News in Brief

October 22, 2003 6 min read
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Minn. High School Shooting Claims Its Second Victim

A second student who was shot at a Minnesota high school last month has died.

Seth Bartell, who was a freshman at Rocori High School in the 2,600-student Rocori district in Cold Spring, died on Oct. 10. He had been in critical condition since he and senior Aaron Rollins, 17, were shot on Sept. 24 by a student with a handgun.

Jason McLaughlin, 15, has been charged with second- degree murder and attempted murder in juvenile court. Authorities are considering charging him as an adult.

—Ann Bradley

Boston Teachers to Trim Workdays In Move to Jump-Start Talks

Members of the Boston Teachers’ Union have voted to cut their after-school work time and stage a demonstration to protest stalled contract negotiations.

Members approved the “work to fairness” motion at an Oct. 8 meeting. The plan, beginning Oct. 24, is for teachers to eliminate working hours not specified in their contract by skipping meetings requested by administrators. Teachers will, however, continue to meet with students and parents.

Union members also voted to picket on Oct. 23 at major traffic intersections throughout Boston.

Talks for a new, three-year contract have stalled over salary increases, training-time requirements, and class sizes. The previous contract expired Aug. 31.

“We hope that [the city school department] will recognize that now is the time for them to settle the contract and avoid any kind of job action by the teachers,” said Stephen Crawford, spokesman for the union.

District officials say they remain optimistic about the continuing talks.

—Olivia Doherty

Fla. Teacher, Volunteer Charged With Abusing 1st Graders

A Florida elementary school teacher and her classroom volunteer have been charged with child abuse for using tape to bind students for punishment.

Five 1st graders at Coral Gables Elementary School in the Miami- Dade County district reported having their arms, ankles, and heads taped by the volunteer in the presence of their teacher, according to a statement released by the school district police.

Vonda Christie, the teacher, was charged on Oct. 9 with five counts of child abuse. Ivonne Nieves Marrero, the volunteer, was charged with five counts of child abuse and five counts of false imprisonment.

Ms. Marrero has been on probation since February for various offenses, including armed burglary, according to local news reports.

The 363,000-student district regularly performs background checks on employees, but only checks volunteers whose applications indicate they have criminal pasts. Ms. Marrero’s did not.

“We have 21,400 volunteers,” said John Schuster, a spokesman for the district. “We do not do a background check on volunteers, although we are reviewing the policy right now to see what is needed.”

Ronald Manto, Ms. Christie’s lawyer, did not dispute that his client knew of the volunteer’s criminal record. “We don’t think a crime has been committed,” he said, adding that the teacher would plead not guilty.

Yery Marrero, who represents the volunteer but is not related to her, said her client also would plead not guilty.

—Olivia Doherty

Couple Pledges Up to $1 Million To Massachusetts High School

Two graduates announced plans this month to donate up to $1 million to a Lowell, Mass., public high school.

Elkin and Donna McCallum, who are 1961 graduates of the 4,000-student Lowell High School, pledged to contribute $100,000 a year for five years, starting in 2004, and to match any additional money raised by the school over those five years, up to $500,000.

Mr. McCallum is the chairman and chief executive officer of Joan Fabrics, based in Tyngsboro, Mass. The donation is from the McCallum Family Foundation.

The money will provide college scholarships to seniors in financial need and deemed deserving by the high school’s scholarship committee.

Brenda Costello, the director of the school’s fund-raising campaign, said the scholarships would recognize students who work hard to overcome financial hardships and seek a college education, as the McCallums both did when they attended Lowell High.

—Catherine A. Carroll

N.C. School Roiled by Ban On Confederate T-Shirts

All was calm as students at Person High School in Roxboro, N.C., prepared for homecoming last week, days after a controversy over the Confederate battle flag sparked turmoil.

Earlier this month, some two dozen students were suspended after defying a recent ban on wearing the symbol. Then hundreds of students left school after unsubstantiated rumors circulated that weapons were found on campus, according to Assistant Principal Margaret D. Bradsher.

The flag has long been a feature on student clothing and gear at Person High, Ms. Bradsher said. But school officials instituted the ban after students who were wearing the symbol were involved in racial incidents.

“This [ban] is not about the flag,” said Principal Greg Hicks. “It’s all about disruption of the school day.”

Of the school’s 1,700 students, 70 percent are white, and 30 percent are African-American.

Schools throughout the country have drafted policies restricting symbols on clothing that are deemed offensive or disruptive. Those policies have been upheld in court. (“Battle Flag T-Shirts Divide Ga. School,” Oct. 30, 2002.)

On Oct. 6, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case involving the suspension of students who had violated a Florida high school’s ban on displaying the Confederate flag. In March 2001, the high court let stand a ruling that gave schools the right to restrict students’ clothing.

—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

Student Who Shared Inhaler Allowed to Return to School

A Texas high school has decided not to take action against a student who gave his girlfriend his prescription asthma inhaler.

School officials were compelled by the state’s zero-tolerance law to report the incident to the police, said Greg Poole, the principal of Caney Creek High School in Conroe. The boy gave the girl the inhaler, which contained the drug albuterol, and she used it in front of the school nurse.

The boy, 15, stopped attending school after the incident, but was never suspended, Mr. Poole said, despite reports to the contrary in the news media.

At an Oct. 10 hearing, district officials decided the case didn’t merit application of the zero-tolerance policy, under which the boy could have been expelled from school.

Although the student is free to return, he had not been back to school as of late last week, the principal said.

—Ann Bradley

Hispanic Population Shifting, Report Says

The composition of the Hispanic population in the United States is undergoing a fundamental change, a report from the Pew Hispanic Center says, as Latino births in this country outpace immigration as a source of growth.

Read “The Rise of the Second Generation: Changing Patterns in Hispanic Population Growth,” from the Pew Hispanic Center.

Over the next 20 years, researchers say, “second-generation Latinos,” or the U.S.-born children of immigrants, will emerge as the largest component of the Hispanic population.

The report, released last week, is based on projections of growth in the Hispanic population from 2000 to 2050 by Jeffrey S. Passel, a principal research associate at the Population Studies Center of the Urban Institute, a Washington think tank.

The growth in the Hispanic population will have an immediate impact on schools, the report says. The number of second-generation Latinos ages 5 to 19 is projected to more than double from 2000 to 2020, from 4.4 million to more than 9 million school-age people.

About one in every seven students enrolling in U.S. schools over that time will be a second-generation Latino, according to the report.

The Latino immigrant population is expected to continue increasing, it notes. But the growth rate for second-generation Hispanics has already gained enough momentum that it will remain higher than the first generation’s.

—Ann Bradley


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