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Current Events in Brief

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Silence Law Upheld

In a ruling this summer, a federal district judge found that the Georgia law allowing schools to start each day with a moment of silence does not violate the U.S. Constitution's ban on government establishment of religion. Gwinnett County social studies teacher Brian Bown had challenged the law after he was fired for refusing to observe his school's moment-of-silence policy. [See "Current Events,'' October 1994.] Lawyers for the teacher say they plan to appeal the decision.

A Taxing Matter

In 1906, Congress granted a federal charter to the National Education Association that exempted the group from property taxes on its national headquarters in Washington, D.C. Now, U.S. Rep. Robert Dornan, R-Calif., is leading an effort to repeal the exemption, claiming the organization doesn't deserve it. The move, Dornan says, would add $1.6 million to the financially strapped District of Columbia's property-tax base. "The charter was granted back when the NEA was actually a useful teachers' association dedicated to the promotion of general education,'' Dornan says in a prepared statement. "Of course, now they are nothing more than a radicalized, left-wing labor union promoting everything from socialized education to homosexuality to gun control.'' Charles Erickson, a spokesman for the NEA, says the union would "abide by whatever decision is reached.''

HIV Testing Halted

The first school district in the country to offer students free testing for the virus that causes AIDS has reversed its three-year-old policy because of opposition from parents. The 50,000-student Lee County district in Fort Myers, Fla., began the program to fight the spread of AIDS. County health officials had noted an unusually high incidence of HIV, the AIDS virus, in residents under 30.

Call In The Experts

When the Kansas City school system tried to upgrade the cables in its four computer magnet schools this past summer, it hit a snag. The district had $100,000 to complete the proj-ect, but that wasn't nearly enough to pay professionals, who wanted $62,000 to do the job in just one of the buildings. Then someone thought: Why not hire students at one of the magnet schools and pay them, say, $6.50 an hour? In the end, the district hired 23 students, procured them two weeks of free training in cable installation, and put them to work running more than 70 miles of cables through the schools. With the help of 25 teachers, they finished the job by summer's end and well within the district's budget.

Recruiters Banned

The Portland, Ore., school board has barred military recruiters from district campuses because of what it calls discriminatory policies against homosexuals in the U.S. armed services. In August, board members approved a resolution barring any employer that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, race, religion, or gender. In a second resolution, the board defined the U.S. military as an institution with discriminatory employment practices. Current U.S. policy allows dismissal of openly gay members from the military but prohibits officials from asking about sexual orientation. "It is our obligation as a school district to demand equality of access for all of our students,'' says board member Marc Abrams, "and that means gay and lesbian students, as well.''

Financial Aid

A Rochester, N.Y., couple has given $25 million to help local children afford an education at one of six Roman Catholic elementary schools. The donation by Robert and Peggy Wegman of Wegmans Food Markets Inc. is one of the largest ever to Catholic elementary education in this country. "For decades, Catholic schools have provided Rochester's children with a sound, values-centered education,'' Robert Wegman said. "But we must act now to keep them open so that families continue to have a choice.'' The Diocese of Rochester will use the bulk of the money to provide financial-aid vouchers to inner-city families. But part of it will also go to help graduates of the six schools continue their educations at Catholic junior high schools, to upgrade buildings, and to expand special programs.

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