District News Roundup

May 31, 1989 5 min read

A group of parents in Ohio County, Ky., has announced plans to boycott a proposed new school that they say will be built too close to a toxic-waste dumping site.

Peggy L. Haynes, president of Concerned Citizens for a Safe School Site, said last week that nearly 600 parents in the rural community had agreed to keep their children out of the school.

The parents are concerned that the school site is less than two miles from old coal mines where aluminum companies have buried wastes that emit toxic ammonia fumes when exposed to water.

Art Williams, a spokesman for the state natural-resources agency, conceded that the fumes may cause some irritation, but said the site has not been found to be a health hazard. Although the state plans to clean up the dump site, there is no reason to halt construction of the school, he said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has placed the dump site on the priority list for cleanup aid under the Superfund program.

Ms. Haynes argued that the school board’s action on the building plans waspolitically influenced, since the district6superintendent owns a farm adjacent to the planned site. But a spokesman for the district denied any impropriety.

The board is expected to vote on opening up contract bidding for the project next month, with construction scheduled to be completed by 1990.

District of Columbia vocational schools will offer academic instruction in an attempt to keep students from skipping classes, the school board has decided.

The board voted this month to have the seven schools, which currently offer only half-day vocational programs, provide academic courses as well.

Under the present system, many students attend their academic classes at the city’s 13 regular high schools, but skip their afternoon vocational classes, a district spokesman explained.

Wyandotte, Mich., school officials have stopped assigning developmentally disabled students to scrub floors in the homes of parents and teachers after two mothers filed a lawsuit calling the practice “child slavery.”

Sandra Adkins and Laura Murphy, whose daughters attend the district’s Downriver Regional Training Center, contended in court this month that, while they had given permission for their children to gain work experience in a clothing store, they had no idea that the youths were being taken from class to do unpaid housework as well.

Michael Williamson, superintendent of the suburban Detroit district, said that the house-cleaning duties--usually in the homes of senior citizens--were an important part of the school’s work-experience efforts.

“It’s been a very successful program in moving youngsters with significant handicapping conditions to a high level of independence,” Mr. Williamson said. Faculty homes were being used, he explained, because no senior citizens had volunteered recently for the program.

Candidates for the leadership of the nation’s largest school system will be screened by an eight-member search committee formed by the New York City Board of Education.

The committee will seek a successor for the late Richard R. Green, the schools chancellor who died unexpectedly this month after only 14 months on the job.

The panel will be headed by Albert G. Bowker, a former chancellor of the City University of New York, who also led the committee that found Mr. Green.

The board also voted to name Bernard Mecklowitz, a former community district superintendent, as interim chancellor for the system until the end of the year.

Mr. Mecklowitz has announced that he will not seek the chancellorship, which is expected to go to a member of a minority group.

Three Brooklyn, Ohio, school officials have been indicted for failing to report to police a woman’s allegation that she had been sexually abused by a teacher when she was a high-school student more than a decade ago.

In a 1988 phone call to the high school’s principal, the woman, now 31, charged that Kenneth Konicek, a band director, had abused her in the 1970’s, said Thomas J. Sammon, an assistant county prosecutor.

A Cuyahoga County grand jury this month indicted the school’s principal and athletic director and the district superintendent for the misdemeanor of failing to report a felony.

Although none of the officials held their present positions at the time of the alleged incident, they still had an obligation to report the allegations, Mr. Sammon said.

But William D. Beyer, a lawyer for the superintendent, called the indictments “a matter of Monday-morning quarterbacking as to what someone should have done with the limited amount of information being given and the circumstances under which it was given.”

Mr. Konicek resigned last month after pleading guilty to sexual battery and now awaits sentencing.

The school board has not acted against the superintendent and principal, who are scheduled for arraignment this week. The athletic director, who has also been indicted on unrelated sexual-assault charges, has taken a voluntary leave of absence.

The Philadelphia schools cannot enforce a century-old state rule barring teachers from wearing religious dress or emblems, a federal judge has declared.

U.S. District Judge James McGirr Kelly said this month that the rule violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires a “reasonable accommodation” of employees’ religious beliefs.

The judge ordered the district to pay $5,315 in back wages and interest to Delores Reardon, a former substitute teacher who said she was denied assignments because she wore a headpiece mandated by her Islamic faith.

Salt Lake City students would be killed during a major earthquake because some school buildings would col6lapse, a study commissioned by the district has concluded.

The study found that most parts of the city’s public high schools and 10 of its elementary schools would pose a “high life hazard,” while most sections of 12 other elementary schools and all 4 intermediate schools would pose “appreciable life hazards.”

Roman Catholic parents should not let their children attend aids-education lessons offered by Boston public schools, Cardinal Bernard F. Law urged parishioners last week.

The district’s aids curriculum, which stresses abstinence but includes information about condoms, “presents various issues of sexual behavior in a valueless, amoral context,” he wrote.

District policy allows parents who object to the classes for 7th- to 12th-grade students to have their children exempted from the lessons.

A version of this article appeared in the May 31, 1989 edition of Education Week as District News Roundup