Education

Districts News Roundup

September 09, 1992 3 min read
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A federal law barring age discrimination in employment does not apply to teachers at religious schools, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Arthur D. Spatt of Uniondale, N.Y., ruled that applying the Age Discrimination in Employment Act to a teacher at a Roman Catholic high school would conflict with the First Amendment’s religion clauses.

Guy DeMarco, a 49-year-old mathematics teacher at Holy Cross High School in a suburb of New York City, sued the school after his teaching contract was not renewed. He alleged that the school was discriminating against him based on his age, in violation of the ADEA.

But applying the law to a religious institution such as Holy Cross “would give rise to serious constitutional questions and excessive church-state entanglements,’' Judge Spatt wrote in his July 17 opinion.

He noted that other federal courts have split over the question of whether the ADEA applies to religious institutions, but the judge found no Congressional intent to apply the law to churches or religious schools.

Judge Spatt said that requiring officials of a religious school to provide their reasoning for releasing an older employee “may subject its religious philosophy to governmental scrutiny.’'

A federal judge in Texas has struck down a curfew on teenagers that was instituted last year by the Dallas City Council.

Judge Jerry Buchmeyer of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas found that the law violated both the Texas Constitution’s and the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of freedom of speech and association, among other protections, said Joe Cook, northern regional director of the A.C.L.U. of Texas.

The Aug. 10 ruling was the first since the ACLU filed suit against the ordinance in July 1991.

Approved by the council in June of that year, the Dallas curfew had never been enforced, Mr. Cook said, because of the pending lawsuit.

The curfew, prompted by a desire to curb crime, had barred teenagers under age 17 from the streets between 11 P.M. and 6 A.M. weekdays and from midnight to 6 A.M. on weekends.

“I think the message [the ruling] sends is that young people have rights and parents have rights that can only be taken away if there are compelling state interests,’' Mr. Cook said.

Apparently responding to the court ruling on the Dallas curfew, the Fort Worth City Council voted 7 to 2 on Aug. 25 to cancel its own curfew on teenagers, which had been put in place in March, Mr. Cook said.

The New York City Board of Education has angered many volunteer groups that provide AIDS-prevention sessions in the city’s schools by adopting a policy requiring them to agree in writing to stress abstinence over other methods of preventing the spread of the disease.

The board, which approved the new policy in principle in May, finalized the requirement on a 4-to-1 vote in what was described as a hastily called session late last month.

Schools Chancellor Joseph A. Fernandez, who opposes the requirement and favors a more explicit AIDS curriculum, was on vacation at the time, as were two board members known to oppose the pledge.

Mr. Fernandez dubbed the new requirement a “loyalty oath.’'

The resolution adopted in May required Mr. Fernandez to draft such an oath, but four board members who opposed the chancellor’s plans to implement an explicit AIDS-related curriculum were unhappy with his initial efforts.

Ninfa Segarra, a board member from the Bronx who voted in favor of the new oath, said that it simply brings the board’s policies into line with state regulations.

More than 40 of the roughly 200 groups that provide AIDS-education volunteers in the schools have already refused to sign the pledge, and others are expected to follow suit, said Terry Lewis, a spokeswoman for the AIDS and Adolescent Network, an umbrella organization of community groups.

Meanwhile, the city’s health commissioner, Margaret A. Hamburg, acting with the support of Mayor David N. Dinkins, denounced the pledge requirement as “abhorrent.’'

A version of this article appeared in the September 09, 1992 edition of Education Week as Districts News Roundup

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