District News Roundup

May 03, 1989 4 min read

The Milwaukee school board has approved a limited parental-choice plan, under which about 1,000 public-school students from low-income families would be able to attend private schools at state expense.

Developed as an alternative to a proposal by Gov. Tommy G. Thompson, the district’s plan would allow students to attend only those nonsectarian schools in the city with which the school system had contracted for services.

The program, adopted last month, would be financed with state funds already provided to the district for voluntary integra6tion efforts. Private schools would receive 80 percent of the money, with the remaining funds going to the district for administration and transportation.

Douglas Haselow, a lobbyist for the district, said the plan differs from Mr. Thompson’s idea because it allows the school system to continue receiving state aid for the students involved. The Governor’s plan also would allow students to choose from any private, nonsectarian school in Milwaukee County.

Both proposals are now pending before the legislature.

The “victims” of a destructive rampage by vandalism in a Minnesota high school--students, educators, parents, and members of the community--have been given a say in the sentencing of those responsible.

State law gives crime victims a chance to influence sentencing decisions. District Judges William F. Thuet and Thomas R. Lacy of Dakota County ruled last month that that category applies to anyone with a connection to Henry Sibley Senior High School in Mendota Heights, which was the target of a March attack that caused an estimated $4.5 million in damages.

Three 18-year-old students have pleaded guilty to charges of criminal destruction of property, burglary, and theft in the incident. The case of a fourth alleged participant, age 17, is currently before a juvenile court.

Because of the large number of victims who might want to testify about the sentencing of the three, the judges have scheduled a public hearing for May 24.

The school was closed for the rest of the year as a result of the vandalism. Repairs are expected to be exceptionally expensive because the students turned on fire hydrants that flooded the school and damaged its asbestos insulation, which must be removed before the building can be reopened.

A Tennessee principal has barred a 7th-grade student’s science-fair project on abortion because it featured jars containing 10 human fetuses.

Al Cardiel, principal of Pi Beta Phi Elementary School in Gatlinburg, said the student apparently obtained the jars from her uncle, whom she identified as a pathologist.

The display, which was given a blue ribbon but hastily removed from the annual science fair last month, was “not making a statement either way” on the controversial issue of abortion rights, said Mr. Cardiel. And neither was he by removing it, the principal added.

But, he argued, it was not appropriate for the school’s 7th- and 8th-grade students to view the preserved fetuses.

Abandoning its efforts to hire an interim chief, the Detroit school board voted last week to reopen its national search for a superintendent.

The action marked a major defeat for the faction of the board that had been seeking to persuade John W. Porter, a former state superintendent in Michigan, to assume leadership of the troubled district for the next two years.

A proposed contract with Mr. Porter was defeated after a key board member withheld her vote, citing “severe credibility problems” in the handling of the issue, according to press reports.

Surveillance cameras are being used to monitor an unruly 5th-grade class in Baraboo, Wis.

The class at the South School had generated an unusual amount of acrimony this year, with the teacher saying the students were being disruptive and parents accusing the teacher of unfairly disciplining their children. Finally, the teachers’ union and administrators agreed to install two cameras in the classroom, said David B. Ament, assistant administrator for the district.

The cameras have had a “calming effect,” Mr. Ament said last week. The few students who have caused trouble since the cameras were installed--and denied they had done anything wrong--admitted to being disruptive when reminded that their actions had been taped, he noted.

Elementary students in Kenyon County, Ky., who do not attend off-cam6pus Bible classes should be provided with regular instruction while their classmates are away from school, the American Civil Liberties Union plans to contend in a federal lawsuit.

Under current district policy, students must sit in study hall during the hour a week that others spend in Bible classes.

Suzanne K. Post, director of the Louisville chapter of the aclu, said last week that the district’s rule denies students some of the education to which they are entitled.

But Superintendent John C. Forbeck said state law bars the district from providing the students who remain at school with any instruction that might give them an educational advantage over their classmates.

The Harlan County, Ky., school board has rejected an effort by the United Mine Workers to organize its 450 nonteaching school employees.

The board feared that unionizing classified employees would lead to strikes and educational disruptions, its chairman, Benny D. Coleman, said last week.

“I just don’t see where the United Mine Workers are experts in the education field,” Mr. Coleman added. “It would be like our school superintendent and teachers trying to tell them how to run a coal mine.”

Eddie Burke, regional director for the union, said the umw’s deep roots in the county--the site of many bitter and often bloody labor battles over the years--made it a strong candidate to organize the classified employees.

A version of this article appeared in the May 03, 1989 edition of Education Week as District News Roundup