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Published in Print: April 1, 1992, as State News Roundup

State News Roundup

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The 21st Century Education Commission in Rhode Island issued its final report last month, calling for an array of reforms ranging from shared decisionmaking at every school to creation of a series of professional-development schools to train teachers.

The commission, appointed by Gov. Bruce G. Sundlun, urged the state department of education, along with schools and districts, to establish statewide standards for student outcomes and to develop performance-based assessments linked to those standards. Schools that fail to meet the standards over several years should be subject to state intervention, including closure, the commission recommended.

In addition, the commission suggested that each Rhode Island district develop a formal and ongoing improvement process, including curriculum plans and a local accountability mechanism.

In the area of school funding, the commission said the state should pay 60 percent of the cost of education and should provide a more equitable allocation of state aid for public schools.

The commission earlier backed away from Mr. Sundlun's suggestion that the state look at a regionalization plan that would consolidate the number of school districts from 37 to no more than 6.

A California appeals court has ruled that public-school officials in the state cannot be held liable for the welfare of students off campus and after school unless they have reason to believe there will be trouble.

The court last month overturned a lower-court decision and found that the Los Angeles Unified School District was not negligent in its supervision when a high-school student was shot after school in 1985 on a street adjacent to his campus.

The California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, ruled 3 to 0 on March 16 to overturn a Los Angeles superior court's award of $120,000 in damages to Ernest P. Brownell 3rd, who was wounded minutes after being dismissed from Johnson Opportunity High School in south-central Los Angeles.

Mr. Brownell was attacked by gang members wearing the red colors of the "Bloods,'' who had mistaken him for a member of their rival gang, the "Crips.'' Mr. Brownell charged that the district was negligent because it had dismissed students without first determining if the street in front of the school was free of gang members, the decision said.

But the appeals court found the district had "satisfied its supervisorial responsibilities.''

School officials had testified that during 1985 it was school policy to prohibit the wearing of gang colors and paraphernalia and that they often confiscated such items--as well as weapons--from students.

"[T]he law requires ordinary care, not fortresses; schools must be reasonably supervised, not impenetrable to all gang-related violence,'' the court wrote.

Charles Carpenter, a lawyer representing the school district, said he was pleased but not surprised by the ruling.

"There was no evidence in any way that the teachers and the administrators at that school had any notice that there was going to be an incident that day,'' he said.

Mr. Brownell's lawyer could not be reached for comment last week.

The Mississippi Supreme Court has upheld the 1990 dismissal of the superintendent of the state's school for the deaf.

The high court ruled last month that the school's trustees had the right to fire Alma L. Alexander after an investigation revealed dozens of incidents of unreported abuse dating back to the 1970's. The alleged abuse included fondling, student rapes, physical abuse, and neglect.

The school's trustees voted to dismiss Ms. Alexander for lack of leadership and for failing to report suspected abuse, as required by state law. She was never charged with any criminal wrongdoing.

After a local court upheld the firing in July 1990, Ms. Alexander's lawyers appealed to the state supreme court.

Ms. Alexander is retired and living in Louisiana, according to her lawyer.

Vol. 11, Issue 28, Page 2

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