News in Brief: A National Roundup
Group Names Sites Selected For $140 Million in Vouchers
Details of a nationwide, privately financed tuition-assistance program for schoolchildren were announced last week.
Programs in 36 cities, as well as statewide programs in Arkansas and Michigan, will offer private school vouchers from the Children's Scholarship Fund, a philanthropic effort unveiled in June by investor Theodore J. Forstmann and businessman John Walton. ("Millionaires To Back National Voucher Project," June 10, 1998.) Mr. Forstmann and Mr. Walton matched $70 million raised locally with their own funds, for a total of $140 million for the assistance program. The two have pledged to donate up to $100 million to the effort.
Some 35,000 low-income students in grades K-12 will be awarded annual scholarships ranging from about $600 to $1,600 for at least four years. A lottery in April will determine which families can begin receiving assistance next September.
The participating cities are: Atlanta; Baltimore; Baton Rouge, La.; Birmingham, Ala.; Boston; Buffalo, N.Y.; Charlotte, N.C.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Chicago; Cincinnati; Dallas; Dayton, Ohio; Forth Worth, Texas; Indianapolis; Jackson, Miss.; Jersey City and Elizabeth, N.J.; Kansas City, Kan.; Kansas City, Mo.; Los Angeles; Memphis, Tenn.; Miami; Minneapolis; New Orleans; New York; Newark, N.J.; Omaha, Neb.; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Pittsburgh; Portland, Ore.; St. Louis; San Francisco; Savannah, Ga.; Seattle; Tampa Bay, Fla.; Toledo, Ohio; and Washington.
Court Reverses Search Ruling
A federal appeals panel has decided that the Norfolk, Va., district acted appropriately when it suspended a student who refused to have his backpack searched.
In May of last year, James A. DesRoches II, then a freshman at Granby High School, refused to let school officials check his backpack for a pair of missing shoes. As a consequence, he was suspended for 10 days. The American Civil Liberties Union represented the student in a lawsuit against the Norfolk school board, the district's superintendent, and the principal of Granby High School.
Ruling Sept. 23, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond reversed a decision by a federal district judge that the 37,000-student district had conducted an unreasonable search. The appellate panel held instead that the district didn't need "individualized suspicion" to conduct a search, as the lower court had ruled.
Reacting to the ruling, George Raiss, a spokesman for the Norfolk district, said that such searches are just another way to make schools safer.
--MARY ANN ZEHR
Funding Error Hits Wyo. Districts
Districts in Wyoming are looking to the legislature for relief after they were shortchanged by an error in the state's new funding formula.
Members of the legislature's select committee on school finance and its joint education committee were told Sept. 23 that maintenance figures were inadvertently omitted from the formula used to determine block grant funding for schools.
The miscalculation, which wasn't picked up until after legislators adjourned in March, will end up costing districts $1.7 million for the 1998-99 school year.
Officials with the legislative service office said the problem could be corrected in the 1999 general session, which begins in January. The office has been asked to draft language to not only fix the problem for the 1999-2000 school year, but also to ensure that the error for the current school year is addressed.
--ADRIENNE D. COLES
$1.9 Million for San Diego Program
The board of supervisors in San Diego County, Calif., has voted to expand its after-school program for middle school students and to add a program for "latchkey" elementary pupils.
The board decided Sept. 22 to spend $1.9 million to add 11 new "Critical Hours" programs. Throughout the county, 27 such programs are currently operating at more than 50 sites, such as schools and recreation centers. The program has served close to 14,000 children since it began last year.
Critical Hours will now serve children at about half of the county's 75 middle schools. It offers educational and enrichment activities, such as art and music.
Five elementary school programs will be funded by the initiative. The program will serve as the model for new, state-financed after-school programs for elementary and middle school students.
Two States Offer Safety Plans
Following U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley's recent calls for states to devise plans to prevent school violence, at least two states have announced such initiatives.
