District News Roundup
Chicago Principals Lose Challenge to Reform Law
A federal court has rejected a legal challenge to Chicago's landmark school-reform law filed by the city's school principals.
The principals had argued that a provision in the 1988 state law that reserved for parents six seats on each council limited the principals' constitutional right to elect representatives of their choice. They also argued that the law violated their property rights by stripping them of tenure.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled unanimously against the principals earlier this month.
Random Drug Testing
The Dayton, Ky., district has adopted a drug-testing policy for its student athletes after 12 high school football players there were caught using LSD.
The school board voted late last month to test athletes in the 1,350-student district at random, follow~ing the suspension of the football players from the Dayton High School team.
"Recent events showed us the urgency behind putting something in place," Superintendent Jack Moreland said.
Mr. Moreland added that the high school will test only one student a week, far below the five tests per week that the new district policy allows. "We will try to minimize the Gestapo tactics unless we see the need for more testing."
The U.S. Supreme Court in June upheld an Oregon district's policy of random drug tests for middle and high school athletes. (See Education Week, July 12, 1995.)
Military Recruiters Barred
The Portland, Ore., school board has barred military recruiters from campuses because of what it called discriminatory policies against homosexuals in the U.S. armed services.
The school board approved a resolution last month barring any employer that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, race, religion, or gender. In a second resolution, the board defined the U.S. military as an institution with discriminatory employment practices. Current U.S. policy allows dismissal of openly gay members from the military but prohibits officials from asking about sexual orientation.
"Gay and lesbian rights is the pre-eminent civil-rights issue of the '90s," said board member Marc Abrams, an employment lawyer who introduced the two resolutions. "It is our obligation as a school district to demand equality of access for all our students, and that means gay and lesbian students as well."
Layoffs in Miami
Changes in federal funding have forced school officials in Dade County, Fla., to lay off hundreds of paraprofessionals.
Some of the 404 teacher's aides, computer-lab specialists, and community-involvement specialists are being transferred to schools that can pay their salaries. "We placed a lot of them," said Angeline Welty, the personnel director for the Miami-area schools. "We're down to 259 who haven't been placed."
The cuts are due to changes in the way funds from the federal Title I compensatory-education program are distributed among poor schools in the 300,000-student district.
No Free Ride
Students in an Idaho district who misbehave on the school bus can lose their riding privileges, thanks to a new policy that forbids disruptive behavior.
Drafted by a panel of parents, bus drivers, school administrators, and students, the guidelines for the Idaho Falls district ban profane language; fighting; and possession of tobacco, alcohol, drugs, or weapons.
"We had had troubles with our junior high kids on buses, and things had reached a point where we felt we needed to take some action," said Bill R. Stuart, the director of secondary education in the 11,300-student district.
It took some effort, but the Cleveland school system has succeeded in withdrawing its own lawsuit challenging Ohio's school-funding system.
The district first sought the dismissal of the lawsuit in March, arguing that it could not afford the legal costs and that its interests were represented in a similar case brought by the Perry County district. But Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Daniel O. Corrigan ruled that the Cleveland district had raised distinct and important legal questions and ordered its case to go to trial.
Last month, the case was transferred to the federal court overseeing the city's school-desegregation case--and out of Judge Corrigan's hands. This enabled the district to withdraw its lawsuit, although it reserved the right to refile it.
Search for 'Unabomber'
The FBI has been interviewing high school teachers in the Chicago area as part of its intensive search for the so-called Unabomber.
Federal agents suspect that the Unabomber--the unknown person whose explosive devices have killed three and injured 23 others since 1978--may have attended high school in the city's suburbs during the 1970s.
The FBI is interviewing teachers who taught in the districts 20 years ago. Agents asked teachers whether they remember "any students that may have been involved with the theories or philosophies that have been written by the Unabomber," said Vickie Markavitch, the superintendent of Niles Township High School District 219. The Unabomber has sought publication of his writings criticizing modern technological society.
The first three incidents involving the Unabomber occurred in the Chicago area.