Districts News Roundup

June 06, 1990 6 min read

John W. Porter, superintendent of the Detroit public schools, has recommended that 16 schools in the financially troubled district be closed.

The plan, which would require that more than 5,000 students be relocated, would result in a savings of $12.6 million next year, officials said. Fifteen of the schools recommended for closing are at or below 70 percent of their capacity.

The Detroit school board is scheduled to consider Dr. Porter’s recommendation early this month.

Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit has announced that it will close four schools at the end of the school year.

The archdiocese said low enrollment and insufficient funding led to the closing of St. David, St. Hyacinth, and Our Lady Queen of Heaven elementary schools and St. Hedwig High School.

St. Hyacinth was scheduled to be closed last year but was granted one year in which to seek more students. The school, which enrolled 415 students in 1983, had only 69 potential students a spokesman for the archdiocese said.

The closings will leave the city of Detroit with six Catholic high schools and 46 elementary schools. The archdiocese, which includes some suburban areas, has a total of 166 schools, officials said.

A plan to transfer black students from Kansas City, Mo., schools to suburban districts at state expense has been upheld by a federal appeals court.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ordered the plan in April.

By a 7-to-2 vote, the full circuit court last month denied an appeal by several suburban districts to overturn its order.

The interdistrict plan would allow up to 1,200 black students to transfer next year, and would gradually increase the ceiling to 6,000 students over the next five years.

A lawyer for the state of Missouri, which would be required to pay tuition and transportation costs for the students who transfer under the plan, said last week that the state does not plan to appeal the order.

But a lawyer for the suburban districts said “there’s a strong possibility” they will ask the Supreme Court to review the case.

New York schools would receive about $20 million less next year than this year in the city budget proposed by Mayor David N. Dinkins.

In his $28-billion budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, Mr. Dinkins unveiled several tax increases and service cuts to fend off an estimated $2-billion deficit.

For the city’s school system, the $20-million cut “cannot be taken without hurting our classroom services,” said Chancellor Joseph A. Fernandez. He will lobby to restore the cuts, a spokesman said.

A spokesman for the United Federation of Teachers said the union would also fight to restore the budget cuts. She added that she was pleased that the cuts “will not affect classrooms directly” and that they include no teacher layoffs.

The city council must still approve Mr. Dinkins’s budget. Some of the new taxes would also have to be approved by the state legislature.

A lawsuit alleging that the Rockland, Idaho, school district unconstitutionally allowed Mormon seminary classes and other religious activities in school has been settled out of court.

Two families sued the district last year in federal court, alleging that school officials were violating the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition against government establishment of religion. The lawsuit was backed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The lawsuit charged that a school in the district had virtually become an arm of the Mormon Church, allowing on-campus “release time” seminary classes during school hours, prayer before athletic competitions, and the shifting of some school-sanctioned activities to the local Mormon church.

Under a consent decree approved last month by U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge in Boise, the district must stop all activities contrary to the First Amendment. The settlement includes an undisclosed sum for damages to the two non-Mormon families who brought the suit.

A comprehensive anti-discrimination policy recently adopted by the Hardin County school board is being heralded by civil-rights activists as a model for other districts throughout Kentucky.

The new policy calls for annual anti-discrimination training programs for school employees and requires principals or the superintendent to investigate any complaints of discrimination.

Officials of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said they planned to send a copy of the new policy to every district in the state.

The district adopted the policy to comply with the terms of last month’s settlement in U.S. District Court of a suit filed against school officials by a student.

A 16-year-old black student alleged in the suit that a white art teacher had twice told her to “stop acting black” during the 1988-89 school year, and then lowered her

grade to punish her for complaining to school officials. The U.S. Education Department’s office for civil rights subsequently found the district in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Schools Chancellor Joseph A. Fernandez and the unions representing teachers and other school employees have reached a tentative agreement on a plan to test school workers for drug use in New York City.

Under the agreement, which is on the agenda of the Board of Education’s meeting this month, school employees could be tested for drug and alcohol use only if there was reasonable suspicion that their job performance was impaired.

School workers and the district also agreed that the first time employees tested positive for drug use, they would be given an opportunity to seek drug treatment. If they did not test positive for three years after seeking treatment, the original positive test result would be removed from their files, the two sides agreed.

The District of Columbia school board agreed late last month to close seven schools over the next three years, a decision that school officials estimate will save the district about $3 million to $4 million annually.

School officials said the decision, which represents the first time since 1982 that the board considered closing several schools at once, was prompted by the declining enrollment in the city’s public schools.

Superintendent of Schools Andrew E. Jenkins had proposed closing 12 schools, all of which are at least half-empty or dilapidated. Following a series of 10 community hearings on the closings, however, the board decided to pare the list to 7.

Four schools will close permanently this summer, two will close in June 1991, and one will close in June 1992. In the next few months, the board will consider 17 other schools Mr. Jenkins named for closing.

A 17-year-old student is suing the Florence, S.C., school district for $3 million for the humiliation he says he suffered when police searched his car for drugs in front of his friends in a school parking lot.

City police said they had received two anonymous tips that narcotics could be found in the car of Phillip F. Moore Jr., a student at Wilson High School. School officials gave police permission to search the car on school grounds. They did so using dogs just as school was dismissing at 3 P.M., but found no drugs.

The suit alleges that fellow students have shunned Mr. Moore since the episode.

Three teenage boys were arrested last week as suspects in a drive-by shooting at a Fort Worth, Tex., elementary school in which two children were wounded.

Police said the suspects were not gang members, but were “just out for kicks.”

The youths allegedly drove by Sunrise Elementary School during recess and fired a .22-caliber pistol into the crowd on the playground.

The two wounded students, whose names were not released, were in good condition last week.

Police have charged the suspects with delinquent conduct, which is the most serious charge juveniles can face in the state.

A version of this article appeared in the June 06, 1990 edition of Education Week as Districts News Roundup