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Published in Print: May 30, 2001, as News in Brief: A National Roundup

News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Chicago School Board President Resigns

Gery J. Chico resigned last week as the president of the Chicago board of education after six years helping to steer the nation's third-largest district.

Mr. Chico said at a news conference that he wanted to spend more time with his family and working at his law firm.

Tension had been brewing between Mr. Chico, a former chief of staff to Mayor Richard M. Daley, and the district's chief executive officer, Paul Vallas, over budget cuts and other matters. All three men denied that those tensions led directly to the president's resignation.

Mr. Chico helped lead the 431,000-student district through waves of change, including increased accountability measures for students and staff members.

The mayor told reporters in Chicago last week that he would appoint a new board president quickly, and might look beyond current board members to make his selection.

—Alan Richard

ETS Probes Leak Report

The Educational Testing Service is investigating whether an essay question from its Advanced Placement history exam was posted on the Internet before the exam was to be given.

The Princeton, N.J.-based test developer launched its inquiry after students from a District of Columbia private school told their teachers that they had seen the essay question on the eve of taking the history exam this month. The exam was given as scheduled to the students in the school and throughout the country.

The testing service is trying to find evidence to document the claims and to determine how many students may have benefited from the leaked question, said Thomas Ewing, an ETS spokesman.

"It continues to look like it's a small breach" of ETS security rules, he said.

The question that allegedly was posted accounted for about one-quarter of test-takers' score on the AP exam, which students take to earn college credit or placement out of introductory college courses.

—David J. Hoff

Fla. District Signs Teachers Early

With district recruiters trying ever harder to beat the competition by roping in new teachers as early as possible, one Florida system has taken the strategy to a new level.

The Palm Beach County public schools last week signed contracts with 39 graduating high school students, each of whom was promised a teaching job with the district upon finishing college. All were students at the "Teacher Academy" at Palm Beach Lakes Community High School. The four-year program gives students college- level courses on teaching, as well as the chance to get hands-on experience.

Each job offer is contingent on maintaining a student's 2.5 grade point average in college, passing a background check, and completing work toward a state teaching license. The students are not obligated to accept the offers once they graduate. But officials in the 152,000-student system believe the guarantee of a position is incentive enough not just to bring them back to Palm Beach County, but also to keep them on track toward becoming teachers.

—Jeff Archer

Portland Schools Chief Resigns

The superintendent in Portland, Ore., has resigned, only a week after declaring he "absolutely" planned to keep his job.

Benjamin O. Canada, who has run the 54,000-student district since August 1998, announced his resignation May 18 after meeting with the school board. Mr. Canada, who is the outgoing president of the American Association of School Administrators, was quoted in the May 12 edition of The Oregonian newspaper as saying he hoped to serve five more years in his post.

Debbie Goldberg Menashe, the board president, denied that Mr. Canada was forced to resign, but she would not elaborate.

Mr. Canada, who will step down June 30, had been criticized for failing to close the achievement gap between minority and white students, according to the newspaper. He was also chided for paying a personnel consultant $300,000 over almost two years, said district spokesman Lew R. Frederick.

Before arriving in Portland, Mr. Canada was the superintendent of the Atlanta public schools.

—Mark Stricherz

Ritalin Class Action Dismissed

A federal judge in Texas has dismissed a class action that accused the company that makes Ritalin and the American Psychiatric Association with conspiring to promote the diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The plaintiffs, three parents whose children were given prescriptions of Ritalin for the disorder, claimed the drug maker Novartis Pharmaceutical Corp. colluded with the APA "to create, develop, promote, and confirm the diagnoses of attention deficit disorder and [ADHD] in a highly successful effort to increase the market for its product Ritalin."

The suit, filed last year, also named the Landover, Md., advocacy group Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

In a May 17 decision, however, U.S. District Judge Hilda G. Tagla said that the plaintiffs had failed to document their claims and that their allegations were without merit. Her decision came less than two months after the dismissal of a similar complaint filed in federal district court in California. ("Suits Claim Drug Maker, APA Plotted To Boost Ritalin," Sept. 20, 2000.)

—Darcia Harris Bowman

Judge OKs 'Straight' Sweatshirt

A federal judge in Minnesota has ruled that a student's First Amendment rights were violated when his principal ordered him not to wear a sweatshirt with "Straight Pride" written on it.

U.S. District Judge Donovan W. Frank granted an injunction on May 17 allowing Elliott Chambers to wear the shirt to Woodbury High School again, but only if it did not create a significant disruption of the school's activities.

When he wore the shirt to the 1,650-student school in Woodbury, Minn., in January, some students complained that it was offensive, prompting Principal Dana Babbitt to prohibit him from wearing it. ("Sweatshirt Prompts Lawsuit," April 18, 2001.)

Mr. Chambers sued the school and the 15,300-student South Washington County School District 833, charging that his right to free expression was violated, and that the school discriminated against heterosexual students with "safe rooms" where students can talk about sexuality and other issues.

The judge wrote in his opinion that the school could not prove that the shirt was disruptive enough to warrant its prohibition, and, therefore, Mr. Chambers' First Amendment rights had been violated. But Judge Frank rejected the charge that the school promotes homosexuality, and found that it "has made a conscious and commendable effort at creating an environment of tolerance."

—Vanessa Dea

Student Arrested Over Knife

An honors student at a high school in Lee County, Fla., faced missing graduation after being arrested last week and charged with a felony following the discovery of a kitchen knife in her car.

Lindsay Brown, 18, a senior at Estero High School, was suspended from school for five days, which would bar her from participating in commencement exercises that were scheduled for May 29.

Ms. Brown had parked in the wrong lot at the school, drawing the attention of a resource officer from the Lee County sheriff's office. The officer searched the car and decided the knife violated both state law and district policy forbidding weapons at school.

In a statement, Superintendent Bruce Harter said the knife presented a "clear and present danger" to other students and defended the decision to suspend the girl under the district's zero-tolerance policy.

"High academic achievement does not shield a student from the consequences of his/her behavior," the superintendent said.

Ms. Brown argued that she didn't know the knife was in the car. She is scheduled to return to court June 22.

—Ann Bradley

Vol. 20, Issue 38, Page 4

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