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Published in Print: February 12, 2003, as News in Brief: A National Roundup

News in Brief: A National Roundup

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LeBron James Allowed To Resume Playing Ball

A judge has blocked a ruling from a state athletic association that had declared the nation's most celebrated high school basketball player ineligible after he accepted two sports jerseys valued at $850.

LeBron James, a senior at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, who is expected to be the first pick in the professional-basketball draft this summer, had been declared ineligible to play on Jan. 31 by the Ohio High School Athletic Association. It said Mr. James had violated state amateur rules that prohibit students from accepting gifts that capitalize on their athletic fame.

The association ruled that in accepting two sports jerseys from a sports store in exchange for pictures of the player that now hang on the store's walls, Mr. James had forfeited his amateur status. That decision came four days after the association had cleared Mr. James of any violation for accepting a $50,000 sport-utility vehicle from his mother on his 18th birthday.

But a Summit County, Ohio, judge, ruling on a challenge brought by Mr. James, issued a temporary restraining order on Feb. 5 allowing the player to return to his team, at least temporarily, after he sits out one game.

Judge James R. Williams set a Feb. 19 preliminary hearing to decide whether to grant a permanent injunction or go to trial.

—John Gehring

Georgia Court Rejects Case Against Teacher in Test Flap

The Georgia Court of Appeals has decided not to hear a case against a Gwinnett County elementary school teacher who posted test questions on the Internet.

James Hope, who opposed his district's Gateway test, thus has won a round in his fight to keep his teaching certificate.

The Georgia Professional Standards Commission, the state agency that sets ethical standards for teachers, had voted last month to take the case to the court.

According to the commission and Gwinnett County school officials, Mr. Hope violated the ethics code because he posted the questions in 2000 after signing an agreement not to disclose any portion of the test.

His lawyer, however, said the agreement was illegal because anyone else could have obtained a copy of the test through the state's open-records law.

The commission will meet Feb. 13 to discuss whether to pursue the case further.

—Linda Jacobson

California High School Sued Over Roundup of Students

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California has filed a class action against officials of a high school in Union City, Calif., and local police, alleging that they singled out students for questioning and searches for evidence of possible gang involvement because of their racial or ethnic background.

The lawsuit charges that the constitutional rights of approximately 60 students of James Logan High School were violated on Feb. 22, when school officials and police searched and questioned them without "probable cause or reasonable suspicion" that the students had broken any school rules or laws.

As plaintiffs, it names two students who charge they were selected for the roundup merely because they are of Asian or Latino descent and a third student, who is white, who believes she was selected because she looks Hispanic and was associating with Hispanics at the time.

School officials divided students into two rooms according to whether they appeared to be of Asian or Latino origin, the lawsuit says. It alleges some were patted down and had their backpacks searched.

Most of Logan High's 4,200 students are African-American, Asian-American, or Latino, it notes. Logan High is part of the 13,500-student New Haven Unified School District.

David Pava, the deputy superintendent of the district, said he couldn't comment on the lawsuit at this time.

—Mary Ann Zehr

Discharge of English-Learner At Issue in N.Y.C. Lawsuit

A child-advocacy organization has filed a class action alleging that a 17-year- old English-language learner was illegally discharged from his New York City high school, and that other students from his school have suffered the same plight.

The Jan. 30 lawsuit, filed by New York City-based Advocates for Children against Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein and others, alleges that officials at Franklin K. Lane High School didn't permit Gabriel Ruiz, who had been a 10th grader at the school last school year, to enroll this past September.

School officials told the student he didn't have enough credits to remain in school and needed to transfer to a General Educational Development program, the suit says. Mr. Ruiz told school officials he didn't want to go to a GED program, it says, and the officials didn't inform him of his legal right to stay in school until age 21.

The New York City department of education did not return a call for comment.

—Mary Ann Zehr

Mich. Teacher Disciplined For Bringing Gun to School

A veteran Michigan physics teacher returned to work last week after a week on paid administrative leave for bringing a BB gun to school.

Plymouth High School went into a lockdown on Jan. 30 after a parent reported seeing a man with a gun enter the building about 30 minutes before first period. The school reopened 45 minutes later, after police found the BB gun, which the teacher had brought so he could conduct an experiment on velocity and momentum.

The teacher, whom district officials did not identify, was on paid leave while police conducted an investigation. Once the investigation was completed without charges being filed, the teacher returned to the classroom on Feb. 6.

The teacher had conducted the experiment with the BB gun when he taught at another high school in the district, according to Frank Ruggirello Jr., the director of community relations for the 17,000-student Plymouth-Canton district, northeast of Ann Arbor.

—David J. Hoff

Ky. Teacher Wins Job Back After Serving Prison Sentence

A Kentucky teacher who was fired while serving time in federal prison has been reinstated and is receiving back pay.

Janice Sevre-Duszynska lost her job as a bilingual teacher at Henry Clay High School in Lexington while incarcerated for three months following her participation in a peaceful protest on a local military base.

The interim superintendent of the 32,600-student Fayette County district, L. Duane Tennant, contended that she had breached her contract and taken part in conduct unbecoming a teacher. Mr. Tennant believed that he had the power to fire the teacher, said Karen Acars, a district spokeswoman, because he viewed her arrest as insubordination, a cause for which superintendents can terminate a contract.

But Mr. Tennant was in the wrong, a hearing board appointed by the state attorney general's office found.

The teacher had properly filed a request for a leave of absence before serving her time, but Mr. Tennant did not follow procedures and take the matter to the school board for consideration, as was required, the hearing board found.

Mr. Tennant will appeal the board's decision, Ms. Acars said.

"The voice of the community has spoken," Ms. Sevre-Duszynska said, "on behalf of democracy and our basic rights and freedoms."

—Julie Blair

Fla. Teacher Is Dismissed For Lesson on Condom Use

A high school teacher who showed students how to put a condom on a banana in a scene set with lowered lights and music has been fired by the Collier County, Fla., school board.

The board of the 38,000-student district said it had the right to fire Colin Nicholas last month without providing a reason because the teacher was still in his 97-day probationary period.

Mr. Nicholas could not be reached for comment, but he has reportedly said he did not receive adequate sex education training and was never told that condoms weren't allowed in classrooms.

Some parents complained to school officials after the November classroom lesson. A school district investigation led to the firing.

—Bess Keller

Chauffeur Pleads Guilty In Probe of D.C. Union

Leroy Holmes, the former chauffeur for the Washington Teachers' Union, pleaded guilty last week to money laundering in U.S. District Court, according to The Washington Post.

The plea is the first in an investigation into the alleged theft of more than $5 million from the 5,000- member union in the District of Columbia. The probe involves the former union president and two other former officials. ("Union Local Loses Control of Operations," Jan. 29, 2003.)

Mr. Holmes, 52, who ushered former President Barbara A. Bullock around town in a Cadillac Sedan DeVille, admitted that he cashed union checks worth $1.2 million over five years, taking some of the money for himself and giving the remainder to WTU officials, the newspaper said.

The chauffeur faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine, it said.

No other charges have been filed against union officials. Ms. Bullock has not commented to date on the investigation.

—Julie Blair

Vol. 22, Issue 22, Page 4

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