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The Madison County, Miss., school board and the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have reached a settlement in a civil-rights lawsuit that will allow the district to move ahead with a $20-million plan to consolidate two high schools.

The agreement in the suit, filed four years ago, was signed this month by U.S. District Judge Tom Lee and representatives of the school board, the n.a.a.c.p., and the U.S. Department of Justice.

The n.a.a.c.p. and the Justice Department had opposed plans to build a new high school near the town of Madison, claiming that it would hurt integration efforts. Fifty-eight percent of the students in the Madison County school system, located just north of Jackson, are white.

The board wanted to consolidate two high schools into one new building, but the Justice Department and the the civil-rights group argued that the new school would be predominantly white, while the district's third high school would remain predominantly black.

Under the agreement, the new school will be built as planned, but a magnet program will be created at the third high school to attract white students.


The Vermilion (Ohio) Public Schools have successfully blocked a tax abatement promised to the Ford Motor Company in return for expanding its local operations, and, in the process, have won back $4.5 million.

In a permanent injunction issued last month, a Lorain County Common PleasCourt judge said a tax-abatement agreement between Ford and the Lorain City Council was invalid because it did not specify that the company's was expanding its operations in direct return for the tax abatement.

The company had already begun construction when the abatement was allowed, and, therefore, could not be viewed as an incentive to the company, the judge said.

The Lorain City Council had promised Ford a 10-year, 50 percent abatement to encourage the company to expand its operations onto land that had been annexed by the city, but remained on the tax rolls of the Vermilion School District.


The Chama Valley (N.M.) Independent School District must excuse the absences of the children in a family that observes the holidays of the House of Yahweh religion, a federal judge has ruled.

Ruth and Manuel Martinez filed suit in Santa Fe last month after the district refused to excuse their five children for a trip in October for a religious observance. District officials said absences could be excused only for illness, medical appointments, or a death in the family.

The family's religion prohibits its followers from participating in secular activities, such as school, on its holy days.

U.S. District Judge Juan Burciaga ordered the district to excuse the children and to let them make up their missed schoolwork.


A Louisiana school district does not have to pay damages to a student even if a principal violated her free-speech rights by deleting religious material from a commencement speech, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The court ruled last month that the principal of Sam Houston High School in Calcasieu Parish, La., was not following an official policy of the school board when he deleted portions of the commencement speech to be delivered by Angela Guidry, whose suit for damages had been dismissed by a federal magistrate.

The magistrate ruled that the principal had to delete the material for constitutional reasons; the appeals court did not rule on whether the student's free-speech rights had been violated.

The court said there was no evidence that the school board was aware of the situation or that the principal was acting under a district policy. Federal law permits individuals to sue for damages when a governmental body violates their constitutional rights.


A local school board is suing the state of Georgia to recover costs it has incurred from court-ordered desegregation efforts.

The Savannah-Chatham County school board is seeking approximately $800,000 from the state for past and present busing costs. It also is asking the state to help pay for expenses resulting from new magnet-school programs and new school construction, both of which are necessary under the district's court-ordered desegregation plan.

According to the suit, filed in U.S. District Court, the 30,000-student district was unable to achieve a unitary system "on its own" and did not receive appropriate help from the state.

The suit marks the first time a local district has sued the state of Georgia for desegregation costs.

A sweeping reorganization of the state-operated Jersey City school system will result in the elimination of one out of four central-office positions, district officials have announced.

Elena Scambio, the state-appointed superintendent, plans to transfer 110 officials to new jobs or demote them to lower positions where they will be offered seniority and civil-service protection.

Five officials will be fired because they do not qualify for the responsibilities under their newly restructured jobs, she said.

The reorganization will not go into effect until June 30, Ms. Scambio said. A recruitment drive will begin shortly to fill 37 top positions left open by the overhaul.

A second phase of the reorganization will include changes in the district's clerical staff, but it is unclear how many positions will be affected.

Ms. Scambio is also evaluating the 35 principals in the district as part of a reorganization of school-building administrators planned for the fall.


The Fairfax, Va., school board has reversed a two-year-old policy that required schools to notify parents and local communities when they enrolled a child who had tested positive for the virus that causes aids.

