughs in 1985.
The ruling has no effect on those students, according to Mr. Shatzkin. The first has already been admitted to a special class for neurologically impaired students, he said, and the second has moved out of state.
Parents in Texas can teach their children at home without fear of prosecution as long as they follow a basic curriculum, a state district-court judge has ruled.
The April 14 ruling specifies that home schooling must include lessons in reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, and good citizenship. According to the decision, the state has the right to make a "reasonable inquiry'' to ensure that children are receiving such instruction.
The case has been characterized as the first in the state to address the question of what constitutes a school. That "has been a big question in Texas,'' said Kirk McCord, executive director of the Texas Home School Coalition, a Dallas-based political-action committee.
"Finally, the law has been clarified in Texas to free parents to teach their kids free of state interference,'' Mr. McCord said.
Cheryl Leeper, who teaches her two children at home, filed the lawsuit against the Arlington Independent School District. She said she and 80 other parents threatened with prosecution by the state for keeping their children out of school decided "to ask the judge who's judge'' in this matter.
Her major objection to the public schools was that they were overcrowded, Ms. Leeper said, adding that she feared her children "were slipping through the cracks.'' She said she obtains her teaching materials from the Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights, Ill.
State teachers' groups have argued that home schooling can hurt children whose parents may keep them at home in order to put them to work. In addition, children who are taught at home lose the opportunity to develop interpersonal skills by interacting with other students, contended Annette Kootes, public-information officer for the Texas State Teachers Association.
Miss. Teachers Barred From Legislative Seats
The Mississippi Supreme Court this month denied a rehearing to three state lawmakers who were found to be in violation of the state's conflict-of-interest law because they are teachers.
In March, the state's highest court issued a ruling that stiffened Mississippi's conflict-of-interest law. Teachers, civil servants, and others who could benefit financially from state contracts were barred from serving in the legislature or on local boards that levy taxes.
The lawmakers have until Jan. 1 to decide whether to seek re-election or to give up their teaching posts. Two teach at Jackson State University; one is a high-school teacher.
"Anyone serving in an elected position cannot collect money in one hand and spend it with the other,'' he said. The state Supreme Court is also expected to hand down a ruling in coming weeks on whether teachers can serve on school boards in districts where they teach, Mr. Crowe said.
'No Pass, No Play' Found To Lift Grades in Texas
Texas's two-year-old "no-pass, no-play'' rule has improved students' grades in many school districts, a new report by the Texas Education Agency has found.
"It appears that students have gotten the message of the no-pass, no-play rule,'' states the report, which was presented to the Texas board of education this month. "It is the law, it will be enforced, and students must pass their classes in order to participate in extracurricular activities.''
The report, based on a survey of selected districts and news reports, found that, in the Dallas Independent School District, the percentage of all students in grades 7-12 who failed one or more classes fell from 55.6 percent in 1985 to 46.4 percent in 1986. In Houston, the percentage of students in grades 9-12 who failed at least one class declined from 53.4 percent in 1985 to 41.1 percent in 1986.
Only 37 of the 1,751 varsity football players on the state's top 50 teams--or 2.1 percent--had failed a class in the first six weeks of the 1986-87 school year, and 29 of those teams reported no failures, according to a survey included in the report.
While students may be working harder because of the rule, the report notes, some may also be avoiding difficult classes, such as algebra 2, chemistry, and foreign languages.
The rule, passed in 1984, requires students to pass all their courses to be eligible to participate in extracurricular activities. A student who fails an advanced class may be exempted.