News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
Administration Brief Calls for Dismissal of Title IX Lawsuit
The Bush administration asked a federal district court last week to dismiss a lawsuit brought by wrestling coaches who contend a federal law barring sex discrimination unfairly curbs some men's intercollegiate sports.
The National Wrestling Coaches Association sued the Department of Education in January, saying guidelines for Title IX, the 1972 law forbidding such discrimination in education programs that receive federal funding, had forced colleges and universities to eliminate some men's sports programs to ensure equal opportunities for women.
In a brief filed in Washington last week, Department of Education officials said that the suit should be dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired. Furthermore, the brief argued, the schools that had eliminated programs were in a position to address the problem, not the federal agency.
In a separate statement, the department's general counsel, Brian W. Jones, said the Bush administration "strongly supports Title IX," countering rumors last week that officials were thinking of softening enforcement in that area.
—Michelle R. Davis
BIA School Privatization on Hold
Because of lack of interest from Congress and opposition from American Indian tribes, the Bureau of Indian Affairs has put on hold a proposal by the Bush administration to privatize BIA- run schools.
The president's budget request for fiscal 2003 included $11.9 million for privatizing the 64 schools now managed by the bureau, provided that tribes didn't want to run them. Tribes already manage 121 of the BIA's 185 schools. ("Indian Tribes Decry Plan to Privatize BIA-Run Schools," April 10, 2002.)
Bill A. Mahojah, the director of the office of Indian education programs for the BIA, said the agency decided not to hold a consultation with tribes on the issue this spring, a step that is required for the bureau to move the proposal forward.
The proposal is still not dead, however, Mr. Mahojah said.
—Mary Ann Zehr
Bill Seeks G-Rated Web Haven
Legislation is moving forward in Congress to create what proponents describe as a safe region of the Internet where children can play and learn.
With only two votes opposed and 406 in support, the House passed HB 3833 on May 21 to establish a "dot kids" area, restricted to Web sites that provide access only to material that is "suitable for minors and not harmful to minors." An identical bill is pending in the Senate.
Parents would be able to set up their home computers so that their children could visit only Web sites ending in ".kids.us."
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration would supervise the creation and operation of the new cul-de-sac of the Web and oversee establishment of standards for acceptable Web sites. The federal agency would be barred, though, from setting the standards itself.
Critics say the legislation is unworkable because children could find ways to visit other Web sites, and that the standards could cut them off from information about health and political opinions.
They also say provisions in the bills that bar "dot kids" Web sites from using two-way interactive features and Web links to other sites could hamper the development of Internet technologies.
Fla. Board's Appeal Declined
The U.S. Supreme Court declined last week to hear a Florida school board's appeal stemming from a lawsuit alleging that two district administrators faced retaliation for supporting an unsuccessful superintendent candidate.
Dawn F. Wilson and Kay S. Earhart were central- office administrators in the 29,000-student Clay County, Fla., district in 1996 when they supported re-election of the incumbent superintendent, who lost. The administrators allege the new superintendent, with the school board's support, adopted an administrative reorganization that eliminated their positions.
They sued in federal district court in Jacksonville, alleging that the job actions were retaliation in violation of their First Amendment right to free speech. The school board sought to dismiss the suit on the basis of legislative immunity.
Both the district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, rejected the board's arguments. The 11th Circuit court said last year that the 1998 Supreme Court ruling in Bogan v. Scott-Harris provided immunity to local legislators on an individual basis, but not to a local body such as a city council or school board as a whole.
The Supreme Court declined without comment on May 28 to hear the appeal in Clay County School Board v. Wilson (Case No. 01-1507). The administrators' lawsuit will now proceed in federal district court.
Service Bill Filed by Hoekstra
Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., has formally proposed legislation to make changes to and reauthorize the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees the AmeriCorps service program and Learn and Serve America.
The bill, introduced last month and called the Citizen Service Act of 2002, strongly reflects a proposal President Bush sent to Congress in April. One element of the president's plan reflected in the proposed legislation would require the corporation to establish performance goals with its grantees, and stipulate that grantees come up with plans to correct any problems. It also would give the corporation the power to terminate a grant if corrections are not made.
A spokesman for Mr. Hoekstra said that the congressman hoped to get the legislation passed by the House by the Fourth of July and on the president's desk before Congress adjourns late in the year.
Agency Fills Literacy Panel
The Department of Education has named 13 language and literacy scholars to a federal panel that will review current research on effective reading instruction for language-minority students.
The members of the National Literacy Panel are: Isabel Beck, University of Pittsburgh; Margarita Calderon, Johns Hopkins University; David Francis, University of Houston; Georgia Earnest Garcia, University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign; Esther Geva, University of Toronto; Fred Genesee, McGill University; Claude Goldenberg, California State University-Long Beach; Michael Kamil, Stanford University; Keiko Koda, Carnegie Mellon University; Gail McKoon, Northwestern University; Robert Rueda, University of Southern California; Linda Siegel, University of British Columbia; and Robert Slavin, Johns Hopkins University.
More information is available from the U.S. Department of Education.
—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo
Vol. 21, Issue 39, Page 20