District News Roundup

May 30, 1990 6 min read

The Los Angeles board of education has voted to cut $33 million from the district’s budget, mainly by eliminating 634 clerical and administrative positions in the central and regional administrative offices.

The board is expected to make further cuts, possibly totaling $100 million, next month in an attempt to balance the district’s 1990-91 budget by June 30, according to Patrick Spencer, a spokesman for the district.

The Los Angeles Unified School District’s budget crisis was precipitated by a combination of factors, Mr. Spencer said, including reduced estimates of state aid, raises for teachers and other employees, and the district’s decision to balance its current-year budget with $100 million that must now be trimmed from next year.

The school district has reopened contract discussions with its employees’ unions in light of its financial troubles, Mr. Spencer added.

The recent cutbacks will “seriously affect” the district’s extensive program of in-service training for teachers, he noted. But hardest hit will be student counseling, health, and “auxiliary” services, which will lose 103 positions, including 28 certified employees.

A science teacher at Hickman County High School in Centerville, Tenn., was arrested and ordered held without bond on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated arson in the May 20 shooting death of the school’s assistant principal.

Donald Givens, a teacher in the county for the past 16 years, allegedly shot Ron Wallace on May 20 after the assistant principal found the teacher trying to blow up the school’s science lab.

According to police, Mr. Givens then set fires in the auditorium, library, English-department library, and science lab. Damage to the school is estimated at $150,000.

Mr. Givens’s motive is unclear, police say, though school officials have speculated that he may have thought his job was threatened because of complaints from some students about his teaching.

Voters in West Concord, Minn., angry over the alleged failure of school officials to report the suspected sexual abuse of a high-school student, have ousted two school-board members and replaced them with write-in candidates.

In school-board elections held May 15, the write-in candidates--Dan Kutzler and Larry Bachman--defeated the school-board chairman, Brian Weber, and another incumbent, Russell Finne.

The write-in campaign was organized after a grand jury indicted a West Concord High School teacher and coach on criminal charges of having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student.

The school principal and the local superintendent of schools allegedly knew about the relationship but failed to report it to law-enforcement authorities. Some local residents believed the board should have disciplined the officials for their part in the incident.

Voters in Denver have narrowly approved a $199.6-million bond issue to raise money to replace or refurbish aging schools and equip classrooms for computers.

The bond issue will provide funds to replace four aging elementary schools, as well as carry out repairs, such as replacing leaking roofs and remodeling science labs, at virtually every other school in the district.

The bond issue was approved this month by a vote of 23,056 to 22,139.

The parents of a 16-year-old girl from Englewood, Colo., have filed a lawsuit against an Arizona private school, claiming that the girl was exposed to illegal drug use and satanism.

The suit was filed this month in U.S. District Court in Denver by William S. and Donna Davis against the Oak Creek Ranch School of West Sedona, Ariz. It seeks damages for counseling and therapy they say was required after their daughter attended the school during April and May of 1989.

The lawsuit alleges that the girl was exposed to students with “substantial drug problems” and to “the practice of satanism by students.”

School officials in Glasgow, Mont., unfairly practiced discrimination by paying higher health-insurance premiums for some married teachers, the Montana Supreme Court has ruled.

The controversy arose in 1987 because the school district paid full health-insurance premiums for teachers who were married to other school-district employees, while paying only 85 percent of the premiums for all other teachers. Claiming the practice violated the local teachers'-union contract with the district, the Montana Education Association took the matter to binding arbitration.

The arbitrator agreed with the union, saying that the district had engaged in “marital discrimination.” He ordered the district to pay the full health-insurance premiums for all the teachers for the two years the contract was in force.

A district court later ruled that the arbitrator had exceeded his authority in ordering compensation.

The May 8 opinion by the state supreme court overturned the lower-court ruling. The justices ordered the district to comply with the arbitrator’s opinion and fully compensate all the teachers.

Officials estimate that it will cost the district $40,000 to comply with the order.

A 1st-grade teacher in Pine Bluff, Ark., who told one of her students to lick up spit from an asphalt playground has been reassigned to a nonteaching job amid allegations that her action was racially motivated.

The incident at Broadmoor Elementary School took place during a physical-education class earlier this month. Christy Miller, a white teacher, ordered one of her students, a black girl, to lick up her own spit from the asphalt.

Willis Alderson, the district superintendent, reprimanded Ms. Miller and reassigned her to the central office. He denied, however, that the teacher’s action was racially motivated.

Ms. Miller, he said, “simply made a mistake,” for which she has apologized to the student and her family. A group of 15 to 20 parents and community members was wrongly trying to create a racial incident out of the episode, Mr. Alderson contended.

The Pine Bluff School Board is investigating the incident and is unlikely to decide whether to return Ms. Miller to the classroom before the end of the school year, he added.

The parents of a 7th-grade student in Paducah, Ky., have filed a federal lawsuit charging that a teacher taught their son that pretending to drink was an effective way to deal with peer pressure.

The boy, Steven Jackson, got into trouble when he followed the alleged advice during a school-bus trip, the suit charges. According to the suit, a 17-year-old student urged Steven to drink from a ketchup bottle that, he said, contained alcohol. Steven, the suit claims, pretended to do so. Both students were then suspended for 10 days for possession of alcohol.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court, seeks damages for libel, defamation of character, and alleged violation of Steven’s civil rights. It also asks that all mention of the incident be removed from the youth’s school records.

In their suit, the parents claim that a teacher told students during a required course on sexual, drug, and alcohol issues that a person could avoid drinking by pretending to take a drink of alcohol, and, at the same time, reduce the likelihood of being harassed by peers.

The suit charges that school officials called Steven a liar, and that his grades suffered as a result of the incident.

Defendants in the suit include the school principal, district superintendent, and three school-board members.

The College Board may administer the Scholastic Aptitude Test twice a year in New York State without disclosing the questions and answers under a settlement of a lawsuit reached this month.

The board and other testing agencies had sued the state over its truth-in-testing law, which requires such disclosure. (See Education Week, April 25, 1990.)

In January, a federal judge ruled in a separate suit that New York’s disclosure law conflicts with federal copyright law and is unenforceable. The state is appealing.

College Board officials said they limited the number of sat administrations in the state because the disclosure provision requires costly development of more test questions. The board will continue to disclose questions and answers for five sat administrations and two versions of the Pre-sat in the state, officials said.

A version of this article appeared in the May 30, 1990 edition of Education Week as District News Roundup