R For Restricted
A Minnesota school district’s decision to bar the showing of R-rated movies in classrooms has drawn fire from a local teachers’ group and the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union. The Anoka-Hennepin district adopted the policy earlier this year after an art teacher attempted to show The Piano to a high school class. The film, which contains nudity and adult themes, was rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America, meaning children under 17 must be accompanied by a parent at theaters. In addition, the local school board ordered teachers to give parents five days’ notice before showing a film rated PG-13 by the MPAA. The local teachers’ union has filed a grievance over the policy, arguing that it interferes with the teachers’ right to select appropriate educational materials. And the MCLU has threatened a lawsuit. “It’s a blanket ban,’' says Kathleen Milner, the group’s legal counsel, “and it doesn’t look at the merits of an individual film.’'
Carter Loar, a 17-year-old senior at Park View High School in Loudoun County, Va., may be the only student ever suspended for freshening his breath in class. Carter had a romantic interest in a female student in his English class and thought a swig of mouthwash might help him get a date. But what Carter got instead was a 10-day suspension for violating a district policy prohibiting students from bringing any liquid that contains alcohol to school. “If you look at the bottle of mouthwash, it has more alcohol than beer,’' a district official said. The boy’s parents appealed the suspension in court, and a Virginia judge granted an injunction allowing Carter to return to class. The district later admitted that the youngster had done nothing wrong.
Although the sexual activity of high school students has remained fairly stable in recent years, they are more likely than before to use condoms, according to data collected for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Between 1991 and 1993, the percentage of students who reported using condoms the last time they had sex increased significantly, from 46.2 percent to 52.8 percent, the CDC reported in the February 24 issue of its periodical, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The survey of some 16,000 students indicated that girls are becoming more assertive in having their partners wear condoms, said Lloyd Kolbe, director of the CDC division of adolescent and school health. He added, however, that condom use decreases as students get older and more girls use birth-control pills.
A Tennessee elementary school principal has delivered a body blow to kindergarten fans of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers by banning paraphernalia based on the popular TV show. Jill Carroll, principal at Ball Camp Elementary School in Knoxville, said teachers had complained about the disruption caused by 165 kindergartners imitating the noises and martial-arts movements of the rangers. The ban applies only to kindergartners. “Most of the older kids understand and are mature enough not to act up in class,’' Carroll said. The popular adventure show, which has spawned a host of toys and related products, features adolescent characters who transform themselves into superheroes, using martial-arts techniques to defeat their foes.
A little persistence has paid off for 13-year-old Hana Field, an 8th grader at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School in Chicago. While conducting research for a paper on the Works Progress Administration’s art program, Hana learned that a number of Depression-era murals had once been on display at a high school in nearby Highland Park. After calling the school a few times, Hana finally spoke with the chairwoman of the fine arts department, Connie Kieffer. Kieffer, who knew nothing about the panels, began asking questions and finally got some answers from a staff member who had been with the school for 30 years. The paintings, by artist Edgar Britton, were discovered in the school’s attic, where they had been stored for 40 years. The murals, each of which depicts an industry during the 1930s, were unveiled at a ceremony honoring the discovery. They will be restored and then displayed in the school library.
The Buddy System
In what is believed to be an unprecedented move, the Los Angeles public school system has decided that students may no longer go to the restroom alone. The school board resolution, approved in February, was prompted by a sexual attack on a kindergartner in an elementary school restroom. (Police have charged a teenage boy in the assault.) Under the new policy, students must be accompanied by at least one other student when they go to the restroom, the office, or any other school location where they are out of sight of adult supervision. The policy applies to students at every level of schooling, from prekindergarten to adult education.
David Morris doesn’t believe in working for nothing. So the 17-year-old junior at Newton North High School near Boston put together a coupon book that includes $250 worth of free pizzas, movie tickets, and other gifts for Newton North students who make this spring’s honor roll. “Parents don’t work for free, why should kids?’' David said. “At first, I didn’t believe it would make a real big difference. But the reality is, I hear people say they will work a little harder to get on the roll.’' The former advertising manager of the school newspaper, David also has raised $10,000 from local companies for a scholarship fund as part of his project to reward and motivate his classmates. His motto: “Hard work pays off.’'
A version of this article appeared in the April 01, 1995 edition of Teacher as Current Events in Brief