News in Brief: A National Roundup
San Antonio Voucher Offer Costs District 580 Students
Officials in a San Antonio district said last week they have lost nearly 600 students this fall to a new, privately financed voucher program.
The Children's Educational Opportunity Foundation of San Antonio announced last spring that it would provide as much as $5 million in tuition aid a year, for 10 years, to poor students in the city's 13,000-student Edgewood district. ("Group Offers $50 Million for Vouchers," April 29, 1998.)
The business-backed foundation's program is the first in the nation to pledge vouchers to all low-income students in a district and cover the total cost of tuition in most cases. Families can use the tuition aid at private and religious schools or at public schools in other districts.
Administrators in the mostly poor, Hispanic district had projected a loss of 300 to 350 students; their latest estimates put the tally at 580 students.
As a result of the drop, the district expects to lose $6 million in state aid next year from its $82 million annual budget. District leaders say they will respond by redoubling their community-outreach and marketing efforts.
Decrease in Student Sexual Activity
The proportion of high school students having sex has declined, meaning that fewer are at risk for HIV exposure, other sexually transmitted diseases, and pregnancy, a recent federal report says.
The percentage of students in grades 9-12 ever engaging in sexual intercourse dropped from 54.1 percent in 1991 to 48.4 percent last year, according to the report, "Trends in Sexual Risk Behaviors Among High School Students," released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC report also says that the percentages of high school students who reported last year that they had ever had sex ranged from 38 percent of 9th graders and 66.7 percent for high school seniors.
The findings also show a drop in the number of students with multiple partners and an increase in condom use.
The Youth Risk Behavior Survey has been conducted biennially since 1991 and measures the prevalence of health-risk behaviors among students in grades 9-12. The sample size in 1991 was 12,272; the sample size in 1997 was 16,262.
Texas Boosts Charter School Ranks
The number of charter schools is on its way up in the Lone Star State, where the Texas state school board has approved 85 new charters, more than doubling to 145 the number of public school charters granted there.
If all of the new sites open, only Arizona and California would have more of the publicly funded independent schools. Nationwide, 1,129 charter schools now serve 250,000 students, according to the Center for Education Reform, a Washington group that advocates school choice.
In Texas, 58 of the new charters were approved as regular school sites serving all students, while 27 sites will serve low-performing and at-risk students.
In the state's first report on the 19 charter schools operating in the 1997-98 school year, seven were rated low-performing based on statewide standardized-test scores, attendance, and dropout rates.
A spokeswoman for the state education agency said it was too early to make generalizations about charter school performance.
--ROBERT C. JOHNSTON
Hawaii Schools' Trustees Targeted
An Oct. 2 hearing is planned in a Hawaii state court on whether all five trustees of the Kamehameha Schools/Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate, one of the nation's wealthiest charities, should step down.
State Attorney General Margery S. Bronster has asked the court to remove the trustees and appoint a receiver to manage the estate, which runs Hawaii's second-largest private school. Her request came in specific response to a report from a special master who reviewed the estate's accounts. Ms. Bronster has also filed another petition requesting the trustees' removal, which will be heard on Oct. 23.
The trustees are accused of widespread financial mismanagement and failing to fulfill the educational mission of the estate. The school serves children of Hawaiian and part-Hawaiian descent in preschool through secondary school. ("Debate, Controversy Swirl Around Kamehameha Schools," Feb. 11, 1998.)
A spokesman for the estate said the trustees welcome the chance to address the allegations in court.
Students Riot Over Salaries
School administrators in Albuquerque, N.M., were asking last week how complaints about low teachers' salaries turned into a major civil disturbance.
What has been described as a riot began during the first class at Rio Grande High School on Sept. 17, when some 500 of the school's 2,100 students walked out of the building. About 300 of those students quickly returned.
Many of the rest ran through the nearby South Valley neighborhood, damaging homes and a convenience store as they went. About 40 police officers responded, arresting nine students and one teacher who was allegedly interfering with his son's arrest.
A group of students had planned a peaceful protest over a recent salary-increase offer to local teachers, "but it appeared that other students took advantage of the situation," said Liz Shipley, the community-relations director for the 86,000-student Albuquerque district.
