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News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Student Claims Race-Based Science Programs Illegal

A white high school student has sued the federal government and Texas A&M University, claiming that she was excluded because of her race from a summer science program aimed at minority students.

The student, identified in court papers as a 16-year-old student at Roy Miller High School in Corpus Christi, Texas, filed the federal suit Feb. 14 against a handful of federal agencies that sponsor a student-apprentice program for minority high school students interested in science.

Texas A&M and the National Science Foundation last year settled a separate lawsuit that the same student had filed claiming discrimination in another science program. ("Districts Cannot Be Held Liable for Student," May 8, 1996.)

Jim Ashlock, a spokesman for Texas A&M, said officials there had not been served and would not comment.

Detroit Seeks Audit Help

Trying to climb out of the red, the Detroit school district has asked a group of business leaders to audit its books.

The school board and New Detroit, a nonprofit organization that helped the local schools win a $20 million grant from the Annenberg Foundation, have enlisted 19 people, including a General Motors Corp. executive.

William J. Beckham, the president of New Detroit, said that the 175,000-student district faces a $25 million deficit.

The announcement of the audit last week came as a vendor for the district, Educational Management Group of Scottsdale, Ariz., acknowledged that it had heard from the FBI about an investigation into the public schools.

An FBI spokesman declined comment.

Crew To Remove Board

Chancellor Rudy F. Crew of the New York City schools announced last week that he will remove the board of Community School District 5 in Harlem. He cited what he sees as the panel's inability to bring about "desperately needed reforms."

The elected board will cede its authority next week to a new board of trustees that Mr. Crew appoints. The new board will serve until a regularly scheduled election in two years.

The U.S. Department of Justice still must review Mr. Crew's decision to ensure protection of the predominantly black electorate's voting rights.

During his 16-month tenure, Mr. Crew has removed three other community school boards.

N.Y.C. Truants Ignored

The New York City school system could have prevented the death of a 4-year-old girl by keeping track of her siblings' chronic absences, according to a scathing report by the district's special commissioner of investigation.

The report, which was issued last month, said that school employees throughout the district routinely violate attendance policies.

In the case of Nadine Lockwood, the report says that employees of Community School District 6 neglected to tell child-welfare officials that her two brothers and two sisters were constantly truant. Nadine's mother was charged in September with starving the girl to death.

Special Commissioner Edward F. Stancik has recommended firing two District 6 employees and disciplining six others.

In an unrelated action, Mr. Stancik last week alleged that Carolyn Archer, the vice chairwoman of Community School District 16 in the borough of Brooklyn committed fraud during her 1996 re-election bid. He is seeking her dismissal.

Neither District 6 officials nor Ms. Archer could be reached last week.

SAT Prep Course Ordered

The schools superintendent in Agawam, Mass., has ordered all high school students who received a combined score of less than 1,000 on the SAT or the Preliminary SAT to take a seven-week, after-school test-preparation course.

Frank A. Ameruoso, the superintendent of the 4,500-student district, said that students who receive poor scores on the preliminary test will not be permitted to take the SAT I: Reasoning Test through the school without either taking the course or signing a letter that releases the school from being held accountable for their performance.

He rationalized that the free, but mandatory, preparation program was necessary because the public often gauges the success or failure of the school system on SAT scores.

Secret Marriage Hounds Chief

The superintendent of the Chattanooga, Tenn., city schools may be facing breach-of-contract charges because of his secret marriage to a district administrator.

School board members maintain that Superintendent Harry Reynolds violated the district's nepotism and conflict-of-interest policies when he married administrator Elizabeth Gaines. The policy bars employees from reporting to or being evaluated by family members.

Ms. Gaines' recent move to director of teaching and learning and student services required that she report directly to the superintendent.

The couple's marriage came to light after documents were anonymously mailed to school board members. The administrators could not be reached for comment.

Head Start Agency Cited

The agency that runs Head Start in Denver overcharged the early-childhood-education program $786,000 from November 1994 to June 1996, auditors for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a report issued last week.

The Child Opportunity Program Inc., which has run Head Start programs in the city for more than 30 years, incorrectly charged its federal accounts for bus purchases, salaries, rent, and a severance package for a former executive director. It also had $333,470 in "undocumented costs," according to the report by the department's inspector general. ("Parents Seek Ouster of Denver Head Start Official," April 3, 1996.)

The nonprofit agency has objected to the findings.

All-Academic School Approved

Students in Long Beach, Calif., who agree to a stricter conduct code and dress rules, and who meet certain academic requirements can attend the district's first all-academic high school beginning next fall. The school board approved the new concept for the school, to be modeled somewhat after Massachusetts' Boston Latin School, last month.

Students with average and above-average grades accepted at Wilson High School will be required to wear uniforms and take four years of each core subject and a foreign language.

Student Dies After Fistfight

A high school junior in Concord, N.H., has died after receiving a blow to the throat during a fight with another student outside the school during the lunch period.

Shaun Martin, 17, a student at Concord High School, died Feb. 22 of a wound to a major artery in his neck. Just moments before his death, an unidentified 16-year-old sophomore at the school was arraigned on juvenile assault charges stemming from the fight a day earlier, school officials said.

The death was ruled a homicide, and authorities are seeking to prosecute the assailant as an adult.

Youth Dies of Stab Wounds

An alleged dispute over a cigarette lighter has resulted in the death of a high school senior in Webbers Falls, Okla.

Muskogee County police said that Joey Youngblood, 18, was stabbed twice last month in the athletic building at Webbers Falls High School in front of classmates. He died later that day.

The 15-year-old suspect, who was a newcomer to the school, has been charged with first-degree murder as an adult, police said. The attack reportedly stemmed from a game of "keep away" in which classmates amused themselves with the suspect's lighter.

Teen Shoots Self on Field

A 17-year-old Jacksonville, Fla., teenager who shot herself after a poor softball tryout died of her self-inflicted injuries last week.

Melissa Chambliss, a senior at First Coast High School, shot herself in front of two dozen teammates on the school's softball field Feb. 20 during an argument with her coach.

The honor student had been in critical condition on life-support equipment.

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