District News Roundup
A federal magistrate in New York City has concluded that school administrators there have made little progress toward complying with a nine-year-old federal-court order that they provide timely testing and placement of handicapped students.
In a strongly worded report, U.S. Magistrate John L. Caden said school officials had produced "nothing that can be called a substantial, determined, or even good-faith attempt to come into compliance'' with the order.
His March 4 report was issued in response to a plan submitted by school officials in July as part of their latest effort to comply with the court's 1979 ruling.
In that case, Jose P. v. Board of Education of City District of New York City, a federal court found that handicapped students in the city's schools faced excessive delays in receiving special-education services.
The court ordered school officials to develop a plan for testing all students thought to be in need of special services within 30 days after their referral for evaluation. Students found to be eligible for such services, the court said, must be placed within 60 days under the plan.
The report is now being reviewed by a federal judge, who will determine how to force the district into compliance.
A federal appeals court has upheld a lower-court ruling granting three Montana teachers pay raises they would have received had they not served in the military during the Vietnam conflict.
The March 14 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld the decision last year by U.S. District Judge Paul Hatfield that granted the teachers a total of $51,005. The appellate court denied the teachers' request for $42,000 in interest on the lost wages.
The case stems from a 1977 decision by the Great Falls school district not to place the teachers on the salary scale they would have been on had they not resigned to volunteer for military service. During most of the Vietnam conflict, teachers were exempt from the draft.
The Montana teachers, Donald Lang, Kenneth Beck, and the late Michael Erickson, had been granted retroactive sick leave, vacation, and other benefits when they returned to the district in 1972.
The teachers did not file suit until 1985, a fact the court cited as the reason for not awarding them interest on the back pay. Judge Hatfield said Mr. Lang was entitled to $25,474, Mr. Beck to $9,199, and Mr. Erickson's estate to $16,332.
A federal law passed in 1940 provides that veterans who have served "satisfactorily'' are entitled to reinstatement in their pre-service positions or similar positions. A 1946 U.S. Supreme Court decision held that veterans are also entitled to up to four years' worth of pay raises and benefits they would have received if they had not joined the military.
The U.S. Labor Department receives inquiries on about 16,000 cases a year involving employer disputes with veterans or reservists, including many teachers, a spokesman said.
Superintendent Jerry Weast said the district was not opposed to the teachers' receiving back pay, but went to court "to arrive at an equitable conclusion.''
A Magee, Miss., teacher has been fired and another has resigned following an incident in which two of their male high-school students allegedly raped a special-education student while several others watched.
The incident occurred Feb. 26 at Magee High School in a special-education study room adjacent to the study hall. John Grantham, the teacher supervising the study hall, was out of the room, said Charles Alawine, the school's principal.
The alleged victim's teacher, Mary Duckworth, had given the girl, who is 16, permission to go to the study hall, Mr. Alawine said.
The principal said last week that Mr. Grantham had resigned after being told by the Simpson County School Board that his only other option was being fired.
Ms. Duckworth, he said, was fired but has appealed the decision and will receive a hearing as required by state law.
The board voted this month to expel the two students charged with the rape. The boys--a 17-year-old and a 15-year-old--are being held in the county jail and will be tried as adults, Mr. Alawine said.
Four students who witnessed the incident were suspended for three days last week for not alerting teachers, the principal said.
The Vermont Board of Education has voted to allow the town of Arlington to secede from the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union, which has been the target of state investigations for an alleged "ghost class'' scheme involving teachers and administrators.
Residents of the town voted overwhelmingly in 1986 to break off from the union, the state's largest school-governing body. Jerry Eselin, Vermont's acting deputy commissioner of education, said that although residents "did not appreciate the problems of the union,'' the scandal over improperly awarded college credits for school employees had not been the primary reason for the separatist movement.
The town had "pretty much been operating on its own,'' he said.
Larger Vermont cities, such as Burlington and Rutland, maintain independent school districts, but Arlington's new status is unusual for a small town, Mr. Eselin noted.
The board agreed to allow the new arrangement for a three-year trial period, he said, adding that it had also urged the town to negotiate with nearby Sandgate and Sunderland to form a new supervisory union.
The Broward County, Fla., school board has rejected a proposal to include numerical marks with letter grades on report cards.
Student groups had argued that numerical grades would give parents a more complete picture of their children's performance under a new scoring scale that raised the standards for letter grades. Under a district policy that took effect this school year, students need, for example, a grade of 94 to qualify for an A.
Opponents of the proposal said numerical scores were unnecessary, and would be difficult to assign in some subjects.