District News Roundup

October 30, 1991 5 min read

Teachers in Philadelphia’s public schools have received a new set of guidelines from the district urging them to give no student a course grade of less than 60.

Superintendent of Schools Constance Clayton said the new guidelines would give students the opportunity to redeem themselves and perhaps prevent some students from dropping out.

A year ago, the district lowered the passing grade from 70 to 65, eliminated the E grade, and made it easier for students to get grades of C and D.

The new guidelines were developed by a broad-based team of teachers, parents, and principals, according to Deputy Superintendent Albert I. Glassman.

The guidelines, Mr. Glassman explained, would enable high-school students who had failed the first quarter of the school year to to re-enter school.

“The whole purpose was not to lower standards, but to provide opportunities for youngsters to succeed,” Mr. Glassman said. Keeping the minimum course grade to 60 “makes it mathematically possible for that to occur,” he said.

Because in the original memo to principals about the guidelines “the language appeared to be prescriptive,” Mr. Glassman said, a clarifying directive was sent assuring them that although the use of 60 as the lowest grade was a “strong recommendation,” in the end “teacher judgment is the overriding factor.”

Some teachers have criticized the plan as artificially inflating students’ grades to near-passing. Others worry that it will enable students to wait until halfway through the year before doing any work.

Omaha school officials have sued the Nebraska Board of Education for forcing the district to admit students under the state’s choice law who could upset the system’s desegregation efforts.

In 17 suits filed this month in Lancaster County District Court, the district claims the state beard overstepped its bounds in forcing the district to accept 17 transfer students under the state’s new parental choice law.

Omaha had denied the students entry under provisions in the law that give the district wide latitude in protecting its school-desegregation efforts.

The state board last month reversed the district’s decision, however, after lawyers for the parents of the transfer students said that the district’s interpretation of the choice law unfairly precludes all white students from transferring out and all black students from transferring in.

Parents of disabled children in Los Angeles have filed a federal suit against a Head Start center for refusing to admit their children who wear diapers or need help in using the toilet.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court, charges that the Azteca Head Start Center, which runs 11 federally funded preschools in eastern Los Angeles, is violating the Federal Rehabilitation Act by barring the 10 children.

The 3- to 4-year-olds have conditions ranging from Down’s syndrome to cerebral palsy.

The Los Angeles County Office of Education, which distributes Head Start funds, warned the center this month of its apparent violation and later ordered it to admit the children.

Janice Crawford, director of communications for the county education office, said her office was negotiating with the center and did not anticipate cutting off its federal funds. A spokesman for the Western Law Center for the Handicapped, which is representing the children in the suit, said that the children, who were pulled from school a month ago, likely will resume classes there once the dispute is settled.

The Anaheim (Calif.) Union High School District has endorsed the establishment of a high-school club designed to help non-Hispanic white students prepare for college and life after.

The school board unanimously approved the establishment of the European-American Club at Anaheim High School, said Joanne Stanton, the board’s president.

The academically oriented club, which is open to any student, was rounded last month by a senior, Shannon Mounger, to provide a forum for preparation for the Scholastic Aptitude Test, provision of financial-aid information, and the college recruitment of non-minority students, said Craig Haugen, the school’s principal.

Miss Mounger, who is half Lebanese, began the club in response to what she saw as her school’s heavy focus on counseling minority students in college-admissions matters.

Mr. Haugen said that in his school whose student body is 72 percent Latino and 18 percent non-Hispanic white-- college-admissions information is more widely available for minority-group students than for others.

The dub, which school and district officials said they scrutinized carefully for any hint of racism or exclusivity, has held about three meetings and drawn 50 to 60 students, half of whom are Hispanic, Mr. Haugen said.

A federal judge has ruled that a suburban Chicago school district can bar students from distributing religious materials in schools if other students believe the school is advocating that religion.

U.S. District Judge Paul Plunkett held that the Wauconda district’s restrictions on students’ exercise of free speech were reasonable.

Last November, school officials stopped Megan Hedges, now age 14, from distributing copies of the conservative Christian newspaper Issues and Answers in Wauconda Junior High School. The officials cited a district policy barring the distribution of any religious material.

Megan and her parents sued the district, charging it had violated her First Amendment right to free speech.

After the suit was filed, the district instituted a new regulation banning distribution of all material not published by a school organization. Under the new rule, religious material was specifically banned if students believed the school was sponsoring the religion.

Judge Plunkett ruled the new ban was reasonable. The school, he wrote, “is not first and foremost a forum for debate.”

A New York City Board of Education employee convicted of sexually abusing a young girl has been suspended without pay following the release of a report charging he had been allowed to keep his job because of an employee cover-up.

The report, released this month by the office charged with probing city school-system corruption, charged that an “old boy network” of employees had conspired to cover up a 1987 guilty plea by Jerry Olshaker to charges of second-degree sexual assault.

Mr. Olshaker, an administrator in the system’s personnel division, admitted abusing a friend’s daughter between the ages of 8 and 14. Upon reporting his arrest and three years’ probation to his supervisors, the matter was “quietly settled,” the report by the office of the deputy commissioner of investigation said, and Mr. Olshaker kept his post.

The report recommended his dismissal and “strong disciplinary action” against the supervisors who allegedly covered up the matter.

James Vlasto, a spokesman for the board, said that “for all intents and purposes” Mr. Olshaker had been fired. .

A version of this article appeared in the October 30, 1991 edition of Education Week as District News Roundup