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District Throws in the Towel On Mandatory-Shower Policy

A Pennsylvania school district--threatened with a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union--has dropped a requirement that all students take showers following physical-education classes.

The A.C.L.U.'s Pittsburgh chapter contended that the Hollidaysburg district's policy violated students' federal constitutional right to personal privacy.

"The teen years are a time of real angst about body self-image," said Vic Walczak, the executive director of the chapter. "Most kids are going to take showers. But if a student feels strongly about not exposing himself in front of his peers, the school should respect that right."

After meeting with A.C.L.U. lawyers last month, the district issued a press release stating that showers are now optional, though it recommended that students take showers "in the interest of hygiene."

Callback Controversy: District administrators and teachers' union officials in Dade County, Fla., met last week to seek a compromise plan for improving teacher-parent communications.

Superintendent Octavio Visiedo issued a policy earlier this fall requiring teachers to return parents' telephone calls within two days.

The county teachers' union denounced the mandate, calling it unprofessional. Annette Katz, the director of media and public relations for the United Teachers of Dade, said current contracts require only that teachers return calls as soon as possible.

Many teachers argue that there are not enough phone lines in the schools.

Henry C. Fraind, an assistant superintendent and a spokesman for the district, said the policy stemmed from concerns of some parents who have not received prompt responses from teachers. He added, however, that most teachers respond quickly. He said the union had "blown the issue out of proportion."

Innovative Charter School Proposed: A group of business leaders, educators, and parents has proposed a charter school that would draw on the resources of Boston's Chinatown district to prepare students for business with Pacific Rim countries.

The group, which includes many prominent Chinese-Americans, applied to the state for a charter late last month. If approved, the Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter School would open next fall in the city's Chinatown for 350 students in grades 6 through 12.

Robert Guen, a dentist and former Boston School Committee member who is among those proposing the school, said that soon "most of the activity in business and trade will be happening in Pacific Rim countries."

Both Chinese and non-Chinese students would be encouraged to enroll.

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