News in Brief: A National Roundup
Appeals Court Orders Aid For Lutheran School Pupil
A federal appeals court last week ordered a Michigan district to provide therapy on campus to a disabled student who attends a Lutheran school.
Providing physical and occupational therapy to Elizabeth Peck at her school, Our Savior Lutheran School in Lansing, would not excessively entangle government and religion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, based in Cincinnati, ruled June 29. The 12-year-old suffers from a genetic disorder that causes brittle bones.
The three-judge panel upheld a lower-court ruling that the Lansing district's therapists could provide services in such a setting without violating federal law.
Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, districts are required to provide special education and related services to disabled students who attend private or parochial schools. The 1997 Agostini v. Felton ruling lifted a ban that prevented public school personnel from entering religious schools to teach remedial classes. ("Divided Court Rejects Title I Services Ban," July 9, 1997.)
No Drug Tests for Band
Trinidad High School in south-central Colorado can no longer require its marching band to take mandatory drug tests, following last week's state supreme court ruling that found the policy unconstitutional.
The policy was challenged by former Trinidad student Carlos Lopez after he was suspended from the 480-student school's band for refusing to submit to a urinalysis during the 1996-97 school year.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld drug testing of student athletes in Oregon in 1995, noting that athletes volunteer to give up some privacy and, in the case that was litigated, were part of the school's drug problem. But, by a 4-2 vote, the Colorado Supreme Court held that Trinidad High's policy, which covered all extracurricular activities, violated the privacy of band members, who could expect more privacy than athletes.
The majority said that "the policy swept within its reach" students in for-credit classes--because music students must join the marching band--and a group that had not been shown to contribute to the district's drug problem.
Jury Says District Discriminated
The Pinellas County, Fla., school board violated a woman's rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act when it expelled her son after she missed three mandatory PTA meetings, a federal jury has decided.
The U.S. District Court jury in Tampa awarded $53,500 to Reba Alexander last month. Ms. Alexander, who suffers from kidney disease, was unable to attend the meetings because of medical complications. Her son, Gabriel, was expelled from Pasadena Fundamental School in March 1996. ("Lawsuit Contests Required PTA Attendance," Feb. 26, 1997.)
Ms. Alexander sued the school board, claiming that it did not provide accommodations for her. The board disagreed, noting that she could have sent a representative to the meetings in her place, but that she had failed to do so, said John Bowen, the board's lawyer.
The board has asked the judge to throw out the verdict.
'Slave Ship' Case Settled
An Oklahoma district will pay $2,000 to settle a claim by four special education students who alleged that a teacher put them in a shower stall smeared with feces as part of a history lesson on slave ships.
The students claimed that in 1996 the special education teacher at the 100-student Howe High School inflicted emotional distress upon them and deprived them of their rights by falsely imprisoning them. They had sought more than $300,000 each, plus punitive damages.
A lawyer for the 300-student district said the settlement would spare the district sizeable legal expenses.
Diploma Handout Probed
A school watchdog agency in New York City has accused the former head of a nontraditional high school in the borough of Brooklyn with such offenses as improperly changing failing grades and graduating students without enough credits.
Edward F. Stancik, the special investigator for the city's public schools, charged that two-thirds of the diplomas issued during Marcia Brevot's one-year tenure were either invalid or questionable.
He also questioned the academic integrity of some of the courses at the Senior Academy, an alternative school in the former Eastern District High School.
A lawyer for Ms. Brevot, who headed the academy in 1996-97, said she had done nothing improper. Ms. Brevot no longer works for the school system and no charges have been brought against her.
The school system has already rescinded the diplomas of 61 students and is reviewing dozens more, said an investigator in Mr. Stancik's office.
New Hartford Official Out
Just weeks after being hired to straighten out the Hartford, Conn., district's finances, Ana-Maria Garcia has resigned. Her resignation came after a newspaper reported that she owed back taxes and had used an employee's address since 1990 so that her daughter wouldn't have to go to the city's schools.
The state-appointed Hartford board of trustees chose her as the district's chief administrative officer in May after Superintendent Patricia Daniel resigned.
Interim Superintendent Benjamin Dixon last month suspended Ms. Garcia with pay following the allegations in the Hartford Courant. She resigned the following week.
Despite her short tenure, board Chairman Robert Furek said last week that Ms. Garcia finally gave officials an accurate picture of the 25,500-student district's finances and outlined a plan for dealing with its $1.8 million deficit.
Tribunals' Authority Affirmed
Special tribunals appointed by the Kentucky education department have authority in teacher disciplinary cases over district superintendents and school boards, a state appeals court has ruled.
The June 19 decision by the appeals court came in the case of Pamela Mann, a Gallatin County special education teacher who was fired in 1995 for falsifying her time sheets. The teacher argued that school officials had given her permission to arrive at school late to deal with health problems.
The superintendent sought to fire Ms. Mann, but a tribunal changed the punishment to a three-year suspension.
The appeals court ruled that the tribunals have the authority to affirm, reject, or modify an employment sanction imposed by a superintendent.
Chief Pays for Politicking
The superintendent of a suburban Atlanta district will pay $2,222 in civil penalties for asking school administrators to drum up votes for a 1 percent tax hike that would have paid for construction of schools and athletic facilities.
Dave L. Brotherton, the superintendent of the 18,400-student Fayette County schools, agreed last month that his actions violated Georgia's ethics law.
He admitted calling a meeting of principals during the school day to urge them to use parent-teacher groups to find 4,400 voters to pledge their votes. Mr. Brotherton could not be reached for comment.
Thomas L. Lee, who was superintendent of schools in Tucson, Ariz., from 1968 to 1977, died June 21 of complications from pneumonia. He was 86.
Mr. Lee is credited with launching alternative high schools, dropout-reduction efforts, and gifted education.
But desegregation issues dominated his tenure. Just days after Mr. Lee took over, federal investigators began examining possible district violations of civil rights laws. That led to lawsuits from black and Hispanic families, who maintained that their children were receiving an inferior education in a segregated system. Mr. Lee and the school board, opposed to forced busing, argued that housing patterns were to blame for racial imbalance. In 1978, a federal judge ordered the district to desegregate.
Edward D. "Ted" Eddy, the former University of Rhode Island president who spent the past six years advocating improvements in the Providence public schools, died June 28 of prostate cancer. He was 77.
Mr. Eddy held leadership positions at several higher education institutions before moving to the top post at URI, where he served from 1983 to 1991. After retiring, he devoted considerable energy to local K-12 reform efforts.
From 1992 until his death, he was the chairman of the Providence Blueprint for Education Reform. The group's work continues to influence improvement efforts in the city's 23,000-student system.
Vol. 17, Issue 42, Page 4