Districts News Roundup

May 10, 1989 4 min read

The Dallas school board has voted to ask a federal court to end a desegregation lawsuit filed against the district in 1972.

As a result of the decision, lawyers for the board last week filed motions with U.S. District Judge Barefoot Sanders contending that the district no longer operates a dual school system based on race and that any vestiges of segregation have been eliminated, a spokesman for the district said.

At a tense meeting April 27, minority leaders accused the board of racism and threatened to organize demonstrations in protest of the decision, which was approved on a 6-to-3 vote. Thomas G. Jones, a black member of the board, called on parents to protest the action by taking their children out of school next fall when the state conducts its official count of students.

Black and Hispanic leaders told board members they would join forces to fight thecourt petition. They contend that the district has failed to comply with a number of court orders designed to close the achievement gap between white and minority students.

The Los Angeles school board moved last week to give more parents the right to choose their children’s public school.

The board voted to allow parents to enroll their children in a school near their workplace, rather than the school to which the students have been assigned, provided they meet certain criteria.

The action was part of a broader package of rule changes designed to correct perceived problems in a similar program that allows parents to enroll their children in an elementary school near their child-care provider. That program was also expanded to include students in junior high schools.

Under the new rules, transfers will be granted only if they do not cause a school to exceed the district’s racial-balance guidelines.

The board also voted to create 8 new magnet-program centers, which are open to students districtwide, by next fall and 24 the following year.

Despite its crippling financial problems, the East St. Louis, Ill., school district has started construction work on a new, $5-million football stadium.

The district, which has an estimated debt of between $10 million and $17 million, has filed a recovery plan with state officials calling for closing four schools and laying off 250 teachers.

The 6,000-seat stadium, begun last month, includes a sprinkler system, all-weather track, and advanced sound system. It will be paid for out of a $12-million bond issue approved by voters in 1986. Under the terms of the bond issue, the money cannot be used for operating expenses or to pay current debts, officials maintain.

East St. Louis Senior High, which is adjacent to the stadium site, has won three state football championships in the last 10 years.

Rewards of up to $100 would be given for valid information about crimes in schools, under a $1.7-million school-security plan proposed by Andrew E. Jenkins 3rd, superintendent of the District of Columbia schools.

The plan put forward by Mr. Jenkins last month also calls for hiring retired police officers and off-duty crossing guards to help patrol schools, according to a spokesman.

The superintendent also suggested an arrangement with the recreation department, under which the department could use school buildings at night if recreation workers helped patrol schools during the day.

The plan, which must first be approved by the school board, also would provide training for students to serve as peer mediators helping classmates settle disputes peacefully, the spokesman said.

In addition, Mr. Jenkins proposed hiring security guards for the 60 of the district’s 120 elementary schools that are not currently patrolled by a guard or police officer.

Implementation of the plan will depend on the school system’s budget, which is currently before the Congress, the spokesman said.

A citizens’ group has called for the resignation of four members of the Madison, Ind., school board who had recommended that 17 teachers be dismissed.

The four had called for the reduction in the wake of an order from the state Board of Tax Commissioners to cut $630,000 from the district’s 1989 budget in order to comply with state rules barring school systems from deficit spending.

Dan Royalty, president of the school board, said last week that with a declining enrollment base and a depleted cash surplus, the district had to lay off teachers “to keep the school corporation alive.”

He said the district, which has been attempting to balance its books since a new superintendent took office last September, “had already cut back every place else it could cut.” The board has approved reductions in physical education, music, and arts programs, he said.

But Anthony J. Castor, a member of Citizens for Quality Education, maintainedthat “any reduction in the number of teachers would automatically affect the quality of programming.”

Despite a federal court’s ruling against such practices, school athletic contests in Suwannee County, Fla., will continue to begin with a prayer, the school board has decided.

Board members took up the matter last month after their lawyer warned that the decision by the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit made the district liable for lawsuits. The court, whose jurisdiction includes Florida, ruled in January that such prayers violated the Constitution’s prohibition againststate establishment of religion.

“We just felt like we didn’t need to change it unless somebody complained,” said William Howard, chairman of the board.

In Iowa, meanwhile, a minister is suing the West Monona school district for refusing to allow him to lead a prayer at his son’s high-school graduation this month.

The Rev. Duane Lundburg of the Evangelical Free Church of America argues that school officials violated his constitutional guarantees to free speech and freedom of religion by canceling his scheduled prayers at the ceremonies. School officials decided last month to discontinue the traditional graduation prayers.

A version of this article appeared in the May 10, 1989 edition of Education Week as Districts News Roundup