District News Roundup
A Utah school superintendent had the authority to cancel the remainder of a high school football team's season as punishment for a hazing incident, a state judge has ruled.
State District Judge Ben Hadfield ruled last month against four members of the Sky View High School team and their parents, who had sought a temporary restraining order preventing the superintendent of the Cache County district from canceling two remaining games.
Superintendent Larry Jensen canceled the games after investigating the lockerroom hazing of a 16-year-old reserve quarterback.
According to Mr. Jensen, the naked youth was taped and strapped by several teammates to a towel rack and displayed to other students.
Mr. Jensen said he was "appalled'' by the hazing, which he found to have been a tradition going back several years.
"I thought nothing short of a strong measure'' would send the right message to the offending students, he said.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that the canceled games punished students who were not involved in the incident and could deprive some players of a chance for scholarships.
But Judge Hadfield ruled that there was no constitutional or statutory right to play football and that a district could cancel athletic programs whenever it chose.
An Illinois school district was not obligated to enroll three children whose mother wanted to keep them from having to switch schools when they became homeless, a Kane County judge has ruled.
Tyeast Boatwright, who became homeless three days before the end of the 1992-93 school year and moved with her children to a shelter five miles away, had fought for the right to let them stay at their original schools this year.
But Stuart L. Whitt, a lawyer for the Indian Prairie Unit District #204, argued that federal law and a state plan for homeless children extend children the option of staying in the same schools only if they become homeless during a school term.
Patrick Kinnally, a lawyer for Ms. Tyeast, had argued that the federal law was "ambiguous'' on that point and that a state board of education pamphlet specifically stated homeless children have the right to choose between their original school or one near their shelter.
While Judge R. Peter Grometer ruled against Ms. Tyeast last month, however, the children were allowed to remain at their schools pending his order, and the family has since found permanent housing in the area.
The Hempstead, Tex., school district's policy barring pregnant and parenting students from elected office is being reviewed by the Education Department for possible civil-rights violations.
In a move that received national attention, the Hempstead school board in September approved the policy after four of the 16 cheerleaders at Hempstead High School revealed they were pregnant.
The National Organization for Women last week filed a complaint with the Education Department, arguing that the policy discriminated on the basis of sex, and that the school failed to comply with federal requirements to provide a civil-rights coordinator or grievance procedures for students. The complaint is currently being reviewed and could result in the withholding of federal funds from the district.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas charged that the board's decision violated the state constitution's equal-rights amendment and contradicted a state mandate to keep students in school.
"Penalizing pregnancy is countereffective to keeping those students in school,'' said Debora Perkey of the Texas A.C.L.U.
In response to a public outcry over the policy, the Hempstead board scheduled a public hearing this week and is creating a task force of community leaders, students, and teachers to examine related issues.
Four adopted children ages 10 to 16 were kept in a dark attic in Englewood, N.J., while their parents collected $24,000 a year from a New York City adoption program, according to New Jersey public school officials.
The children were brought to the attention of local authorities only when police caught them shoplifting food from a supermarket last month.
The adoptive father, Anthony James, who has been charged with endangering the welfare of the children, reportedly claimed to have received permission to educate the children at home. But local school officials said they did not grant such authorization.
In fact, Superintendent Henry Oliver of the Englewood public schools said last month, the school system notified local child-welfare agencies shortly after the children started being withdrawn from school in 1991. Some of the children stayed in school until 1992, but none registered for the current school year.
Some observers faulted the school system and other public agencies involved for failing to adequately track the status of the children. But school officials defended their efforts, arguing that it was difficult to track the students because it was not clear if they were still residents of the district.
"We are very accountable for children who are enrolled,'' Mr. Oliver said. "If we suspect that there is neglect, we call our crisis counselors as a matter of routine. But it still does not insure that there is an ironclad system.''
Dade County, Fla., parents are no longer allowed to strike their children while on school property, under a rule adopted by the school board.
The rule, part of a new code of conduct for students and teachers, will act as a deterrent and send a strong message to staff members and parents, according to supporters.
"It sends the wrong message to the students to allow or even encourage parents to come to school and hit their children,'' said Janet McAliley, the president of the board.
Two board members opposed the rule, however, arguing that it is the parents' prerogative how and where they discipline their children.
School officials in Goffstown, N.H., are attempting to respond to a wave of teenage suicides that has claimed five lives in the past two years.
The death of 15-year-old Megan Pauly last month may have been connected to threats she had received from other students, officials said.
While arguing that the recent deaths were a community, rather than a school, problem, Superintendent Owen Conway of School Administrative Unit #19 arranged two meetings for parents to ask questions of community leaders and to propose suggestions for the types of services schools should provide to teenage students. Students at area high schools also participated in a session with local mental-health workers.
The Williamsburg County, S.C., school board has sued in federal court to block the town of Hemingway, which is predominantly white, from seceding from the rest of the county, which is mostly black.
The school board's lawyers are attempting to block a vote scheduled for January in which Hemingway's 820 residents will decide whether to be annexed to neighboring Florence County.
In a suit filed in federal district court, the Williamsburg school board and four black students charge Hemingway's mayor and town council with violating a federally mandated desegregation plan adopted in 1971.
The school board also argues that if Hemingway were annexed, the county would lose $5 million and the board would have to build a new elementary school and high school because 1,100 children in the county currently attend schools in Hemingway.
Hemingway leaders say they want to secede because they are dissatisfied with the county government and school system.
The Cook County, Ill., board of commissioners has banned the location of a gun store within a half-mile of a school or park.
The ordinance was prompted by the opening of a store called Strictly Shooting across the street from Hersey High School in Prospect Heights, a suburb north of Chicago.
The new ordinance also licenses gun shops and bans the purchase, possession, or transfer of semiautomatic assault weapons in the county.
Although the ordinance does not force the closure of the store across from Hersey High, it will prevent the renewal of the store's license when its lease expires in five years.
The U.S. Internal Revenue Service is seeking more than $1 million in taxes from the Oklahoma City school system on profits the district made from a cash-management plan meant to avoid a budget shortfall.
Several Oklahoma districts participated in a plan in which tax-exempt bonds were sold to boost local cash reserves. Those proceeds were kept in accounts that earned higher interest rates than the districts were required to pay back, yielding some profits for the schools and commissions for brokers who engineered the transactions.
While Oklahoma City officials have yet to agree to the payment, a pair of district residents recently filed suit to prohibit the district from using taxpayer funds to pay any federal claims.