Under the new policy, parents are no longer required to notify educators if their child has tested positive for the human immunodeficiency virus. Similarly, school officials are no longer required to tell parents that an hiv-positive student is in their child's classroom. Formerly, school officials were required to inform parents, but were not allowed to divulge the name, sex, or age of the child.

Late last year, the Virginia board of education voted to require all districts to adopt by July 1 aids guidelines that would protect the confidentiality of students with the virus.


Health officials have not discovered the cause of an unusual skin rash that is appearing among students in three counties in West Virginia and in McDowell, Ky.

About one-third of the 500 students who attend a K-8 school and a high school on the same campus in McDowell have developed the itchy rash, which has appeared on students' backs, necks, and arms. Health officials said they believe the rash, which is short-lived, is not due to a virus and may be triggered by something in the school environment.

Last month, parents protested health officials' inability to identify the rash by keeping about 450 students out of school for a day. The students' spring break began two days early so officials could begin environmental tests. The tests failed to reveal the cause, officials said, and students will be transferred to classrooms at another school.

In West Virginia, health officials are also trying to determine what has caused a similar rash that has affected students in three counties. "It happens every year in every state," said Herb Loy, director of immunization for the state bureau of health. "The only thing that is different about this is the public outcry."


A church school in Virginia that gave extra pay to male teachers who were heads of households must award back pay to female teachers who headed households, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld a lower-court ruling that the Roanoke Valley Christian Schools of Roanoke County, Va., must also give back pay to other school employees who were paid below the minimum wage.

From 1976 until 1986, the school gave male teachers a bonus of as much as $1,600 a year for being the head of a household, while female teachers who were the sole supporters of their families did not receive such a bonus, the court said.

The school, which is operated by the Shenandoah Baptist Church, had argued that the Fair Labor Standards Act does not apply to religiously affiliated schools.

Robert Alderman, pastor of the church, disputed the court's findings, saying that the school did award bonuses to female teachers who qualifed as heads of households.


A federal judge has dismissed for lack of evidence a lawsuit filed by seven black teachers in Fairfax County, Va. who claimed that the school district's merit-pay program discriminates against minorities.

U.S. District Judge Albert V. Bryan Jr. ruled last week that the teachers had failed to show either individual or systematic discrimination as a result of the merit-pay system.


Two candidates for the Madison (Wis.) Metropolitan School District Board of Education were soundly defeated after being targeted by gay-rights activists for expressing reservations about the teaching of gay and lesbian history in public schools.

Defeated were Earl K. Kielley, who argued in an appearance on the Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club" show that schools should define homosexuality but not teach that it is acceptable, and Dennis M. Niebuhr, who questioned whether the curriculum should be expanded to cover every sexual orientation.

State and local politicians had criticized the two candidates for their views in mailings to voters, and tapes of the "700 Club" interview had been shown at a local gay bar.


Representatives of the Chelsea (Mass.) Teachers Union and Boston University are scheduled this month to resume negotiations over a new teachers' contract, following the union membership's rejection of a tentative agreement.

The contract would be the first long-term pact under the unusual management agreement, reached last year over the objections of the union, between the private university and the troubled school system.

The two sides last fall agreed to an interim six-month contract, but that pact expired Feb. 28. Since then, teachers have been working without a contract.

Edwin Weinstein, president of the union, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, said teachers last month overwhelmingly rejected the tentative pact. He said they objected to a provision that would have tied awarding bonuses to the results of performance evaluations.

Representatives of the Chelsea (Mass.) Teachers Union and Boston University are scheduled this month to resume negotiations over a new teachers' contract, following the union membership's rejection of a tentative agreement.

The contract would be the first long-term pact under the unusual management agreement, reached last year over the objections of the union, between the private university and the troubled school system.

The two sides last fall agreed to an interim six-month contract, but that pact expired Feb. 28. Since then, teachers have been working without a contract.

Edwin Weinstein, president of the union, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, said teachers last month overwhelmingly rejected the tentative pact. He said they objected to a provision that would have tied awarding bonuses to the results of performance evaluations.

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