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News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Razor-Thin Bond Losses for 2 California Districts

The Los Angeles Unified School Districts $2.4 billion repair and construction bond has failed by a little more than one percentage point.

Proposition BB received 588,077 yes votes, or 65.51 percent of the total votes cast. But the Nov. 5 measure needed a two-thirds majority for passage. ("L.A. Bond Proposal Nixed; Cleveland Levy Boost Approved," Nov. 13, 1996.)

The bond would have been the largest ever for a single school district.

Now, district officials hope to capitalize on the momentum from Proposition BB by putting a new bond plan on the ballot in April. The school board is expected to approve the ballot measure this month.

In another close call, the Sacramento City Unified School District's $250 million repair bond, which also needed a two-thirds vote, lost by just 260 votes after absentee ballots were counted last week. It was the city's first school bond election in more than 20 years. The final vote count was 61,478 to 31,077.

No Classrooms, No Housing

Broward County has received the green light from the state to enact Florida's first "concurrency rule," which stipulates that classroom space be available before new housing is approved.

But late last week the Florida Association of Realtors was planning to appeal the rule's approval. "They have not made any provision to fund those additional schools when they need to be built," Gene Adams, a spokesman for the group, said.

County officials doubt that the measure, which was approved late last month, will stem overcrowding immediately. Plats for about 100,000 additional homes already have won approval there.

"Broward County is growing at a very rapid rate, and we get about 10,000 new students each year," said Abraham Fischler, who chairs the board of the 218,000-student district.

Court Rejects Swimmer's Bid

A federal judge has turned down a request for a preliminary injunction that would have allowed a learning-disabled swimmer from Illinois to compete in NCAA athletics this year.

Chad Ganden and his family had filed suit against the Overland Park, Kan.-based National Collegiate Athletic Association after it ruled that a lack of high school core courses made him academically ineligible to compete at Michigan State University. His lawyers charge that the swimmer was discriminated against because of his learning disability. ("NCAA Rules Violate ADA, Student Charges," Dec. 13, 1995.)

The ruling last month by a U.S. District Court judge came as a setback to the Gandens in the widely watched case. A spokeswoman for the Gandens said the family was reviewing its legal options.

Chicago Welcomes Homeless

Students in Chicago public schools will not be denied enrollment because they are homeless, live in shelters, or lack a permanent address, according to a new policy on homeless children that was part of a settlement ending a 1992 class action.

The Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago, which represented homeless children and their parents, filed the lawsuit in state court against the district and the Illinois state school board.

The district agreed late last month to coordinate with other state and local agencies to identify homeless children and enroll them in school. It also pledged not to deny or delay the enrollment or transfer of homeless students who cannot produce basic records. The policy applies to all district programs and services.

The legal foundation estimated that Chicago has 12,000 homeless students.

Brown Loses Title IX Case

In a closely watched decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit has upheld a lower court ruling that Brown University discriminated against women athletes in violation of Title IX, the 1972 federal statute that forbids sex discrimination at schools receiving federal money.

Under the ruling last month by the Boston-based three-judge panel, the Providence, R.I., institution must ensure that the numbers of male and female athletes are strictly proportional to the school's enrollment. Women make up 52 percent of Brown's enrollment, and 48 percent of the participants in its intercollegiate athletic programs.

Women filed the suit in 1992 after funds were cut for the women's volleyball and gymnastics teams. Then, women made up 38 percent of school athletes.

Brown officials contend the school has always complied with Title IX, said university spokesman Mark Nickel. The school is considering an appeal.

Staffing Cap Challenged

In light of complaints from a group of Hispanic educators, Albuquerque, N.M., school officials say they plan to revisit a district staffing policy that caps at 40 percent the proportion of minority teachers in a given school.

The Hispano Educators Association filed a complaint in August with the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights, which has not yet reviewed it.

The staffing plan dates to 1984 and was the district's attempt to spread minority teachers more evenly throughout the now-90,000-student district, said Judy Keller, the assistant superintendent for human resources. The policy also sets a floor of 20 percent minority teachers in a school. It does not affect hiring, Ms. Keller said.

At the time officials wrote the policy, minority teachers were clustered in certain areas of the district. But, Ms. Keller said, the district has never strictly enforced the policy. About one-third of the district's teachers are minorities.

Graduates Get Late Videos

Hundreds of students who graduated from at least six Las Vegas high schools last June are only now beginning to receive their graduation photos and class videos because the photographer went out of business and left town.

Ken Bedrosian, the principal of Cimarron-Memorial High School, said that the processing studio that had been holding the videos for the photographer had agreed to absorb shipping costs and began mailing videos to more than 500 graduates last month.

The studio is also working with the district to track down the missing photos.

Craig Ruiz, who had worked with the schools for about six years, "ran into financial and business trouble and apparently didn't handle it very well," Mr. Bedrosian said.

"We had no indication that he would not continue to provide the expert service he had in the past," he said.

Seattle High School Opens Aquaculture Center

Cleveland High School in Seattle has opened an aquaculture center, signaling the start of a learning and business venture designed to improve student retention through an integrated, hands-on curriculum.

The center, part of the school's new "fish and roses" program, will link learning with work skills. The unusual project will also work to strengthen the school's relationship with the mostly Asian- and African-American communities it serves, officials said.

"In addition to learning practical academic and management skills, students will learn about sales, purchasing, and marketing of their operation--and gain an increased awareness for environmental concerns," Principal Ted Howard said at the opening ceremony last month. The entire school curriculum will be designed around the project.

The project combines ancient Chinese agricultural methods with modern technology to demonstrate the creation of a self-sustaining ecosystem.

All of the school's 658 students will help raise Tilapia fish and locally sell the popular delicacy. Waste water from the tanks will be used to fertilize gardens of flowers and produce that will be planted on school grounds. The flower crop will also be sold, and the produce will be used to feed the fish.

The project is a partnership between the school and the Washington state chapter of Communities in Schools Inc., a national, nonprofit dropout-prevention program.The organization, which raised $700,000 to bankroll the project, also works with other Seattle secondary schools to design programs for at-risk youths. Eight percent of students enrolled at Cleveland High dropped out in 1996.

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