District News Roundup

February 27, 1991 5 min read

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia has raised its high-school tuition for the 1991-92 school year to $1,975, a $275 increase that is the largest dollar increase since the schools began charging tuition in 1967.

Despite the 16.2 percent increase, the archdiocesan system of 25 high schools is projecting a deficit of more than $4 million for the next school year.

Officials said the deficit is the result of a declining high-school age population and a slight decline in the number of graduating 8th graders who chose to attend the schools this year. The high schools will borrow funds from the archdiocese to cover the deficit.

The tuition increase, announced in a Feb. 6 letter to parents, follows a $250, or 17.2 percent, increase this year to $1,700. (See Education Week, Feb. 28, 1990.)

The $275 increase is for Catholic students whose parishes contribute toward their secondary education. Non-Catholics will be charged an additional $500, an increase from the current $420 fee.

The archdiocesan high-school system enrolls more than 27,500 students. Officials said they are seeking to increase the amount of money available for financial aid, which currently totals about $2 million.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has rejected a lawsuit by aentucky student who claimed he was wrongly denied high-school credit for a year he was taught at home.

The student, Brian Vandiver of Elizabethtown, argued that the Hardin County school district discriminated against him by requiring him to pass a test to become a senior whereas transfer students from an unaccredited private school were accepted without taking the test.

But the appeals court panel ruled 3 to 0 on Feb. 12 that the student and his parents had to comply with the state’s laws on academic standards, and that nothing in the law or the state’s actions “interfered with Brian’s right to pursue a religious education at home.”

The student’s parents initially agreed to the tests, but after discovering how much academic work was involved in preparing for them, they asked the district to promote their son without them.

The panel said there was no discrimination in the district’s handling of the case because school officials believed that the private school from which the transfer students were accepted was properly accredited, even though it turned out it was not.

A state civil jury in New Jersey has rejected arguments from a former student in the Millville district who claimed that the district violated her First Amendment rights by forcing her to attend a drug-education course.

Nancy Thompson asked to be excused from the course at Millville Senior High School in 1985. When school officials refused, her mother sued the district, arguing that the course would violate her daughter’s religious rights by “polluting” her mind.

An administrative law judge and the state commissioner of education upheld the district in its handling of the student’s case.

A Dover, Del., teacher is making known his stand against the Persian Gulf war by refusing to recite the pledge of allegiance in his classroom.

When students in William W. Hutchison Jr.'s 7th-grade homeroom at Central Middle School stand for a moment of silence honoring the troops in Saudi Arabia and then recite the pledge, Mr. Hutchison remains seated as he has since Jan. 16.

“I felt it would be a mockery to pledge allegiance to a country that is doing something so morally wrong in this war,” Mr. Hutchison said.

School officials asked the social-studies teacher not to take his political protest into the classroom, but the administration plans no action against the 20-year teacher and Vietnam veteran, said the school’s principal, John A. Leone.

“Our position is to give it as little credence as possible,” Mr. Leone said. “We have just chosen not to react to it.”

Some parents and students in the community, home to Dover Air Force Base, have expressed displeasure with Mr. Hutchison’s action, Mr. Leone said.

But about seven students in his 30-student homeroom have also elected to sit out the pledge, said Mr. Hutchison, who was named the 6,000-student district’s teacher of the year in 1988.

New York City’s school system has created a pressure-cooker environment where students must compete for seats in elite, highly specialized career institutions to avoid their neglected and decaying neighborhood schools, a new report says.

About 80 percent of the 70,000 students entering high school in New York apply to specialty schools, according to the report issued this month by Educational Priorities Panel, a coalition of education advocates. Of those, half are accepted.

“The net effect is that there are a lot of losers before they hit the 9th grade,” said Noreen Connell, the panel’s executive director.

Moreover, many of those accepted will begin career specializations not because they are interested in those careers, but because they are desperate to avoid their neighborhood “zoned” schools.

The system has twisted the concept of school choice, Ms. Connell said. Instead of high schools competing for students, students are competing for high schools that cannot continually expand to meet the demand.

Most students surveyed said that they would rather get a good, general education in their own neighborhoods, the report said, but that they feel that is often not possible.

The panel urged the New York school board to halt the creation of new career programs and to channel resources into improving existing zoned schools. It suggested creating schools within the large neighborhood schools to keep students with the same group of teachers and peers, thus fostering a more personalized education.

A former student at Ridley High School in Folsom, Pa., has appealed the dismissal of his federal lawsuit asking damages for injuries he allegedly incurred while hypnotized during a psychology class at the school in 1986.

The plaintiff, Robert Heist Jr., claims that he suffered a sore arm, dizziness, and nightmares for three months after he participated in a group hypnosis demonstration at the school.

Lisa Cagguila, a classmate who says she experienced similar symptoms, filed the suit jointly with Mr. Heist. Both had sued the Ridley school district and its superintendent, the school’s principal and psychology teacher, and the hypnotist, Joseph Scott, for $20,000 each. Ms. Cagguila dropped out of the case after the suit was dismissed last November.

Mr. Scott, a clinical hypnotherapist, said the students’ claims that they have post-traumatic stress syndrome are unfounded.

“I wasn’t doing hypnotic suggestion, only a relaxation technique,” he said. “I will never do another voluntary school demonstration again, and I recommend the same to others.”

Mr. Scott hired his own lawyer after the school refused to finance his defense.

Jon Aurrit, Mr. Heist’s lawyer, believes that the incident violated the students’ civil rights, and he hopes the case will bring attention to the need for parental approval for the use of hypnosis in classrooms.

A version of this article appeared in the February 27, 1991 edition of Education Week as District News Roundup