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Justice Department Sues N.Y.C. Over Custodian Hiring Practices

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The U.S. Department of Justice has filed civil charges against the New York City school board for its practices in hiring school custodians.

The discrimination charges were filed last week after a four-year federal investigation, which found that at least 90 percent of applicants hired for custodial jobs in the district were white men. The suit would force the district to try to hire qualified minority and women applicants and provide compensation for candidates who were given unlawful written exams for the job, said Brenda Berlin, a lawyer for the Justice Department.

The district employed 865 custodians in 1993, 92 percent of whom were white, according to the lawsuit. In addition, the school board, personnel director, and personnel department had enacted policies that made it difficult for administrators to recruit minorities and women, Ms. Berlin said.

David Begel, a district spokesman, declined to comment.

An Explosive Plan

Three New York state boys have been charged with plotting to blow up their school after learning on the Internet computer network how to make an explosive device.

The boys, 8th graders at the 1,000-student Pine Grove Junior High School in the Syracuse suburb of Minoa, were arrested late last month after school officials informed the police. Students had told school officials of rumors of a bombing plan.

Police found at the home of one of the boys a small amount of fertilizer, some diesel fuel, and other items that could be used to make a bomb.

Principal Ousted

The superintendent of the Indianapolis schools has replaced a high school principal with a hand-picked team to manage the school for the remainder of the school year.

Esperanza Zendejas last week appointed a three-member management team, all assistant principals from elsewhere in the district, to the 1,600-student Emmerich Manual High School. Ms. Zendejas declined to cite specific reasons for the shake-up, pointing only to an unruly "school climate."

Sarah H. Bogard, Emmerich Manual's former principal, has been reassigned as an assistant principal to another high school.

Newark Taps Sylvan

The state-operated Newark, N.J., school district has hired Sylvan Learning Systems Inc. to teach remedial math and reading at three of its 14 high schools.

The district signed a three-year, $1.25 million contract with Sylvan late last month. The Columbia, Md.-based company, which owns hundreds of private remedial centers nationwide, has signed similar public school contracts with several other districts, including Baltimore, Chicago, the District of Columbia, and St. Paul, Minn. (See Education Week, Nov. 29, 1995.)

The second two years of the contract are contingent on measurable improvements in Newark students' scores on the state High School Performance Test, a spokesman for the district said.

State officials took control of the 48,000-student district last summer.

Chicago Firings

The Chicago public schools sought last week to fire 50 employees after learning that they had prior criminal backgrounds.

The discoveries were part of a continuing investigation into employee wrongdoing, which resulted in disciplinary action against 44 employees last month. (See Education Week, Jan. 31, 1996.)

Employees targeted in the latest dismissals include custodians, security guards, teachers' aides, and four teachers.

Tabrina Davis, a spokeswoman for the 413,000-student district, said security policies had been modified to allow for better scrutiny of job applicants. "We are refining the process to make sure this doesn't happen again," she said.

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