Published Online: February 26, 1997

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Don't expect many members of Elizabeth Hollister's 4th grade class to become Mousketeers.

Several of her students earlier this year picked up placards and headed to a Disney store in the New York City borough of Manhattan to protest the company's alleged dealings with a Burmese factory that uses child labor. The activism sprouted from a current-events discussion at the Berkeley Carroll School, an independent pre-K-12 school in nearby Brooklyn.

"I think what really motivated the kids is that they wear a lot of these clothes, and they would feel bad continuing to wear them knowing they were doing something to harm other kids," said Joan Martin, the school's spokeswoman.

Students drafted a school newsletter on the issue, including illustrations of Mickey Mouse chastising a group of young laborers for not working hard enough.

In letters, the students urged the CEOs of Guess? Inc., Nike Inc., Reebok International Ltd., and the Walt Disney Co. to avoid using factories that employed children. Each company wrote back, most saying they had policies against using such labor.

A corporate-communications official at Disney told the students, "All companies that make our products must sign a contract which says that they do not and will not use child labor."

Of her students, Ms. Hollister said. "They're coming out of this curriculum feeling like they can do something and make a difference."

It's always nice when a former student expresses his thanks to his alma mater.

It's especially nice when that former student is a multibillionaire.

Seattle's Lakeside School recently found itself in such an enviable position when computer software magnate William H. Gates joined several other prominent graduates in making the school an impressive offer.

If the school can raise $15 million, the group will contribute an additional $30 million. Along with Mr. Gates, a 1971 graduate, the two-for-one challenge is backed by Paul Allen, the co-founder of Mr. Gates' Microsoft Corp., and four members of the McCaw family, which owns a cellular-telephone company.

Since announcing the challenge last month, the school has raised nearly $10 million toward its goal. The grades 5-12 independent school, which has an annual operating budget of about $11.5 million, will use the contributions to replace an aging middle school building, increase tuition assistance, and make repairs to existing campus buildings, among other improvements.

--JEFF ARCHER jarcher@epe.org

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