A Louisiana task force last week recommended that each school draft a "zero tolerance" policy on violent behavior, draw up a security plan, and provide student and staff training and awareness programs.
In Maryland, Democratic Gov. Parris N. Glendening announced Sept. 25 that the state has set up a new hot line for school gun safety that will allow students and others to report gun crimes anonymously. He is also urging private businesses to help pay for programs that prevent student crime and other youth problems.
Mr. Riley appeared with Gov. Glendening, who is campaigning for re-election, at a Sept. 25 rally to promote safe schools.
--JOETTA L. SACK
Group Aims To End Commercialism
Consumer advocate Ralph Nader's latest project aims to counteract advertisers' influence over children, and it will be keeping an eye on schools.
Mr. Nader recently announced the formation of a Washington-based nonprofit organization called Commercial Alert. The group will monitor the impact of commercials on children and campaign against relationships between schools and businesses.
The nonprofit group will lobby against districts that sign deals with soft-drink companies to sell a particular brand on their campuses and against Channel One, a daily televised news program for schools that airs commercials.
--DAVID J. HOFF
TV-Related Fight Prompts Suit
A student who claims the airing of "The Jerry Springer Show" at his high school got him into a fight that left him injured is suing school officials in Stratford, Conn.
Joseph Calore's Sept. 22 suit says the often-raucous television talk show, shown by a teacher during his class's midterm exam last January, sparked a disagreement between him and another student at Stratford High School. That led to a fight that left Mr. Calore with a broken jaw, headaches, severe shock to his nervous system, and bruises, according to the suit filed in superior court in Bridgeport.
The 16-year-old is now seeking at least $15,000 in damages for his injuries.
The school board, superintendent, principal, and teacher have all been named in the suit.
A lawyer for the 7,000-student district said the school is not responsible for the student's injuries.
--KAREN L. ABERCROMBIE
Teacher Faces Alcohol Charges
A North Carolina elementary school teacher could spend up to two years in jail if convicted of providing alcohol to several high school students--including one who was so intoxicated he was sent to a local hospital.
Amos Faulk, 51, a special education teacher at Monticello Elementary School in Statesville, N.C., resigned Sept. 23, the day he was charged with three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor for allowing a minor to possess alcohol; three counts of providing alcohol to an underage person; and two counts of aiding and abetting an underage person to distribute alcohol.
The charges stem from a Sept. 8 incident in which six 15-year-old students from North Irdell High School, which is also in Statesville, showed up at a soccer game intoxicated, said a spokeswoman for the Irdell County sheriff's office.
The incident did not involve any of Mr. Faulk's current or former students. He faces a hearing on Oct. 26.
--ADRIENNE D. COLES
Louis L. Redding, a famed civil rights lawyer whose work helped lead to the desegregation of the nation's public schools, died Sept. 28 at age 96.
Representing parents of black students from Claymont and Hockessin, Del., Mr. Redding won a significant victory in 1952 when the Delaware Court of Chancery ordered that the students be admitted to previously all-white schools. The state supreme court affirmed the decision.
The case was among those consolidated by the U.S. Supreme Court as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, which led to the 1954 ruling overturning school segregation. As part of the Brown proceedings, Mr. Redding was one of the lawyers who argued the Delaware case, Gebhart v. Belton, before the high court.
Mr. Redding, who grew up in Wilmington, Del., was a graduate of Harvard Law School and became Delaware's first black lawyer at age 28.
--JOETTA L. SACK
James E. Jones, the first black president of the Los Angeles school board, died Sept. 23. He was 82.
Mr. Jones, a civil rights activist and ordained minister, was elected to the school board in 1965. He remained as a member until 1969, and he served as the board's president from 1968 to 1969.
Mr. Jones supported year-round education to alleviate overcrowding and voluntary busing to integrate Los Angeles schools.
--ADRIENNE D. COLES
Vol. 18, Issue 6, Page 4