District News Roundup
The parents of two junior-high-school students in Durham County, N.C., have sued the school district, charging that officials violated the students' rights by suspending them for wearing Confederate flags on their clothing.
Some 14 students at Chewning Junior High School were suspended for wearing the flags to school March 11. Three school-bus drivers who also wore flags were fired.
Larry Coble, the county's superintendent of schools, said the students had worn the flags to protest the disciplinary policies of the school's black assistant principal.
School officials had a right to suspend the students, Mr. Coble said, because district policy bars students from "dressing in a manner that causes disruption to the educational process.''
But Paul Green, a lawyer who is representing the plaintiffs, denied that the flags were intended to to be disruptive. He said the incident was conceived as a celebration of "Southern Pride Day,'' not as a protest against the black administrator, and noted that a black bus driver was among those wearing flags.
The suit, filed in Durham County Superior Court, charges that school officials violated the students' constitutional rights to freedom of expression and due process of law.
"If we are going to teach about constitutional rights, we need to make sure they are being understood,'' Mr. Green said.
Teachers'-union officials in Los Angeles have urged their members to refuse to assist in searches for explosives if their schools receive bomb threats.
Officials of United Teachers-Los Angeles issued the advice after a bomb threat last month at the Mile Avenue School in Huntington Park. In that incident, all teachers were asked to help search the building after students were evacuated. Some teachers refused and complained to the union.
Marvin C. Katz, vice president of the union, said the teachers' contract includes the right to refuse to endanger one's life.
The responsibility for conducting bomb searches, he added, should fall on the district's 300-officer police force.
But Bill C. Rivera, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Unified School District, said there are too few officers to conduct such searches in the sprawling, 600-school district, which receives as many as four bomb threats a day. And city police will not respond unless there is reason to believe that a threat is serious, he said.
Under a policy that has been in place for 15 years, he said, a school's principal must determine whether the school should be evacuated in the event of a threat, and both administrators and teachers can be asked to help search for suspicious objects.
Mr. Rivera said district officials would probably make some "administrative changes'' in the policy to accommodate union concerns.
A high-school social-studies teacher in New Lenox, Ill., has charged in a federal lawsuit that he was unconstitutionally barred from teaching creationist theory.
In a suit filed March 21 in U.S. district court, Ray Webster argues that the New Lenox School District and its superintendent, Alex M. Martino, violated his First Amendment right to freedom of speech by allowing him to teach the scientific theory of evolution, but not the biblical version of how the world was created.
The superintendent contends, however, that Mr. Webster was "teaching religion'' in a way that was "not appropriate for the public schools,'' Barry L. Moss, a lawer for the district, said last week.
"It appeared from the materials he was using that he was teaching religious-based creation science, which has been barred by the Supreme Court,'' Mr. Moss said.
The teacher's suit asks the court to order the school district to let him resume teaching both creationism and evolutionary theory.
A group of nearly 300 businesses around Dalton, Ga., have formed the "Stay In School'' task force to help fight the high dropout rate by discouraging teen-agers from applying for full-time jobs.
City schools, and those in the surrounding Whitfield County, had a dropout rate of nearly 50 percent, according to C. Sue Phelps, assistant superintendent for the Dalton schools. Jobs in the local carpet industry often tempt teen-agers out of school.
In 1982, local businesses agreed to "discourage'' teen-age non-graduates from applying for full-time work. Part-time employees still in school are sometimes required to keep up their grades or they will lose their job, Ms. Phelps said.
In 1987, Dalton schools reported a 12 percent decrease in the dropout rate. In Whitfield County the rate dropped 10 percent.
Cardinal John O'Connor, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York, has charged that a provision in a housing-desegregation agreement in Yonkers discriminates against families whose children attend parochial and private schools.
After a federal judge ruled that Yonkers had practiced systematic discrimination in housing, the city agreed in a consent decree last December to build 200 units of low-income public housing in the white neighborhoods of East Yonkers.
In an article in last week's issue of Catholic New York, Cardinal O'Connor, making his first public statement on the issue, said he supported desegregation in Yonkers in general. But he said he was opposed to a provision that would give priority for the new housing to families whose children attend the city's public schools.
The Cardinal said the provision was based on the "false premise'' that parents of parochial-school children are not eligible for subsidized housing.
A coalition of black community groups in St. Paul has launched a project to increase parents' involvement in their children's education.
Called "20-10-10,'' the program will teach parents how to deal with the school bureaucracy as well as how to help their children with schoolwork, spokesmen for the effort say.
The project's name comes from the approach to be taken: Each parent who receives training will be asked to bring 10 others into the process, until, a spokesman says, the group attains the "critical mass'' necessary to exert its influence on local public schools.
A bequest by two Hackensack, N.J., brothers who died in 1986 will provide a $1.5-million endowment at their high school for college scholarships.
Edgar and Arthur Simionescu, who graduated from Hackensack High School in 1908 and 1913 respectively, shared a home in the community for most of their lives, said the school's principal, Harold Bloom. Neither had gone to college.
Their fortune, the accumulation of several investments dating back to the 1920's, initially was willed to a third brother and his wife, Mr. Bloom said. But the couple also died, and the estate reverted to the high school.
A board of trustees has been created to determine which of the school's 1,585 students will be eligible for scholarships. About $60,000 should be available for the aid program this year, and between $100,000 and $120,000 in subsequent years, Mr. Bloom said.