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Published in Print: September 4, 1991, as Capital Digest

Capital Digest

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The American Federation of Teachers last month joined several civil-rights and women's organizations in opposing the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Albert Shanker, the union's president, said the judge's record "shows he would not support the aspirations of working people, minorities and trade unionists."

Although the National Education Association had not announced its position as of late last month, an official said the union would oppose the nomination before confirmation hearings begin Sept. 10.

Representative Major R. Owens, Democrat of New York, announced this month that he will create a National Citizens Commission on African-American Education charged with providing "a critical review of national education policy," recommending alternatives, and "stimulating mobilizations for education in African-American communities."

The 100-member volunteer commission, which Mr. Owens is launching in his capacity as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus' Education Braintrust, is to be appointed Sept. 12, during the caucus' annual legislative weekend.

The commission is to hold its first meeting the same day, focusing on the Bush Administration's America 2000 education strategy, which Mr. Owens has criticized.

A federal district court has overruled an Education Department policy requiring schools to provide education services to all special-education students who are suspended or expelled from school.

ln 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that schools cannot expel or suspend special-education students for misbehavior related to their handicap, but did not address the obligations of schools to students who are expelled or suspended for unrelated reasons.

In his ruling last month, U.S. District Judge S. Hugh Dillon of Indianapolis said that the E.D. should have drafted a rule through formal regulatory processes, rather than simply issuing an advisory letter on the issue.

An E.D. official argued that the policy was an "interpretive rule," as opposed to a "legislative rule," and thus did not require a formal regulation. He said the department would appeal.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State will not appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court a federal appellate ruling that upheld a controversial U.S. Education Department regulation requiring states and school districts to deduct "off the top" of their overall Chapter 1 allocation certain extra expenses of providing remedial education services to students in religious schools.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld the rule in May. On July 24, the full Eighth Circuit Court denied a motion to review the decision in Pulido v. Alexander, in which Americans United had backed a group of Missouri taxpayers who contended the rule resulted in a disproportionate share of funds going to students in religious schools.

Rob Boston, a spokesman for Americans United, said the organization would not appeal because of the High Court's increasingly conservative bent on church-state cases.

Arthur A. Fletcher, chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, said last week that he has received numerous complaints of racial discrimination at Defense Department schools overseas.

During a tour of five Army and Air Force bases in Germany, Mr. Fletcher said, he was told black students were referred to by teachers as "little chocolate fluffs," turned away from the school glee club and told to form a gospel choir, denied the chance to join the cheerleading squad, and tracked into non-academic studies.

Vol. 11, Issue 01, Page 1

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