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Search And Seizure

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that the U.S. and Pennsylvania constitutions do not prevent school officials and police from using drug-sniffing dogs to search student lockers. The case in question involves a 1994 sweep at Harborcreek High School in Harborcreek Township. School administrators, who suspected increased drug use among students, asked state and local police to conduct a search of lockers. A dog led officials to senior Vincent Cass' locker, where they found marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Cass, then 18, was suspended and charged with drug possession. Two lower courts granted his lawyer's motion to suppress the drug evidence, ruling the search unconstitutional. But the state supreme court overturned those rulings in January, stating that the search was legal under the "reasonable suspicion" standard as stated in previous rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court.

New Head For UFT

New York City's powerful teachers' union, the United Federation of Teachers, has a new president: Randi Weingarten, a lawyer turned educator. The union's executive board voted 73-7 to have Weingarten replace Sandra Feldman, who stepped down in January to devote more time to the presidency of the group's parent organization, the American Federation of Teachers. Feldman had been president of both the local and the national. Before joining the 130,000-member UFT in 1986 as legal counsel, Weingarten had worked for a New York City law firm and the New York Senate's standing committee on labor. She became an educator in 1991, teaching at a Brooklyn high school until last year when she was elected treasurer of the UFT. Weingarten began running the union's day-to-day operations when Feldman was tapped for the AFT job last year. She pledged to continue the union's advocacy for school improvement and better working conditions for members and to keep fighting vouchers and other forms of school privatization.

Gay Bias Charged

A support group for gay students at a Colorado high school has filed a lawsuit claiming that it is not being given the privileges of other student groups. The Homosexual-Heterosexual Alliance Reaching for Tolerance, a group at Smoky Hill High School in Aurora, Colorado, sued the Cherry Creek district in federal district court, alleging that school officials prohibited gay slogans on the group's posters and barred mention of the group in the student handbook and yearbook. The 3,100-student school also rejected a request for extra pay for the group's faculty sponsor and instead recommended that a school counselor guide the group, which has about 25 gay and straight members, the suit says. The district released a statement saying the group has the same access to the public-address system, bulletin boards, and facilities as "any other student-initiated group."

A Sour Note

During his budget address in January, Georgia Governor Zell Miller, a Democrat, proposed spending $105,000 to produce and distribute free classical music cassettes or compact discs to the parents of newborns in the state. He said he got the idea after listening to child-development experts discuss ways to boost learning during the early years. As a tongue-in-cheek response, three Republican senators introduced a bill stating that for every hour of music on the tapes, they must also include 30 minutes of material from conservative broadcaster Rush Limbaugh. Said state Senator Charles "Chuck" Clay: "The major gist of this is that it really isn't government's place to decide what is most conducive to learning."

Viral Invasion

A high school student has been charged with unleashing a swarm of 89 computer viruses—software programs that can destroy data and disrupt digital systems—into computers in a Wisconsin school district. An assistant district attorney filed a criminal complaint against 17-year-old Adam Kope in January, charging him as an adult with a felony that carries penalties of up to a $10,000 fine and five years' imprisonment. According to the complaint, Kope told police that he used a Rhinelander High School class computer to infiltrate the district network and activate viruses that he had downloaded from the Internet. The virus invasion shut down the network for two days and will cost the district at least $14,000.

Construction Boom

To meet growing student-enrollment demands, school districts across the country spent nearly $12.7 billion last year on construction and repair projects. It was the second consecutive year that school construction topped $12 billion, according to a report published in the February issue of School Planning and Management magazine. Total construction spending this year, the report said, is expected to near $14.6 billion. "There appears to be a shift from elementary schools to high schools following student populations," said Tim Bete, the magazine's editor. "At some point, it's going to move on to college campuses." Half the 1997 construction funding went to new school buildings, while the remainder was split almost evenly between additions and renovations.

Blast Off

Twelve years after Christa McAuliffe died in the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle, her understudy has been tapped to become the first teacher in space. In January, officials for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced that Barbara Morgan, a 3rd grade teacher from McCall, Idaho, and McAuliffe's backup on the ill-fated Challenger launch, will be the first of a new class of NASA mission specialists with education and teaching backgrounds in science, mathematics, and technology. NASA officials said they will sign up other educators for the program, but Morgan will get the first shot at a space shuttle mission, with a launch date expected as early as 2000. In a press conference in Idaho, the soon-to-be-astronaut said she had had little time yet to figure out the details of her move to Houston for her two years of training: "I'm just trying to figure how to get my report cards done because they're due tomorrow."

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