State News Roundup
Iowa education officials have dropped their controversial plan to establish a set of outcomes expected of every public school in the state.
State Director of Education William L. Lepley said in announcing his decision this month that the education department's yearlong effort to spell out such outcomes had met with too much controversy and too little support.
"I just don't have enough support in the state to move it forward,'' Mr. Lepley said.
Instead, the department plans to help school districts set their own outcomes, Mr. Lepley said.
A state steering committee in January had proposed outcomes in nine areas: lifelong learning, problem-solving, communication, group membership, commitment to quality, creativity, diversity, environmental responsibility, and life management.
Critics had challenged the proposed outcomes as vague, as failing to emphasize the basics, and as an attempt to impose "politically correct'' values on the curriculum.
Only 38 percent of the administrators of Minnesota public secondary schools responding to a statewide survey said that their sexual-harassment policies are well understood by students and staff members.
Another 55 percent who responded to the first-of-its-kind survey said their policies, which are required by the state, are "somewhat understood,'' even though 92 percent said the policy had been written so that students could understand it.
Incidents of sexual harassment are far from rare, according to the survey, which was released late last month.
The schools responding to the survey had 1,110 reported incidents of sexual harassment and another 95 incidents of sexual violence in the 1991-92 school year.
The state attorney general's office conducted the written survey last fall. Of the 496 schools asked to participate, 344 junior and senior high schools responded.
Nearly half (48 percent) of the school officials said their schools currently have a curriculum designed to prevent sexual harassment or sexual violence.
Asked if any staff member was trained in how to investigate complaints of sexual harassment or violence, 43 percent said there was, 31 percent said there was not, and 24 percent said they did not know.
The relatively small sample, as well as varying interpretations of the questions posed, made the survey unscientific, said MaryKay Milla, a spokeswoman for the attorney general.
The incidents recounted on the questionnaire were only those that had been reported to school authorities, she noted. Thus, the picture of sexual harassment in school it paints likely is "just the tip of the iceberg,'' she said.
The Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Louisiana this month, charging that state officials have failed to meet federal mandates to remove lead contamination from water coolers in the state's public schools and day-care centers.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court on behalf of three New Orleans public school students, contends that the state has failed to comply with the federal Lead Contamination and Control Act of 1988, which charged state health agencies with identifying and removing sources of possible lead poisoning in public schools.
The main sources of lead in schools--water coolers with lead-lined tanks--should have been identified and repaired or removed starting in 1990, a lawyer for the plaintiffs said.
The case is the second legal attempt to enforce state compliance with the law, according to Nathalie Walker, the plaintiffs' lawyer. A federal judge last year ordered the state of Colorado to comply with the law.
"Unfortunately, lawsuits are the necessary catalyst to get the government to do what it should do,'' Ms. Walker said.
Several studies have shown that lead poisoning retards intellectual
development in young children.