District News Roundup

September 12, 1984 5 min read

The Wyoming Education Association has filed suit in federal court charging that a Campbell County School District policy on student publications is unconstitutional and violates students’ and teachers’ First Amendment rights. The wea also charges the district with harassment of the journalism adviser at Campbell County High School.

According to Debra Lee, a spokesman for the wea, “the district’s [student-publications] policy is unconstitutionally vague, fails to clearly set forth what is forbidden, and is unconstitutionally overbroad in describing the content to be regulated and in providing for broad prior restraint.”

“It makes the decisions too subjective on the part of school administrators,” Ms. Lee explained, adding that students would “have no way of knowing what might be in violation of district policy.”

The lawsuit also charges that school officials harassed Judy Worth, a high-school newspaper and yearbook adviser. According to Ms. Lee, the district forced Ms. Worth to resign her position as adviser last May because she publicly protested the district policy and sought advice from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Student Press Law Center, a national legal-aid center in Washington, D.C.

The suit was prompted by a series of incidents beginning with controversy over a cartoon that was to be published in a school newspaper last December, Ms. Lee said. The cartoon was seen as “poking fun at the Moral Majority,” and the principal blocked publication, she said.

If the wea wins the case, Ms. Lee explained, “our complainant is asking for a constitutionally proper publications policy.”

The suit also asks that Ms. Worth be reinstated as journalism adviser, and that she receive back pay and an unspecified amount in damages for “emotional suffering.”

Concerned that New York City public schools for too long have been judged on the basis of standardized- test scores, Schools Chancellor Nathan Quinones announced this month that he will be issuing annual report cards to New York schools based on various performance indicators for each school.

“The only measurement that gets public attention is annual reading and math scores and those are not adequate to profile school systems,” said Robert Terte, a spokesman for the school system.

The report cards will include information about sources of funding; staff vacancies and attendance; student suspensions, truancies, and dropouts; referrals to and decertification from special-education programs; standardized-test results; and the number of diplomas issued.

Also included, Mr. Terte said, will be information on students’ ethnicinued on Following Page background and economic status.

“You should receive credit for where you take the kids,” Mr. Terte said. “You can’t really take credit for the fact every student that attends the Bronx High School of Science graduates and goes to college because you pre-select admission.”

Gov. James R. Thompson of Illinois last week signed into law a bill that stiffens penalties for school-bus drivers who drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Under the measure, which becomes effective July 1, 1985, those convicted of driving a school bus with children aboard while under the influence can be sentenced to three years in jail and a $10,000 fine. The maximum penalty for bus drivers convicted of driving under the influence is currently one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The Milwaukee School Board has unanimously approved a school-safety plan that may bring police officers into the schools as “security consultants,” features a computerized security data-collection system, and establishes a central office of school safety for the district.

Superintendent Lee R. McMurrin recommended the plan to the board late last month after a school-security firm that studied the district’s schools and interviewed staff members submitted its recommendations for improving systemwide security, according to a spokesman for the district.

The plan’s components include:

The establishment of a police-school liaison program in which the city police department, upon the re-quest of a principal, would provide police officers to serve as counselors and “educational consultants” to students and faculty members.

The liaison idea, which is modeled after a similar program in Madison, Wis., must be approved by Milwaukee’s police chief. Although the city is without a police chief currently, the two candidates who are being considered for the position have indicated that they support the plan.

The creation of a $42,500-a-year directorship of school safety.

The establishment of a computerized “incident-profiling system"--using the district’s word-processor--from which officials could obtain data on school crime, violence, and disciplinary infractions.

The Wake County (N.C.) Board of Education, which had just cleared four of nine school officials named in a state investigation of the misspending of federal Chapter 1 funds, last week faced new accusations that district funds have been misused.

The Wake County Association for Retarded Citizens (arc) charged that during the past school year, the Wake public schools misspent about $1.1 million in state special-education funds--money that the group said should have been used to hire teachers for handicapped and gifted children.

James R. Hamilton, a director of the organization, said the state allo-cated funds to enable the district to hire 67.5 full-time-equivalent teachers of exceptional children, but the district hired only 16.5 teachers for the program.

The $1.1-million figure is based on an estimate that each of the additional 51 teachers would have been paid a salary, including benefits, of $22,000, Mr. Hamilton said. The association, he added, is seeking to determine how the $1.1 million--or the cost of 51 teachers at $22,000 a year--was spent, and why it was not spent on programs for exceptional children.

Lowell Harris, deputy director for the division of exceptional children in the State Department of Public Instruction, commented that while the state board of education intended the funds allocated through the program to be used to hire teachers for exceptional children, that use was not a requirement.

Among the administrators cleared by the board was Robert E. Bridges, the district’s former deputy superintendent. Mr. Bridges was named acting superintendent after Walter L. Marks resigned late last month from the superintendency of the 55,000-student system in the wake of the state’s finding that $490,000 in Chapter 1 funds had been spent on the Wake system’s regular program.

The board also cleared three other administrators but found that Carlos D. Hicks, the district’s associate superintendent for administrative services, failed to meet his responsibilities in implementing portions of the Chapter 1 program. Mr. Hicks resigned shortly before the board issued its statement.

A version of this article appeared in the September 12, 1984 edition of Education Week as District News Roundup