November 01, 1996 6 min read

Girls Hit Home Run

School officials in Owasso, Oklahoma, have agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by a group of parents and their daughters alleging gender discrimination in the district’s athletic program (“A Pitch For Equality,” August 1996). Under the terms of the settlement reached in early October, the district agreed to build an on-campus softball field “comparable in quality” to the existing boys’ baseball field, expand athletic opportunities for 7th and 8th grade girls, provide female athletes with uniforms and equipment comparable to the boys’, and eliminate any disparity in the scheduling of boys’ and girls’ games and practice times. The agreement addresses the lawsuit’s charges that the district was violating Title IX, the part of the Education Amendments of 1972 that prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions receiving federal funds. A similar Title IX lawsuit against the nearby Tulsa public school district is scheduled for trial in June.

What A Boss

A leading national women’s magazine has named Steve Winnick, a lawyer at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C., the nation’s best boss for working mothers. The editors of Redbook magazine chose Winnick, one of the department’s three deputy general counsels and the supervisor of some 40 employees, over 700 other bosses nominated in the contest. “I was rather stunned,” Winnick says. “In fact, at first, I thought it was a joke. Sometimes I pull pranks in this office, and I thought it was someone getting back at me.” The September issue of the magazine featured Winnick in a story and a photo in which he is posing with the two employees who nominated him, Amy Comstock and Joan Bardee. They credited him with creating a plan that lets them share a job by working part time. “As far as we know,” they wrote in their essay nominating Winnick, “it is the only supervisory job-share arrangement in the federal government.”

District Culpable

A jury has awarded an 8-year-old student $1.2 million for psychological trauma he suffered after being sexually molested by an 11-year-old boy in a restroom in a Los Angeles elementary public school. A jury found the district guilty of negligence in the 1994 incident. The lawyer for the younger boy, who was 6 at the time, showed that school officials knew before the incident that the 11-year-old had a history of severe emotional problems, including inappropriate sexual behavior. The jury award was the largest award ever in a case of student-to-student crime, according to Ronald Stephens of the National School Safety Center.

Busted For Midol

Nine days after she was suspended for having Midol tablets in school, a 13-year-old honors student from Fairborn, Ohio, returned to class in October after her father agreed to send the teenager to a drug-evaluation program. Erica Taylor, who accepted a package of the over-the-counter menstrual-pain medication from another student, was disciplined under the district’s drug and alcohol policy. The policy states that all students must see the school nurse if they need medication and that they must have a parent’s permission. The 8th grader at Baker Junior High School would have faced an 80-day expulsion if her parents had not agreed to send her for a chemical evaluation, district officials said. Joy Paolo, a spokeswoman for the district, said the rules are necessary to shield the 6,200-student district from legal liability.


A teacher’s remark that students in her suburban Detroit district are “ill-bred and ill-mannered” has generated a ton of ill will. Elaine Miller, a negotiator for teachers in the Redford Union public schools, made the statement at a school board meeting where she was arguing for higher teacher pay. Local parents angrily denounced the comment, which was reported in The Detroit News, and Kenneth Johnson, superintendent of the 5,000-student district, said many teachers have also told him they don’t agree. Miller defended her remark, saying she was referring to students in general, not just Redford’s. “All I was trying to do is show that the job is very difficult,” she explained. The 30-year veteran English teacher said many colleagues and parents had told her they support her comment.

Words of Thanks

Alfredo Perez, the Los Angeles elementary school teacher shot in the head by a stray bullet in February, held a news conference in September to thank the community for its prayers and support. Perez was wounded February 22 as he sat in front of his 5th grade class in the library at Figueroa Street Elementary School in South Central Los Angeles. Police said the shooting stemmed from gang activity. The incident drew national attention, and Perez received words of support from President Clinton. After the shooting, doctors weren’t sure if Perez would live. Since his injury, he has been in rehabilitation, working to regain his speech and his ability to walk. The news conference was his first public appearance since the incident.

How Bad Was It?

A Wisconsin elementary school teacher has filed a lawsuit against a substitute teacher who allegedly described her students as “the worst class in the whole world.” Linda Grieger, a teacher in Waukesha County, claims substitute Barbara Volkmann defamed her character in 1994 by telling other school workers that Grieger’s 1st graders “will never make the 2nd grade.” Volkmann’s lawyer, Scott Wagner, called the allegations “goofy.” “Nothing defamatory was ever said,” he said.

It Takes Two

Teenagers who live with two parents are less likely to use drugs or be admitted to substance-abuse treatment programs than those living in single-parent households, according to a new study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The report also analyzed differences between children who live with biological and adoptive parents and stepparents. Adolescents living with a single parent or in two-parent families where one of the adults is a stepparent are 50 percent to 150 percent more inclined to use illegal substances than those who live with two biological or adoptive parents, the study found. Teenagers who live with a biological father and a stepmother are more likely to abuse drugs than those living with a biological mother and a stepfather. With fewer children today living with their biological parents, HHS Secretary Donna Shalala said, society has a responsibility to deliver a consistent message on the danger of drugs. “Parents raise children,” she said, “but all of us have an obligation to give them a helping hand.”

A Special Case

A 20-year-old high school student with Down syndrome played in his first interscholastic football game in early October after the Colorado High School Activities Association relaxed its age restrictions. In September, the governing body amended its bylaws--which allow high school athletes to compete until age 19--to permit Gabriel Lane, a senior at Greeley Central High School, to compete in interscholastic football and swimming this school year. Under the revised rules, the association’s commissioner will grant waivers on a case-by-case basis. Federal special education law guarantees a free public education to age 21 for students with disabilities. But the state boards that govern interscholastic sports have been reluctant to allow older students to compete.

A version of this article appeared in the November 01, 1996 edition of Teacher as Briefs