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Board Certifies 108 Teachers

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has granted national certification to an additional 108 teachers, bringing the total to 376.

The Detroit-based organization announced last month that it had certified the teachers in two fields: as generalists working with children in early childhood and as generalists teaching children in middle childhood.

The privately organized group intends to create a certification system with more than 30 different certificates covering K-12 students and subject areas.

Ill. Targets Teachers in Default

Illinois is cracking down on teachers who are in default on their student loans.

In a first-time effort, an Illinois student-loan agency is sending warnings to the nearly 1,200 teachers in the state who are in default. If the teachers don't make arrangements for repayment, their teaching licenses could be suspended by the state school board.

"We're giving people ample time to arrange a payment plan and view this as a last resort," said Mike Hernandez, the state board's chief administrative officer.

State officials said the defaulters make up a small portion of the state's 116,000 teachers.

Hazing Scandal In Tex. District

Eleven students at an Arlington, Texas, high school have been assigned to an alternative school following a hazing incident in which students paddled, painted, and urinated on six sophomores.

The 11 Lamar High School students were transferred for the entire year--the harshest punishment allowed under state law for a student who has not previously been in an alternative school. Five other students received short-term assignments of up to 10 days.

The hazing by juniors and seniors took place in a field away from school grounds on Aug. 14, the first day of classes, district officials said.

"This particular school has a history of ritual hazing," said Charlene Robertson, the spokeswoman for the 53,000-student Arlington district. "But those [earlier] incidents were pranks that didn't hurt anybody."

Eat Now, Pay Later

A West Virginia district will eliminate cash transactions in its school cafeterias this year and instead will bill parents monthly for their children's meals.

Cafeteria computers in the 34,000-student Kanawha County district will keep track of the meals.

"By centralizing the billing, we're removing a tremendous bookkeeping load from school cafeteria and administrative staff," said Gary Hendricks, the district's director of child-nutrition finance. And "there will be no stigmatization for kids receiving a free or reduced[-price] lunch."

A growing number of schools nationwide are opting out of cash exchanges in cafeterias, according to the Alexandria, Va.-based American School Food Service Association.

Student Awarded $140,000

A Florida jury has awarded $140,000 to a former high school student whose knee was injured while playing tackle football during a physical education class.

The circuit court jury agreed with Keith Walsh, a 1995 graduate of Lake Brantley High School, who had sued the Seminole County district for negligence.

According to testimony during the trial, the January 1994 football game shifted from touch to tackle while the teacher was distracted.

Honig's Conviction Upheld

A state appeals court in Sacramento has unanimously upheld the conflict-of-interest conviction of former California state schools Superintendent Bill Honig.

But the three-judge panel last month voted 2-1 to turn down an order that Mr. Honig repay the state the nearly $275,000 in state funds he had directed to a nonprofit parental-involvement program run by his wife. The restitution order will return to the Sacramento Superior Court, where Mr. Honig was convicted in 1993, for a new hearing.

As a result of his felony conviction, Mr. Honig had to surrender his post as superintendent and was sentenced to 1,000 hours of community service, put on probation for four years, and ordered to repay the state funds.

Ohio Testing Challenge Nixed

A federal appeals court in Ohio has upheld an earlier ruling in favor of a state law that requires all nonpublic schools to administer state proficiency tests.

The Ohio Association of Independent Schools had challenged the law, arguing that the tests hampered the ability of private schools to teach their own curricula and that administering the tests forced schools to take time out from teaching. A federal judge in Cincinnati ruled in February that the state's responsibility to ensure that children are educated outweighed that burden. (Please see "Judge Upholds Ohio Test for Private Students," February 7, 1996.)

Under the law, which took effect in the 1995-96 school year, Ohio private schools must give the same five-part 9th-grade proficiency test that public school students must pass before earning a diploma.

Kiryas Joel Law Struck Down

A school district that New York state lawmakers created for Hasidic Jewish children with disabilities has once again been ruled unconstitutional.

In a 4-1 decision handed down last week, a state appeals court said the legislation allowing the village of Kiryas Joel to set up its own school district violated the U.S. Constitution's prohibition on a government establishment of religion.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1994 struck down a 1989 law that created the district about 50 miles northwest of New York City. Shortly after, the legislature and then-Gov. Mario M. Cuomo adopted new legislation, which a state judge upheld in March 1995. (Please see "Judge Upholds N.Y. Law Preserving School District for Orthodox Jews," March 15, 1995.)

Ruling Favors Mo. Teacher

A federal judge has ordered a Missouri school district to reinstate a veteran high school English teacher who was fired for allegedly violating the student discipline code.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry last month directed the Ferguson-Florissant district in suburban St. Louis to reinstate Cissy Lacks, pay her back salary and legal fees, and expunge her personnel files of all references to the incident.

Ms. Lacks was suspended from Berkeley High School in January 1995--and subsequently fired--after school officials learned that she allowed students to use profanity in creative-writing assignments. (Please see "Expletives Deleted," June 21, 1995.)

District officials said they intend to appeal the ruling, and a trial on broader issues in Ms. Lacks' lawsuit against the district is set to begin in November.

Single-Sex School on Track

New York City was scheduled this week to open its first new single-sex public school in a decade, despite opposition from civil rights groups.

The Young Women's Leadership School will serve 50 7th-grade girls in the city's East Harlem area. It is intended to create an environment where girls from disadvantaged backgrounds can excel in math and science.

But the school has run afoul of civil rights organizations. The day after the school board's Aug. 23 vote to proceed with plans to open the school, several groups filed a grievance with the U.S. Department of Education's civil rights office.

The complaint says the school's admissions policy violates the 1972 federal law that bars sex discrimination in schools that receive federal funds.

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