District News Roundup

September 26, 1990 6 min read

Minority-education programs in the Montgomery County, Md., schools suffer from “inadequate commitment, organization, direction, support, and accountability,” a consultant to the system has charged in a report.

The system needs to revise its magnet-schools, bilingual-education, and minority-achievement programs, according to the report, written by the prominent Yale psychology professor Edmund W. Gordon.

Conducted over a period of nine months, the study included an analysis of minority student achievement; interviews with teachers, parents, and students; and site visits. A final report will be issued later this year after public hearings this fall.

Specifically, Mr. Gordon said the English for Speakers of Other Languages program appears to improve the scores of students whose first language is treated with respect, but it fails to acclimate students to U.S. culture. The county’s magnet-schools program, designed to improve racial equity, often simply concentrates the segregation, the report said.

The report credits the school system for its affirmative-action hiring program and its recognition that minority children are more often suspended and placed in special-education classes, and less likely to be identified for honors or gifted-and-talented programs.

The study is similar to one issued in Prince George’s County, Md., another suburb of the District of Columbia, only weeks earlier.

About 8,000 students in Harrison County, Miss., would continue to attend county schools even if an upcoming annexation effort makes them residents of Gulfport, a state judge has ruled.

An annexation being considered by Gulfport officials would dramatically shift the enrollment and demographics of schools in both the city school district and the Harrison County district, which has operated under a federal desegregation order since 1980.

To avoid creating problems for the two districts, a chancery court judge ruled on Sept. 5 that the annexation should not alter the county district’s boundaries.

The decision is only the first step toward solving the potential problem, said Albert Necaise, the lawyer for the county district. The county also is seeking a ruling from the U.S. Justice Department and a U.S. District Court judge.

If the current boundary is not maintained, Gulfport’s annexation could turn the county district, which now includes about 11,000 students and a 25 percent minority population, into a district of 3,000 students with a 2 percent minority enrollment, Mr. Necaise said.

A rural Virginia school system should reimburse a disabled student for the education-related costs he incurred while he was hospitalized for a nervous breakdown, a federal appeals court has ruled.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has ruled that Botetourt County school officials violated federal special-education law in 1987 when they delayed in providing services for Matthew Tice, who was then a handicapped 2nd-grade student in the district. Before a final placement determination was made, the boy suffered a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized for a month at a private facility, which provided education and therapy.

“We’re talking about a delay of weeks and months,” said Leisa Kuba Ciaffone, a lawyer for the boy. “The school system really was not paying attention.”

School officials had contended that they were not liable because their delay in providing services had not caused his nervous breakdown. The court said that contention was irrelevant.

Responding to a public outcry, a high school in Georgia is rethinking its policy of using color-coded student identification cards.

Under a program created by the school and local businesses, students at Norcross High School in Gwinnett County this month were issued identification cards that reflected their grade standing. Students with A and B averages received gold- and silver-colored cards, respectively, while all other students received white cards.

Under the merit plan, holders of gold cards are eligible for discounts at local businesses.

Charles Meagher, the school’s principal, says the program was meant to reward and recognize academic achievement. But public reaction against what was perceived as a “caste system” has been so negative that Mr. Meagher has discontinued the policy of linking grade average to the card’s color. The cards will now only be used for in-school purposes, and Mr. Meagher is meeting with faculty advisers, student leaders, and local parent groups to develop another method for rewarding outstanding students.

A federal judge in Alexandria, Va., has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a former Prince William County, Va., teacher who claimed she was discriminated against because she has a learning disability.

The teacher, Sofia Pandazides, failed eight times to meet a state-mandated cutoff score of 649 on the National Teachers Examinations. Passage of the test is required for permanent certification in Virginia.

Ms. Pandazides, who taught emotionally disturbed middle-school students for two years, was not rehired after she failed the test.

Her lawyer, Steven D. Stone, said he intends to refile the case because federal law prohibits employers from using tests that “prey upon” an applicant’s disabilities. Ms. Pandazides is suffering from an “auditory-visual process delay” that makes it impossible for her to complete a “fast-paced, timed exam” such as the nte, Mr. Stone said.

Ms. Pandazides twice was given 15 extra minutes in which to complete each of the test’s four sections, but Mr. Stone said that accommodation was not enough to compensate for his client’s disability.

Mr. Stone said the new lawsuit would ask that the state make an “individual determination” in Ms. Pandazides’s case that would take into account her teaching experience.

The Mescalero Apache Tribe of New Mexico has opened an independent, tribally operated school on its lands after failing to negotiate an agreement with a nearby school district to prevent the busing of students off the reservation.

The tribe opened its school late last month in temporary classrooms adjacent to a former community center where the Tularosa school district had been educating native children.

An elementary school on the reservation was destroyed by arsonists in February. When state inspectors declared the community center unsafe, school district officials proposed to bus children off the reservation to another school.

Tribe leaders asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs to open a school on the reservation while they negotiated a new agreement with the neighboring Ruiddoso school district. But bia officials said short timelines made it impossible to find money in the federal budget for the project.

Officials at the Tularosa district, meanwhile, may have to lay off staff members because of the loss of state and federal education funds precipitated by the tribe’s action.

The Loudon County, Va., school district has asked the state’s department of education to decide if its revised plan to allow parents to remove their children from sex-education classes violates state law.

Under state law, parents are allowed to remove their children from all or any part of the required K-12, family-life education program. Under the new Loudon County plan, parents would not be allowed to remove their children from those parts of the program that were being taught before state-mandated standards took effect this year.

Sandra Moody, an assistant to the superintendent, said about 70 percent of what is now considered the family-life education program had previously been included in the curriculum, such as teaching kindergartners their name and address.

Last year, when county parents were allowed to remove their children from the entire program, about 7 percent of the county’s students did not receive any family-life education, she said.

A version of this article appeared in the September 26, 1990 edition of Education Week as District News Roundup