District officials were investigating last week whether teachers encouraged the incident, but as yet had no evidence of complicity, Ms. Shipley said.
Miss. District Settles Charges
The DeSoto County district in Hernando, Miss., has agreed to publish and disseminate a nondiscrimination policy and stop requiring pregnant students to submit doctors' notes before continuing in school, under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights.
But in this month's agreement, the agency said it found insufficient evidence to support other complaints against the 16,000-student district, which made national news last year when a student complained about racial requirements for class officers. Those issues were settled last fall.
The new complaints, made in August 1997, alleged that the district referred disproportionate numbers of black students to its alternative center; encouraged black students to take the General Educational Development test rather than remain in school; and refused to re-enroll students because of their ages.
-- ANN BRADLEY
District Settles Janitors' Suit
Five female janitors who worked for the School City of East Chicago district in Indiana will receive back pay for not being permitted to put in the same number of hours as male janitors.
The women filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in July 1994, alleging that the district discriminated against them when it did not allow them to work eight-hour shifts as the male janitors did.
The case was referred to the U.S. Department of Justice, and an agreement was reached Sept. 15, according to a department statement.
The 6,200-student district agreed to create a $250,000 fund to pay some 50 women who are expected to be eligible for back pay, as well as lawyer's fees for the women who lodged the complaint.
George Manous, the director of human resources for the district, did not return phone calls seeking comment last week.
--MARY ANN ZEHR
Official Fined for Gun Display
A hearing officer for the Buffalo, N.Y., school district has been fined $500 for displaying a BB gun during two suspension hearings for students.
Richard Labin was charged this month with "conduct unbecoming an administrator" through the New York state education department. The charges stem from two incidents that occurred in October and December of last year when Mr. Labin exhibited the gun as a prop at two students' hearings.
He testified at a state education department personnel hearing that he has been successful in "scaring kids straight" by using graphic means to get students to understand that they are responsible for their actions. Mr. Labin added that no one ever told him that such tactics were wrong.
District officials said that a directive has since been sent out to hearing officers not to display weapons in disciplinary hearings. Mr. Labin has agreed to that rule and the 47,000-student district reinstated Mr. Labin last week based on the education department's ruling. He had faced up to a two-year unpaid suspension.
--KAREN L. ABERCROMBIE
Guilty Pleas in Grosse Pointe
Two of four Grosse Pointe, Mich., teenagers arrested in a statutory rape case pleaded guilty last week to misdemeanor charges related to alleged sexual encounters with three 14-year-old girls.
The case embroiled the local school system in a dispute over the confidentiality of notes that school staff members made in connection with the matter.
Because of a state law that bars districts from releasing records of private conversations between students and staff, the 8,500-student district was ultimately not required to turn over such notes. ("District Holding Some Notes in Assault Case," Aug. 5, 1998.)
Under a plea agreement, 18-year-old Daniel Granger, a former class president at Grosse Pointe North High School, will serve three to six months in jail for conspiracy to contribute to the delinquency of a minor, avoiding a possible 15-year sentence for felony sex-assault charges.
Co-defendant Robert Cooper, also 18, pleaded guilty last week to a lesser charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and will serve up to three months in a detention facility. The prosecutors' office has made similar plea offers to the two remaining co-defendants in the case.
The principal learned of the allegations while investigating how a lewd photograph of Mr. Granger wound up in the school yearbook.
--JESSICA L. SANDHAM
Eliza Briggs, a leader in the history-making fight to desegregate schools in South Carolina, died Sept. 15. She was 81.
Mrs. Briggs, of Summerton, S.C., and her husband, Harry Briggs, were the lead plaintiffs in the 1949 lawsuit that challenged the fairness of Clarendon County's segregated school system. The case was among those that were eventually decided as part of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the 1954 decision that declared segregation in public schooling unconstitutional.
The Briggses paid heavily for their role in the landmark court battle. Fired from their jobs and harassed in their hometown, the couple and their five children eventually moved to New York to find work, according to granddaughter Angela Smith. They returned to Summerton upon their retirement in the late 1970s.
Vol. 18, Issue 4, Page 4