Current Events

January 01, 1996 5 min read

Home Alone

The Florida High School Activities Association voted in October to continue barring homeschool students from public school activities. More than 19,000 Florida children are currently educated at home, and many have asked for the chance to participate in extracurricular activities offered by their public schools. The association, however, voted overwhelmingly to reject the proposed change in rules, citing, in part, that homeschoolers would not be bound by the grade-point requirements public students must meet to participate in such activities. State lawmakers passed a bill earlier this year seeking to overturn the policy, but Gov. Lawton Chiles vetoed the measure and told the groups involved to resolve the matter themselves.

Peer Pressure

A growing number of elementary school students say children their age feel peer pressure to use marijuana, according to a national survey by Weekly Reader. More than half the students in grades 4 to 6 responding to the survey said they felt such pressure--nearly twice as many as five years ago. And the percentage of children in those grades who thought students their age had tried marijuana has doubled since 1990, from 13 percent to 26 percent. The percentage of students who thought their peers used alcohol was also up, from 29 percent in 1990 to 45 percent in 1995.

Joe Camel

President Clinton’s recent attack on teenage smoking may be having some impact. R.J. Reynolds has announced that Joe Camel, the cartoon character used by the company to advertise its products, will no longer appear on outdoor billboards. The ads have long been criticized for their appeal to young people, although the company has denied that the camel is targeted at kids. Joe will continue to be used in print ads and in-store promotions.

Theory Of Evolution

The Alabama state board of education has approved a one-page insert for high school biology textbooks that says evolution is “not fact.’' The nine-member board accepted the insert on a 6-1 vote with one member abstaining and another, Gov. Fob James Jr., absent. The insert calls evolution a controversial theory and says “any statement about life’s origins should be considered as theory, not fact.’'

Civics Lesson

Mukwanago, Wis., high school students got an unusual civics lesson last November, when state lawmakers holding a hearing in their school’s auditorium erupted in a shouting match that ended with the police being summoned. The House education committee’s discussion of school mascots, logos, and nicknames went fine. But when panel chairman Charles Coleman announced that he would hold another hearing the next morning on a bill that would give school officials access to the criminal records of students caught with weapons in school, tempers flared. Rep. Marlin Schneider complained that panel members could not rearrange their schedules on such short notice and refused to relinquish the microphone. Coleman responded by banging his gavel and repeatedly shouting, “You’re out of order.’' After several minutes of this, Mukwanago High School principal Dale Henry decided he’d better call the police. “It was a very awkward situation to be in,’' he said.

Business School

High school students in Fosston, Minn., wanted to learn about the real world of business, so they decided to start one of their own. Tunes n’ Technology, a franchise of Radio Shack, opened recently on the main strip in the town of 1,500, with Fosston High School students calling the shots. The electronics and music store--the students have added compact discs, audiocassettes, and photocopying, among other things, to the standard Radio Shack products--had been in the planning stages since October 1994, when the Fosston Economic Development Authority and the local school district decided to work together on the business-related project. The new store is owned by the development authority and operated by a 10-member board of directors drawn from students in grades 9-12, who serve until they graduate. The district oversees the business.

Success Story

A school in Louisiana that places adult welfare recipients and at-risk high school students together in the same classes has received a 1995 Innovations in American Government Award. Officials at Shreveport’s Hamilton Terrace Learning Center hope the adult students will convince their younger classmates to take school seriously. The $100,000 award was one of 15 presented this year by the Ford Foundation and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University as part of an annual program honoring innovative public agencies.

Poor Assignment

A Largo, Fla., teacher faces a 10-day suspension without pay for asking students to write letters to a neighbor with whom she was having a dispute. Dale Davis, a language arts teacher at Largo Middle School, received a note from a neighbor who was angry with Davis for allowing her dog to defecate in the neighbor’s yard. Davis read the note aloud to her 8th grade class, according to school officials, and asked each of them to write a letter in response. The teacher has requested a hearing before the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings.

Coach Must Pay

A jury in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has awarded $277,000 to a former high school soccer player who was injured in December 1992 after a rival coach told his players to “waste him.’' The decision may be the first of its kind in which a coach’s words from the sidelines in the heat of competition made him legally responsible for a player’s behavior. The jury found that the action of Phil Drosdick, coach at Deerfield Beach High School, contributed to the injury to Gary Beharrie, a player for Piper High School. Both Piper and Deerfield are part of the Broward County system, which is responsible for 80 percent, or $242,000, of the damages. According to trial testimony, the coach yelled “waste him, waste him’’ as Beharrie dribbled the ball down the field in overtime during the game. Moments later, a Deerfield Beach player kicked Beharrie in the knee. The district’s lawyer argued unsuccessfully that the player who kicked Beharrie never heard the coach’s words. The jury found that player to be 20 percent responsible for the assigned damages. As a result of the injury, Beharrie had to undergo reconstructive knee surgery and lost his college scholarship.

A version of this article appeared in the January 01, 1996 edition of Teacher as Current Events