District News Roundup
The nine-member school board of the Oakland-Craig district in northeastern Nebraska has resigned in an attempt to avoid personal liability for any judgment resulting from $22 million in lawsuits filed against the district.
The board resigned Nov. 2, a day before the suits went to trial in Burt County District Court. The suits charge the district and the board with liability in a 1984 school-bus accident. After a three-day break, testimony was scheduled to resume late last week and could continue for several weeks.
The suits were filed by Jean Dahlgren, whose husband, Duane Dahlgren, was severely injured when a truck in which he was a passenger collided with a school bus. One suit seeks $12 million for special and general damages for Mr. Dahlgren. Another seeks $10 million in damages for Mrs. Dahlgren for loss of the companionship and support of marriage.
If the court awards a large judgment, the 400-student district will face severe financial problems, said Superintendent Paul Heller, because its insurance carrier, Iowa National Mutual Insurance Company, went into bankruptcy three months after the accident.
The Nebraska Property and Casualty Guarantee Fund will pay up to $300,000 in claims filed against policyholders whose insurance companies go bankrupt.
Based on awards in similar suits in the state, Mr. Heller said he was "pessimistic" about the district's chances of avoiding liability. ''The question is how severe the judgment will be," he said.
The district's affairs are now being overseen by a court-appointed receiver. Before resigning, the board authorized the receiver to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy for the district in the event of a large judgment.
The suits were filed in the summer of 1985 after the board rejected a $5-million settlement proposal.
The Los Angeles board of education has denied permission to 29 students seeking to transfer to a nearby school district under a new state law that allows children to enroll in the district where their parents work, rather than where they live.
The transfers to the Santa Monica-Malibu school district were denied on a unanimous vote this month because loss of the students, most of whom are white, would have weakened the Los Angeles district's efforts to integrate its schools, officials3there said. "We are disappointed that these parents are being denied" permission to transfer their children "because they are white," said Rita Esquivel, assistant to the superintendent of the Santa Monica-Malibu district, which sees the new law as a way to reverse declining enrollments.
The district has established child-care programs at each of its elementary schools and conducted an extensive media campaign to encourage parents to transfer their children from nearby districts. About 280 new students were enrolled under the program this fall, Ms. Esquivel said.
Under the parental-choice law, which took effect in January, both sending and receiving districts may deny tranfer requests if they would interfere with racial-desegregation efforts. Per-pupil allotments of state aid follow students who receive permission to enroll outside their home districts.
As part of a court settlement of a federal class action, police and school officials in Grove City, Ohio, have agreed not to use dogs in any future drug searches at Grove City High School.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit on behalf of students at the school after a 1985 search in which students were confined to their desks while a dog sniffed up and down classroom aisles for illegal drugs.
The consent order, filed in U.S. district court in Columbus, stipulates that law-enforcement officials can search individual students if they feel there is a "reasonable particularized suspicion" that a student possesses drugs. The settlement does not alter the school's right to search for narcotics in student lockers or in school parking lots.
The Connecticut Civil Liberties Union has asked school officials in New Haven, Conn., to abandon what it terms their "inflexible" policy of barring students who carry the aids virus from attending school.
In an Oct. 13 letter to John Dow, superintendent of schools, the civil-liberties group said the practice contradicts the state education department's guidelines, which favor teaching children with aids in their regular classrooms, as well as federal anti-discrimination laws and the state constitution.
State education officials have said they do not know of any other Connecticut school system with a policy that automatically excludes from the classroom children infected with the virus.
Students in New York City's largest high-school agriculture program are protesting a plan by the board of education to appropriate part of John Bowne High School's farmland for construction of a new school.
The new building would provide a permanent home for the four-year-old Townsend Harris High School, which is operated jointly by Queens College and the city school board.
The college, which adjoins John Bowne, the site of a 70-year-old program in agriculture, ornamental horticulture, and small-animal care, has agreed to provide 1.25 acres for the construction. The remainder of the land needed would come from the high school's farmland.
A school-board spokesman last week discounted reports that current plans for the new school would utilize nearly two-thirds of John Bowne's 3.8 acres of farmland.
The architect in charge of the project "has been asked to develop a design that will cause minimal encroachment" on the land, the spokesman said.
The Prince George's County,Md., school district is successfully using voluntary means to meet racial-balance targets under a court-ordered desegregation plan, newly released enrollment figures indicate.
Just over 80 percent of the 103,000 students enrolled this fall attend schools that are racially balanced under the court's guidelines, according to a district spokesman, Brian J. Porter. Only 15 of the district's 170 schools are more than 80 percent black, he said.
The district is using an ambitious program of magnet schools to promote voluntary integration. At the start of the plan's third year this fall, seven new magnet schools opened, bringing the total number to 39.
By next fall, the district is required to ensure that 85 percent of its students attend racially balanced schools. The 1985 settlement in the case provides for a mandatory busing plan if the district fails to meet the court guidelines through voluntary student transfers.