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Arizona English-Only Law Ruled Unconstitutional



The Arizona Supreme Court last week ruled unconstitutional a 1988 state law requiring that government business be conducted in English.

The court said the so-called official-English law violated the U.S. Constitution, including chilling the First Amendment right to free speech. The law has been tied up in federal and state courts ever since Arizona voters narrowly approved the constitutional amendment through a ballot initiative.

Nationwide, 22 other states have such laws on the books, but Arizona's was widely thought to be the most restrictive. Some observers believed that the law, if allowed to take effect, would have hampered public schools' ability to educate language-minority students or communicate with their families.

It was unclear last week whether the governor or the private group that sponsored the law, Arizonans for Official English, would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Washington-based group U.S. English plans to begin work to make Arizona an official-English state, but with a law that would pass legal scrutiny, spokesman Eric Stone said.

Cleveland Workers Disciplined

More than two dozen Cleveland teachers, classroom aides, coaches, and administrators have been fired, suspended or put on leave from their jobs because the state found evidence of criminal backgrounds. Many also illegally concealed convictions on their state certification applications, according to state and district officials.

Among the group is a respected principal, East Technical High School's Terry Butler, who was convicted in 1981 of forgery. His suspension sparked a student protest April 24, and his case is also being championed by two state legislators, who say he should not lose his job.

The state investigation followed a probe by The Plain Dealer newspaper that turned up four teachers among dozens of other district employees with convictions. Officials of the 76,000-student district took disciplinary action against the educators, in most cases pending final rulings by the state.

According to the The Plain Dealer, all of the employees with teaching certification committed crimes for which their certification can be revoked, preventing them from teaching again in public and many private schools in Ohio. The crimes would also have prevented them from getting certification in the first place.

The state school board may begin proceedings as early as this month.

Substitutes To Get Jobless Pay

A Hawaii circuit court judge has ruled that substitute public school teachers may collect unemployment pay during summer vacation.

Circuit Judge Ricki May Amano ruled April 24 against the Hawaii Department of Education in four cases involving substitutes who have collected such pay.

In January, the education department inherited from the labor department the responsibility of paying unemployment benefits for teachers. For years, substitute teachers in Hawaii have succeeded in collecting unemployment pay during summer vacation.

The education department would like to end the practice and thus went to court over the matter, said Don Nugent, the state's assistant superintendent for personnel services. But the judge said substitute teachers may continue to collect payment as the law now stands.

Mr. Nugent said the department would consider seeking a change in the law.

Parents' Catholic School OK'd

A tiny private school founded by parents in rural Massachusetts has earned the right to call itself Catholic.

Bishop Thomas L. Dupre of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield announced last week he had recognized the 29-student Mariamante Academy as a Catholic school. Mariamante is unusual among Catholic schools in that it was founded and continues to be run entirely by the laity.

Frustrated that their area's Catholic elementary school went up only to the 6th grade, a group of parents in the town of Turners Falls opened Mariamante to just six students in the 7th grade in fall 1995. The school now includes grades 7-9, and will continue adding a grade each year until it includes grade 12.

According to church law, schools may be considered Catholic if they are supervised by an ecclesiastical authority or are recognized for their adherence to church doctrine. Even with the bishop's recognition, Mariamante will remain financially and legally independent of the diocese.

No Church School 'Tuitioning'

A Maine judge has ruled against five families who challenged the state's exclusion of religious schools from its "tuitioning" program, in which towns without public secondary schools pay for students to attend schools of their choice elsewhere.

Cynthia and Robert Bagley and four other families asked the town of Raymond to pay for their children to attend Cheverus High School, a Roman Catholic school in Portland. The town denied the request, citing the school's religious nature.

Last July, the families joined the Washington-based Institute for Justice, a libertarian public-interest law firm, and sued the state, claiming the prohibition against religious schools was discriminatory.

Last month, Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Nancy Mills ruled against the plaintiffs in Bagley v. Town of Raymond.

William Mellor, the president of the institute, said the decision would be appealed to the state supreme court.

Gay Students' School on Hold

The dream of a school for homosexual students in Bay Shore, N.Y., will remain just that, at least for now.

Employees of the Eastern Suffolk Board of Cooperative Education Services had planned to open shortly a one-room public high school for gay and lesbian students at facilities operated by Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth Inc. in Bay Shore. But the agency's superintendent and board president halted the plan late last month when they learned about it from a reporter.

The agency provides special education and other services to 52 districts with 152,000 students.

According to board President Bruce Brodsky, the employees had been told to put a plan together for such a program but believed they had received the go-ahead to start one.

The school would have sheltered students from harassment because of their sexual orientation, its supporters said. Instead of a separate program, Mr. Brodsky said, "maybe we have to do a better job teaching their fellow students tolerance."

Student Dies in Weight Class

A Grants Pass, Ore., high school senior who suffered from a heart condition, died from cardiac arrest during a weight-training class April 22, school officials said.

Geoff Carmichael, 18, who competed in track and football at the 1,300-student Grants Pass High School, stopped breathing while doing pull-ups shortly after class began around 9 a.m., Principal Rene T. Cardiff said last week. The student could not be revived by paramedics, he said.

Milestones

Owen Bradford Butler, one of the nation's most prominent corporate leaders on education issues, died of cancer on April 21. He was 74.

The former chairman of the Procter & Gamble Co. chaired subcommittees in the mid-1980s for the New York City-based Committee for Economic Development, a business group that produced policy statements on investing in programs for children.

He was also a member of the Carnegie Task Force on Meeting the Needs of Young Children, which issued the 1994 report "Starting Point: Meeting the Needs of Our Youngest Children." After moving to Denver in the 1990s, Mr. Butler co-chaired with Gov. Roy Romer Colorado's Bright Beginnings initiative to improve children's quality of life.

Mr. Butler urged business leaders, educators, and policymakers to look beyond traditional classroom boundaries and provide early and sustained intervention in the lives of children.

Yvonne A. Ewell, an 11-year member of the Dallas school board, died April 27. She was 71 and had been diagnosed earlier last month with pancreatic cancer.

Yvonne A. Ewell

Ms. Ewell began her career with the Dallas schools in 1954 as an elementary school teacher. She advanced to become a principal and an assistant superintendent, and when she became an associate superintendent in 1978, she was the first black person to hold such a high leadership position in the district.

A May 2 school board election was to have returned her to office for another three-year term; she was unopposed for her board seat. The board is to meet this week to decide how to fill the vacancy.

Flags in the 158,000-student school district were ordered to be flown at half-staff last week in Ms. Ewell's honor.

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