District News Roundup

August 01, 1990 10 min read

A federal judge has upheld the Prince George’s County, Md., school district’s policy of transferring teachers to maintain racial balance.

U.S. District Judge Frank A. Kaufman found that the practice of overriding seniority to reassign teachers did not violate the equal-protection clause of the Constitution or the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as 12 teachers and the U.S. Justice Department had claimed in their suit.

In his July decision, however, Judge Kaufman supported the Justice Department’s contention that the district was unreasonable in requiring that minorities make up 30 to 50 percent of the faculty at each school when they constitute only 29.7 percent of the districtwide faculty.

“There’s no way that you can take 29 and make a minimum of 30. It was irrational,” said James P. Turner, deputy assistant attorney general in the civil-rights division.

The judge ordered the district to evaluate the transfers and consider reinstating some transferred teachers, Mr. Turner said.

A federal judge has ruled that Chapter 2 remedial aid to students at a reli6giously affiliated school in San Francisco does not violate the First Amendment’s prohibition of government establishment of religion.

Ruling in a case brought by several California taxpayers, U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick said that federal funds may constitutionally be used for books, filmstrips, computers, videos, and other instructional materials for students at the Simpatico School. The school is a residential facility for pregnant teenage girls operated by Mount St. Elizabeth-St. Joseph, an affiliate of a Roman Catholic women’s religious order.

The challenge to the federal Education Consolidation and Improvement Act was one of a series backed nationwide by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a Washington-based advocacy group. The group contends that the Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 remedial-education programs impermissibly entangle church and state by providing aid to religiously affiliated schools.

Judge Orrick ruled in summary judgment on the Chapter 2 portion of the case. A trial on the challenge to Chapter 1 aid to parochial schools in San Francisco will continue, said Lee Boothby, legal counsel for Americans United.

In his ruling, the judge noted that 74 percent of the students who receive Chapter 2 funds through the San Francisco Unified School District attend public schools.

“The fact that Chapter 2 is directed to all children equally, as opposed to nonpublic school children in particular, is the important factor that makes this case different from those where the Supreme Court has found that the primary effect of government aid was to endorse religion,” the judge wrote.

A consolidated Arkansas district that voted last month to dissolve must remain intact, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Henry Woods issued a preliminary injunction June 29 preventing the dissolution of the Palestine-Wheatley school district, located about 75 miles east of Little Rock.

On June 5, residents of Palestine, which is predominantly white, voted overwhelmingly to dissolve the consolidated district. In predominantly black Wheatley, voters reaffirmed their support for the merger, which began voluntarily three years ago.

Over all, the vote was to dissolve the district. But the judge said that doing so would violate a settlement reached last May in the district’s desegregation case.

In a separate development, Judge Woods removed himself from overseeing the desegregation case in Pulaski County, which contains Little Rock. He said he was “unable to successfully implement a plan to bring equity to the children of this county under the restrictions imposed by the Court of Appeals.”

On July 2, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit modified some of Judge Woods’ directives in the case.

U.S. District Judge Susan Webber will replace Judge Woods in the case.

The Kansas City, Mo., school district may relax the enrollment guidelines for its magnet schools, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Russell G. Clark issued his opinion July 3. It applies to high schools and middle schools and is effective for the 1990-91 school year only.

Previously, new magnet schools were required to have a 60 percent minority enrollment, while existing magnet schools were to make at least 2 percent progress toward that level each school year.

Since the district’s minority enrollment is about 75 percent, those guidelines are difficult to achieve quickly, the district’s lawyers argued. The guidelines would also cause some minority students to be denied entry into some schools, they said.

Lawyers for the state of Missouri, which funds part of the district’s desegregation plan, argued against the new standards. Relaxing the goals ultimately would harm desegregation efforts in the district, they said.

The district is currently under court order to implement a desegregation plan, and is trying to attract more non-minority students.

Oregon’s second-largest school district must relieve its overcrowding or face the loss of state funding.

The Oregon Department of Education last month ordered the 27,000-student Salem-Keizer school district to reduce its average class size. Some primary-grade classes have twice the number allowed by the state, according to a spokesman for the department.

Area voters last May rejected a proposal to increase property taxes to fund more school construction.

The district has until this week to file a plan to correct the problem. It will then have one year to meet state standards; if it fails, the state could withhold all basic aid.

No district has ever lost basic state aid because of a failure to meet state standards, according to the education department.

Mayor David N. Dinkins of New York has appointed a black woman to the final open seat on the school board, giving minority members a majority on the board.

Westina L. Matthews, a vice president at Merrill Lynch and a former elementary-school teacher, was the second black named to the board. In addition, it has two Hispanic and three white members. All but two members of the previous board were white.

The policymaking body broadly oversees a population of some 940,000 students, 80 percent of whom come from minority groups, according to Frank Sobrino, a school spokesman.

