Current Events in Brief
The National Education Association this past summer passed a resolution supporting the celebration of Lesbian and Gay History Month "as a means of acknowledging the contributions of lesbians, gays, and bisexuals throughout history.'' The move drew a quick and angry response from Beverly LaHaye, president of the Washington-based Concerned Women for America. She fired off a letter to her group's 600,000 members, asking them to complain to the NEA and the U.S. Congress. The letter stirred debate and protests in a number of states, including Arkansas, Maryland, North Dakota, and Tennessee. In response, the union issued a statement clarifying that the resolution did not direct members to observe the month. It said the resolution supported the concept of an awareness month to "promote tolerance and eliminate name-calling and classroom jokes.'' Christine O'Donnell, a spokeswoman for the concerned women's group, scoffed at the response. "They're hiding behind semantics,'' she said.
Know Thy Place
South Dakota Gov. William Janklow isn't shy about letting teachers know where they stand. At a recent teachers' conference in Aberdeen, a participant sent an anonymous note to the governor that provoked an angry response. The note read: "Please don't confuse the difference between professional educators and blue-collar wage earners. We are the ones who make the difference in the future of our state. We need more money from you.'' The governor blasted the note, calling it "most offensive.'' "You're no damn better than a blue-collar person in the state of South Dakota, and no blue-collar person is better than you,'' he told the teachers, according to a report in the Aberdeen American News. "And your profession and their profession, whether they be an electrician or plumber or farmer, are equally important.'' Both the note and the governor's response elicited applause from the 300 teachers present.
The Dade County school board has appealed a recent court decision barring the district from conducting random gun searches in schools. Circuit Judge Steven Levine ruled in September that such searches by the 300,000-student district are unconstitutionally intrusive. He said a gun found in a random sweep last year could not be used to prosecute the high school student it was taken from because the search violated the student's Fourth Amendment right to protection from unreasonable searches. Security teams will continue to conduct surprise searches with hand-held batons in Miami-area middle and high schools until the appeal is heard.
Scores of lobbyists and onlookers enjoyed free sweets on Sept. 13 during a National Bake Sale for Education on Capitol Hill; the point was to call attention to $4-billion in school spending cuts now on the table in Congress. Members of Congress who missed the bake sale--which was most of them--got "$1,000 cookies'' delivered to their offices. Attached to the treats was a letter claiming that 4 million cookies would have to be sold at that price to replace proposed reductions in federal education spending. It did not leave a pleasant taste in everyone's mouth. Rep. Tim Hutchinson,
R-Ark., assailed opponents for overblowing the impact of the GOP proposals. "Their project is half-baked,'' Hutchinson said of the event organized by the Committee for Education Funding. "And their main ingredient is fear.''
Flaw In The Law
Principal George Critz of Adair County High School in Kentucky has come up with a novel application of the state's 1990 school reform law. This fall, Adair County Superintendent Al Sullivan, citing a host of infractions, relieved the school's longtime basketball coach, Keith Young, of his coaching duties. The move, however, did not please principal Critz, who argued that under the state's site-based-management law he had the authority to rehire Young as head coach. An angry Sullivan shot back that he had the power to block a hiring decision. The Adair County Circuit Court is now trying to sort out the mess. "The way we've got the law set up,'' says Jim Parks, a state education official, "the principal could hire Young every day, and the superintendent could fire him every day.''
The Clark County, Nev., school district is doggedly pursuing an appeal of a court ruling that would allow a music teacher to bring a dog to school. The teacher, Anne Buchanan, is a volunteer trainer for an organization that provides dogs to serve as companions or guides for people with disabilities. Buchanan wants to bring Maria, a 4-month-old golden retriever, to school each day to get her used to people and public settings. But school officials in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, object, saying it could pose a threat to students and distract the teacher from her work. Buchanan sued the district, arguing that Nevada law gives certified trainers of guide dogs the same access to public facilities as people with disabilities. The court agreed, allowing her to bring Maria to class. The matter didn't end there, however. The district appealed and has been granted a delay until the state supreme court rules on the matter.
The New Jersey state board of education will maintain control of the troubled Jersey City school district for at least another year. Six years ago, the 28,000-student district became the first in the nation to be taken over by state authorities under an academic-bankruptcy law. The law allows the state to take control of a failing district for five years, followed by one-year extensions as needed. The state board unanimously voted Sept. 6 to grant a second one-year extension. Officials said that while maintenance and operations of Jersey City's schools have improved, student achievement continues to lag. The state has since taken control of the Paterson and Newark districts.
Bring Them In
The Rock Hill, S.C., school board has asked state lawmakers to give school principals the legal authority to summon parents to academic or disciplinary conferences. Under the proposal, a principal could ask local law-enforcement officers to notify parents and bring them to their child's school for a meeting. "Principals have been losing clout, and we need another tool for their toolbox,'' says Rock Hill Superintendent Phillip McDaniel. The local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People vehemently opposes the plan, arguing it would penalize African-American parents who may be unable to leave work to attend such meetings.