District News Roundup

October 09, 1991 5 min read

The Duluth, Minn., school district has agreed to pay $15,000 and change its sexual-harassment policy to settle a complaint brought by the family of a girl who had regularly been the object of sexually explicit bathroom graffiti.

The family of Kathleen Lyle, a student at Central High School, complained to the Minnesota Human Rights Commission that school and district officials had ignored their repeated complaints and demands that the graffiti be removed.

The vulgar epithets appeared regularly in a boys’ bathroom over a period of 18 months, the Lyles charged in their complaint.

Under the settlement approved by the human-rights agency, school-district bathrooms will be checked daily for graffiti, and any offending inscriptions will be removed immediately.

The sexual-harassment policy has also been altered. Previously, students could complain of harassment only to the school’s principal. The new policy allows for complaints to any adult staff member. Staff and student grievances will now be handled by a human-rights officer working at the district level. The district will also post its revised policy in all school buildings.

The commission also recommended that parent-teacher and student-outreach programs on sexual harassment be established.

Duluth Superintendent Charles Anderson said that while the district does not admit any wrongdoing in the case, he is eager to enact the tougher anti-harassment programs.

A Lansing, Mich., school-board member who recently called the professional basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson “a big, dumb, black kid” during his school days there has said he will not resign despite calls from local activists and Mr. Johnson himself for him to do so.

William Carter made the comment three times at a Sept. 12 meeting while he was arguing for increased funding for middle school-level athletics.

Magic Johnson attended high school in Lansing before going on to lead Michigan State University to a national championship in 1979.

Mr. Johnson released a statement through his current team, the Los Angeles Lakers, saying the comments were “not only... hurtful to myself and my family, but especially to the children of Lansing, Mich., if not everywhere.” He called for Mr. Carter’s resignation, adding that “it is inappropriate and dangerous for a man with his ideas and feelings to be in such a powerful and influential public position.”

Mr. Carter later said he only wanted to make the point that Magic Johnson was an example of a child who turned out to be “successful without being academically aspired,’' but acknowledged “the way it was said was improper.” He said he had issued private apologies to Mr. Johnson and his family and a public apology to blacks. He said that, like many others in the community, he “worships” Johnson.

Mr. Carter also commented that at the time the statement was made, “no one challenged me.”

Subsequently, however, the school board’s president, Nancy Erickson, wrote Mr. Carter a letter of reprimand, although she said there was not the support on the board to call for his resignation.

“We believe in the public process in that regard,” Ms. Erickson said, noting the voters could effect a recall if they wished. Mr.

Carter’s term expires in 1995.

A superior-court judge in Rhode Island has ordered that a Kingstown high-school boy be allowed to join his school’s all-girls field-hockey team.

Superior Court Judge Mark A. Pfeiffer ruled that a regulation of the Rhode Island Interscholastic League barring boys from playing on all-girls teams is unconstitutional.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of Brian Kleczek, a junior who is the team’s equipment manager, and his parents, when the league said that the South Kingstown field-hockey squad could not compete with Brian on the team. Allowing a boy to play would set a precedent and could endanger female players, league officials held.

Steven Brown, executive director of the state A.C.L.U., said that Brian, who is 5 feet, 4 inches tall and weighs 130 pounds, will join the team this week. He will wear the standard uniform of a kilt, jersey, and shin pads.

Mr. Brown said he knew of no other boys who wanted to join the team.

The Missouri Supreme Court has struck down a law that prevented school districts in the city of St. Louis and its surrounding counties from increasing property-tax rates, opening a potential source of new revenues for the cash-strapped districts.

The five-year-old law required political subdivisions to obtain permission from local voters in order to increase property-tax rates to keep pace with inflation.

The Riverview Gardens school district challenged the law, claiming that the district had lost $442,000 in revenues since the law was instituted, but the measure was upheld by a circuit court.

The state supreme court, however, ruled the provision unconstitutional late last month because it did not apply uniformly to other districts statewide, which were able to raise rates simply by obtaining a majority vote of their governing boards.

The Oklahoma Department of Public Instruction has agreed to provide education to 53 developmentally disabled students who have sued the agency, resolving part of the students’ five-year battle to obtain the type of education they believe federal law guarantees them.

The students, who are 14- to 21-year-old residents at Hissom Memorial Center in Sand Springs near Tulsa, will receive instruction at some or all of nine Tulsa-area school districts, said Louis Bullock, a lawyer for the students.

The districts are Broken Arrow, Catoosa, Coweta, Jenks, Prue, Sapulpa, Skiatook, Tulsa, and Union.

The districts had taught the students from September of last year until July, when a disagreement between the parties curtailed their contract, Mr. Bullock said. The students have not been in school since July, he said.

The agreement followed a hearing in federal district court before Judge James Ellison. Judge Ellison said he was dropping the districts from a lawsuit the students’ parents had filed that seeks, in part, an education in the local school districts for the students rather than in the “segregated” Hissom school. The parents believe such local instruction is guaranteed under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Judge Ellison had added the school districts to the lawsuit earlier this year and did not give a reason for the change, Mr. Bullock said. The districts had refused to provide instruction until they were dropped from the suit, according to Mr. Bullock.

The students could be back in the districts in about a week, Mr. Bullock said.

A version of this article appeared in the October 09, 1991 edition of Education Week as District News Roundup