Board members selected Gwendolyn C. Baker, the executive director of the national ywca as their new president. She replaces Robert F. Wagner Jr., a former mayoral candidate who was appointed to the school board in 1985. Ms. Baker, Mr. Dinkins’ other appointee and his choice for the presidency, is one of only two holdover board members.

Citing problems in the way the Boston school system serves handicapped pupils, the Massachusetts Department of Education for the second year in a row has ordered that nearly $1 million in federal special-education funds be withheld from the district.

The order last month by state Commissioner of Education Harold Raynolds Jr. comes in a long-running state court case involving the city schools and handicapped children, their parents, and advocates. Mr. Raynolds is authorized by the court to withhold funds if school officials fail to comply with a 1976 consent decree in the case.

Mr. Raynolds said he held back the funds because school officials are failing to promptly translate students’ individualized education plans for Spanish-speaking parents and are not providing transportation for transferring disabled students within the 14-day time period set by the court.

Federal funds were restored last year after school officials met the state’s deadlines for making improvements. School officials said they would do the same this year.

A federal judge has approved a plan to improve education for children of migrant workers who swell the enrollment of a tiny rural school district in Washington State by 50 percent during the spring asparagus-picking season.

A consent decree endorsed by U.S. District Judge Robert McNichols requires the Mabton School District to reduce class sizes, pay for more teachers, and otherwise revamp its educational programs to cope with the annual overflow of students.

Previously, the 620-student district had placed many of the migrant children in portable classrooms with newly hired teachers. Their parents had sued, alleging that their children were being denied the same quality of education as their year-round peers.

A federal grand jury in Phoenix has indicted an elementary-school teacher on sexual- and child-abuse charges stemming from allegations of misconduct with Indian schoolchildren.

Fred Stover, 49, who has taught for two years in Supai, Ariz., a remote community of 500 located in a canyon adjacent to the Grand Canyon, was indicted in June on four counts of aggravated child abuse and six counts of abusive sexual conduct, according to a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Mr. Stover was arrested by the fbi on charges that he molested a 6-year-old Indian girl in his home in early May.

Eddie F. Brown, assistant secretary for Indian affairs in the U.S. Interior Department, visited officials of the Havasupai Tribe--which operates the school under a contract with the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs--shortly after the arrest to discuss allegations that tribal officials failed to remove Mr. Stover from his job even though they were aware of rumors of sexual misconduct on his part as early as last December.

In addition to the criminal investigation undertaken by the U.S. Justice Department, the b.i.a. is investigating whether the required background checks were made before Mr. Stover was hired and to ensure that school officials complied with a bia policy that requires them to report suspected incidents of child abuse, a spokesman said.

One in six black males in the 9th and 10th grades in the District of Columbia’s public schools has sold drugs, according to a new report by the rand Corporation.

Among the 387 adolescents over age 16 who were surveyed for the study, nearly 1 in 3 said they had sold drugs. The teenagers were far more likely to sell drugs than to use them, the study found: only 11 percent of those surveyed said they had used an illegal drug during the previous year, and 70 percent of the drug dealers did not report using any drugs.

Nearly two-thirds of the teenagers said they would do nothing if someone they knew sold drugs, the report said. The survey also found that many young dealers continued to sell drugs even though they believed it to be a risky activity. Nearly half of the dealers said they thought a year of selling drugs is likely to produce serious injury or death, the report said.

A New York City teacher has sued the Board of Education and the city alleging that she and all the city’s public-school students are at greater risk of developing asbestos-related diseases because they have been exposed to friable asbestos in the schools.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn last month, calls for the creation of a fund to compensate children who may develop asbestos-related diseases as adults. The fund would also pay for medical monitoring for the more than 1 million people under the age of 21 who are current or former public-school students, said Victor Yannacone Jr., the lawyer who brought the suit on behalf of Deanna Dauber, a teacher at Public School 9 in Brooklyn.

The lawyer said the suit calls on the district to provide information about the various asbestos companies that sold products to the city’s schools. Once the district releases this information, he said, the asbestos companies, and not the Board of Education, will be the defendants in the lawsuit.

Mr. Yannacone said the suit, which has yet to be certified as a class action by a judge, is the first of its kind in the country. He said he has subsequently filed a similar suit on behalf of students attending schools in Bedford, N.Y.

An education task force formed by the Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, N.Y., has proposed involving up to 2,400 Kodak employees in programs to help strengthen mathematics and science programs in the city’s schools.

In a recent report to the Rochester school board, the task force recommended establishing early-childhood learning centers focused on science to prepare children for kindergarten.

The company also proposed working with the school district to strengthen its mathematics and science programs by specifying what kinds of knowledge the company’s future employees will need.

Kodak has, in addition, proposed lending its employees to help the city’s teachers strengthen their teaching skills or to teach classes themselves.

A version of this article appeared in the August 01, 1990 edition of Education Week as District News Roundup