High Court Declines School-Counseling Case

November 08, 1995 4 min read

The U.S. Supreme Court declined last week to hear an appeal from two Michigan parents who alleged that a school counselor treated their son against their wishes.

Daniel and Nancy Newkirk of East Lansing, Mich., contend that the counselor, Michael Fink, violated their right to family privacy by counseling their 8-year-old son because he was quiet and did not interact with other students. The parents say that the sessions led the boy to experience emotional problems and panic attacks.

The Rutherford Institute, a Charlottesville, Va.-based religious-liberty organization, filed a lawsuit on behalf of the parents.

A federal district judge ruled for the counselor in 1993, finding no constitutional violations. A federal appeals court upheld the ruling earlier this year. The high court declined without comment on Oct. 30 to hear the appeal of Newkirk v. Fink (Case No. 95-379).

Separately, the court rejected the appeal of the Knox County, Tenn., school district in a suit over who should pay $30,000 to $50,000 in lawyers’ fees stemming from a special-education lawsuit.

Two lower courts held that the parents of a hearing-impaired student were the prevailing party in a dispute over his educational placement, and thus were entitled to have the district pay the fees.

The district’s appeal was Knox County Board of Education v. Rynes (No. 95-351).

Zero-Tolerance Laws

Forty-four states met the Oct. 20 deadline for compliance with a federal law that requires states to pass legislation mandating one-year expulsions of students who bring a gun to school, the Department of Education has reported.

Kentucky and Michigan are the only states that have not enacted so-called zero-tolerance laws. A bill is pending in Michigan, and Kentucky has been granted a waiver as its legislature does not meet until next year.

The department said it was investigating whether laws passed in Colorado, Mississippi, and Oklahoma meet the conditions of the federal mandate, which was included in last year’s amendments to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

The department’s report, issued last month, said South Dakota was already planning to modify its anti-gun law in the next legislative session to fulfill the federal requirements.

Anti-Drug Conference

President Clinton last week announced that he will convene a one-day White House conference in January to discuss strategies for combating teenage violence and drug use.

Participants will include Mr. Clinton, Cabinet members, health and crime professionals, parents, and young people. A specific date has not been set.

Mr. Clinton made the announcement during a speech in Washington to the National Leadership Forum of Community Antidrug Coalitions.

“We want to bring together people like you to highlight successes in local communities, and we want to help you build a true national coalition to combat drugs and violence,” Mr. Clinton said.

Philanthropic Inaction

Foundation leaders have failed to respond adequately to pending congressional plans to cut social programs, a report from the Center for Responsive Philanthropy charges.

“Despite the severity of budget cuts proposed by Congress, despite the urgency of giving voice to underrepresented constituencies, and despite the dire need for political reform,” the report from the Washington-based watchdog group says, “the response of the foundation community has been negligible.”

Few funders have actively reviewed their grantmaking priorities or reached out to current or potential grantees to discuss a possible response, says the report, which is based on 75 interviews with foundation and nonprofit officials conducted over the past three months.

Instead, it asserts, the foundation world “appears largely to have accommodated itself to the ‘new political realities,’ remained steadfastly on the margins of what government does, at best seeking only to mitigate the worst social effects of the radical conservative agenda.”

Copies of the report are $25 each, prepaid, from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, 2001 S Street N.W., #620, Washington, D.C. 20009; (202) 387-9177.

Voc.-Ed. Nominee

President Clinton will nominate Patricia W. McNeil as the Department of Education’s assistant secretary for vocational and adult education, the White House announced last week.

Ms. McNeil has served as the acting assistant secretary since June, when Augusta Souza Kappner left the department to become the president of the Bank Street College of Education in New York City. Before joining the vocational-education office, as its deputy assistant secretary, Ms. McNeil was the president of Workforce Policy Associates, a private business that specialized in workforce-transition issues.

During the Reagan administration, Ms. McNeil served as the executive director of the National Commission for Employment Policy, an independent agency that reported to the president and Congress.

Her appointment to the assistant secretary’s post will require Senate confirmation.

Direct Lending Praised

An Education Department survey of higher-education institutions found a relatively high degree of satisfaction with the federal direct-loan program, under which the government makes educational loans to students through their colleges.

The survey, released by the department last month, found that 61 percent of the schools participating in direct lending said they were “very satisfied” with the program. Only 27 percent of schools participating in the Federal Family Education Loan Program, in which the government guarantees loans made by private lenders, gave the same response.

Also, 59 percent of 104 schools surveyed called the direct-lending program “relatively easy” or “very easy” to administer, while 28 percent of the 2,303 FFEL schools gave that response.

Congressional Republicans are seeking to curtail the direct-lending program, which the Clinton administration strongly supports. (See Education Week, Oct. 11, 1995.)

A version of this article appeared in the November 08, 1995 edition of Education Week as High Court Declines School-Counseling Case