News in Brief: A National Roundup
Minnesota Board Approves Student Standards, Tests
The Minnesota state board of education gave final approval last week to a new set of graduation standards known as the Profile of Learning.
The standards, at least five years in development, require students to compile a record in 24 of 48 standards that fall into 10 broad areas, including reading, viewing, and listening; writing and speaking; mathematics applications; and people and cultures.
Students will also have to take basic-skills tests in reading, math, and writing under the rule the board approved.
The standards will take effect for the graduating class of 2002. Districts can implement the new system immediately or phase it in over the next three years.
Fatalities Spur Policy Change
School officials in Overland Park, Kan., have revamped their transportation policy after three high school softball players were killed and two others were injured in a car crash en route to a game.
The 4,000-student Blue Valley district announced this month that, effective immediately, all students younger than 16 will be required to use district transportation when traveling to and from school-related activities. Kansas allows teenagers to obtain restricted driver's licenses at age 15.
The April 24 accident occurred when a car carrying five 15-year-old Blue Valley High School softball players swerved into oncoming traffic. One of the girls who died was the driver.
Blue Valley school officials said in a statement that the district most often used buses to get students to and from games and other off-campus events. But the event last month--scheduled to take place at a nearby recreation field--was considered a home game. The boys' baseball teams use the school's home fields in the spring.
Beating Settlement Reached
A Maine elementary school pupil who claimed his teacher encouraged fellow students to hit him with wooden rulers after he spoke out in class will receive a $50,000 annuity as part of a settlement.
The unidentified boy received only minor injuries in the 1995 incident at Grand Isle Elementary School, near Caribou. Last fall, however, his mother sued the town of Grand Isle, the teacher, and the 180-student district's former superintendent, charging emotional and psychological harm, according to Charles Gilbert, a Bangor lawyer who represents the boy. The student had purportedly been reprimanded for speaking out and been warned he would be hit by the other pupils if he continued the behavior.
The district claimed no wrongdoing in settling the case last month, according to its lawyer, Bruce Mallonne. The teacher, Carol Boynton, still works at the school. Ms. Boynton's lawyer could not be reached for comment.
Athletes Sue Over Taping
Female students and coaches who were unknowingly videotaped undressing in a visitors' locker room at Clinch County High School in Valdosta, Ga., have filed a $9 million lawsuit.
The suit, filed last month in U.S. District Court in Valdosta, names the Clinch County schools' media specialist, the former principal, the girls' basketball coach, the athletic director, and the former district superintendent.
The nine plaintiffs--all members or coaches of the Lanier County High School girls' basketball team or cheerleading squad--contend that the defendants violated federal and state privacy laws by conspiring to tape them without their knowledge in January 1996. The plaintiffs say they have suffered "great humiliation, embarrassment, and mental pain" as a result of the incident.
Henry Moreland, the current superintendent of the 1,500-student district, said that the cameras, which school officials had installed to catch locker room thieves, were removed in July 1996.
Penalty Cut Over Web Insults
Miami-Dade County school officials have rescinded nine days of a 10-day suspension given to a high school senior who profanely criticized both his high school and an assistant principal on his private Web site.
Administrators at the 2,600-student Hialeah-Miami Lakes High School suspended Kyle Stevens after the student delivered a printout of his remarks to an assistant principal's school mailbox.
With backing from Florida's chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Mr. Stevens successfully argued he should not have to serve out his full suspension this month. The student's request to finish the school year at the nearby American High School was also approved.
Pa. Teachers Walk Out
A walkout by teachers in the Ambridge, Pa., schools last week canceled classes for all but the district's seniors.
The 234 members of the Ambridge Area Education Association did not report to work May 12 after contract negotiations with the district broke down. The teachers in the 3,400-student system, 35 miles north of Pittsburgh, have been without a new contract since last July. Current negotiations began more than a year ago, district officials said, but have stalled over the issue of compensation.
Although school was closed for everyone else, 12th graders at the system's lone high school attended classes taught by administrators from throughout the district. District administrators said they didn't want the strike to put the seniors' graduation day in jeopardy.
Contract negotiations are slated to resume this week.
English Essays Cause Stir
Parents of a 14-year-old boy suspended for English class essays that school officials considered "terroristic threats" have sued a California district, seeking to erase the suspension from his record.
The boy from Cunha Intermediate School in Half Moon Bay, Calif., wrote essays in March and April that administrators found troubling. In one, a student fed up with school rules incites a riot that results in an assault on the principal.
In "Goin' Postal," a student shoots a police officer, the vice principal, and the principal.
Neither the boy nor his parents have been identified publicly. But the boy told the San Francisco Examiner that the essays were class assignments for which he thought he would earn A's.
Officials of the 3,900-student Cabrillo district noted that "Goin' Postal'' was submitted just a week after the shootings in Jonesboro, Ark., that left four students and one teacher dead.
They suspended the boy for five days based on a state law that took effect this year, authorizing the suspension or expulsion of any student for making verbal or written threats that could result in a school official's death or injury.
The parents' lawsuit, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, contends the essays don't meet the law's definition of a specific threat against an official.
Student Arrested in Clip Flap
A high school student in Richmond, Ill., was arrested last week and expelled from school for the remainder of the year after using a rubber band to fling a paper clip that struck a cafeteria worker.
Calling the incident of "a grave nature," officials of the 450-student Richmond-Burton High School said that Clint Jackson, 17, "modified a paper clip into a sharp projectile, which lodged in the chest of the cafeteria manager ... which caused bodily harm."
"Everybody makes light of it, but it's a serious offense," said Chuck Weidner, the Richmond police chief.
He said the youth was charged with battery and placed in the county jail for seven hours before being released to his father.
Classified as an adult because of his age, the high school junior could be sentenced to up to one year in jail or pay a $1,000 fine if found guilty of misdemeanor battery. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for late last week.
Mr. Jackson could not be reached for comment last week.
Dave Selden, the president of the American Federation of Teachers from 1968 to 1974, died May 8 of heart failure. He was 83.
As the federation's top officer during a time of increasing teacher militancy, Mr. Selden emphasized union organizing. He was jailed in 1968 during a teachers' strike in Newark, N.J.
Mr. Selden taught history in Dearborn, Mich., and served as the the president of the Dearborn Federation of Teachers. In the mid-1950s, he organized teachers in New York City. Along with the late Albert Shanker, Mr. Selden built the former Teachers Guild into the United Federation of Teachers.
Mr. Shanker successfully challenged Mr. Selden for the presidency of the national union in 1974.
Vol. 17, Issue 36, Page 4