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Merry Prankster

The Bellevue, Wash., school district has settled out of court with a high school senior who was punished last year for creating a satirical computer "home page" about his school. Paul Kim posted the spoof of the Seattle-area Newport High School on the Internet's World Wide Web, with electronic links to sexually explicit areas on the network. School officials withdrew Kim's endorsement for a National Merit Scholarship and revoked recommendations to seven colleges where he had applied. The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington threatened to file suit against the district, contending that it violated Kim's First Amendment right of free speech. Last month, the district apologized to Kim, who is now a freshman at Columbia University. The district paid him $2,000 and will seek to have him reinstated as a National Merit finalist.


Hard Rock Knockoff

A high school in northern California got into a little hot water in January over its "Hard Work Cafe"--a series of breakfasts to reward students for academic improvement. The Hard Rock Cafe restaurant chain sent a letter to North Salinas High School threatening to sue because it was using a logo similar to that of the company's. Since last October, the school has provided waffles, sausage, and orange juice to students who have improved their academic performance. The school also has distributed T-shirts to these higher achievers featuring a knockoff of the famous eatery's logo. "We were just thinking it was an innocent little school thing," assistant principal Kay Miranda said. Hard Rock spokesman Jeff Wagner said the "cease and desist" letter was standard corporate procedure. "This was not meant to bully high school kids," he said, "but to deter profiteers who are trying to use a worldwide logo for their benefit." To show there are no hard feelings, he said the corporation will send the hard-working students complimentary Hard Rock Cafe T-shirts.


Test Suspended

The General Educational Development Testing Service has stopped offering Spanish-language high school equivalency exams in several states after the exam was stolen and its answers distributed. The service halted testing in late January when it learned the answers were being passed around in seven Southwestern states. GED officials in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, and the U.S. prisons bureau have temporarily suspended testing in Spanish, according to a spokesman at the Washington-based American Council on Education, which operates the service. The English version of the exam, special editions for individuals with disabilities, and the Spanish version in other parts of the country and Puerto Rico were not affected. A new exam should be ready in mid-April.


Homeschooling

Wisconsin education officials say the number of homeschoolers in the state soared again this year, continuing an annual increase of 20 percent since 1985. State figures show that the number of homeschooled students will reach 16,000 this year. That number remains less than 2 percent of the state's 860,000 school-age population. Still, the increase has been dramatic. Ten years ago, when the department started keeping count, the number of homeschooled students was 1,941. Wisconsin has one of the nation's most lenient homeschooling laws. It requires parents to submit only an annual statement that they plan to educate their children at home.


Cheerleader Wars

A Sun Prairie, Wis., high school had to resort to hiring a mediator to settle a territorial feud between its cheerleaders and the pompon squad. The district recently spent $700 to bring in a local conflict-resolution specialist after it was unable to end the squabble over which group should be in charge of performing in parades, decorating athletes' homes, and performing other activities to promote team spirit. The pompon squad had complained that the cheerleaders had a monopoly on many school-pep projects. The dispute even prompted the coaches of both groups to resign. "We wanted someone impartial to bring everyone to common ground," says Brian Busler, the business manager for the 4,427-student district. "We're optimistic that everything is going to be resolved soon."


Toy Story

The parents of a Williamsburg, Va., senior filed a lawsuit against the local school board in January after the 17-year-old was suspended for having a toy gun in his parked car. During a routine sweep of the campus, local police found the plastic dart gun, which is on the list of "look alike" weapons that violate school policy. Bob Emmett, the boy's father, is seeking to have the suspension erased from his son's record. The school's discipline policy, he says, is too broad. Lafayette High School officials say the policy is necessary to ensure school safety.


Redshirting

The growing number of Louisiana 8th graders being held back each year, primarily so they can bulk up for high school sports, has prompted a state school board investigation. The practice, known as "redshirting," is a problem throughout the state, according to Jack White, president of the Ouachita Parish school board, who sent a letter alerting the state board of the problem. "Parents feel their children, many of them honor students, are being pressured by coaches and peers [to stay in 8th grade an extra year]," White wrote in his letter. "Teachers are worried about their classes being disrupted by bored students who passed the subject the previous year." The state board asked White to present his concerns at its January meeting.


'Lunch Menu Man'

You say tomato. I say tomahto. David Price, however, says "juicy . . . red . . . tuh-maaaaay-to." And so far, Price's dramatic recorded rendition of the weekly lunch menu for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., schools is a big hit. His performance on the telephone information line of The Charlotte Observer is logging 20,000 calls a month. Last September, Price quit car sales and took an advertising post with The Concord Tribune in Concord, N.C. His job description included recording the school menus. The 33-year-old's unorthodox delivery eventually got almost three times as many calls as the newspaper had subscribers. In December, the "Lunch Menu Man" made his Charlotte debut. In a twangy voice that trembles with restrained excitement, Price gushes over items like "chunky . . . oven potatoes" and "scooba-dooba tuna hoagie." "People ask me if I'm in pain or if it's sexual," he says, "but my intention was to make it sound exciting." To hear Price, call (704) 377-4444 and enter code 1013.

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