News in Brief

March 03, 2004 6 min read
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Chicago to Rewrite Rules For Aspiring Principals

Amid skepticism by some local education groups, Chicago school district leaders approved a plan last week to revamp the requirements for becoming a principal in the country’s third-largest school system.

Under policies adopted by the city’s board of education last week, candidates for principalships in the 438,000-student system will have to pass oral and written exams, while also demonstrating their skills as instructional leaders through previous experience or an internship.

Details of the requirements still must be hammered out before they’re implemented starting this July. But district officials said their aim is to place greater emphasis on performance, instead of just coursework, in deciding who is eligible to become a principal, according to Mike Vaughn, a district spokesman.

Some school groups in the city have expressed concern that the new rules will put Chicago at a disadvantage in recruiting principals by creating new hurdles. Others also criticized the policy for not spelling out more about the standards against which candidates will be judged.

“They say they’re raising the bar for principals,” said Donald R. Moore, the executive director of Designs for Change, a local school improvement organization. “Whereas what you have are a number of barriers to becoming a principal, and no guarantee that these are related to competence.”

—Jeff Archer

College-Admissions Ruling OKs Illegal-Immigrant Ban

Public colleges and universities can deny admission to illegal immigrants, a federal judge in Virginia ruled last week.

“It is clear that denying illegal aliens admission to public colleges and universities simply removes another public incentive for illegal immigration,” stated U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, of Alexandria, Va., in his Feb. 24 ruling.

His decision came in a lawsuit filed in September against seven Virginia schools accused of violating the rights of illegal immigrants. The lawsuit was filed by an undocumented high school senior, a recent high school graduate with temporary legal status, and a group of current or former high school students who are illegal immigrants.

The schools are the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary, George Mason University, James Madison University, Northern Virginia Community College, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and Virginia Commonwealth University.

—Rhea R. Borja

Vermont Bus Driver Charged In Fatal December Accident

The driver of a school bus that allegedly ran over and killed a 5-year-old boy in Vermont has been charged with careless and negligent operation of a motor vehicle.

The accident occurred in December of last year in Barre, Vt., when Walter Brown, 61, allegedly put the school bus he was driving in reverse and ran over the child, who was behind it at the time, according to police reports.

After meeting with the victim’s family, police officials decided not to take the case before a grand jury, according to a news release from the police department.

Mr. Brown declined to comment on the case, according to his lawyer.

—Michelle Galley

Lawsuit on NRA Shirt Settled; District Changes Dress Code

A Virginia school district has settled a lawsuit brought by a student who wore a National Rifle Association T-shirt and has agreed to change its dress code.

The agreement follows a ruling against the Albemarle County school district in December by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. The Richmond, Va.-based court found that the school board’s dress code—which outlawed clothing, jewelry, and other accessories that depict weapons—was too broad to be constitutional.

The student, Alan Newsom, 13, sued because he said his rights were violated when staff members at the 570-student Jack Jouett Middle School asked him in April 2002 to turn his NRA T-shirt inside out. The shirt depicted target shooting.

Mark A. Trank, the deputy county attorney, said the specific terms of the settlement were not being released.

The school distributed copies of the new dress code last week. The policy outlaws items of clothing “that involve or depict weapons used or displayed in an unlawful, violent, or threatening manner.”

—Joetta L. Sack

High School Spanking Incident Moves Parent Visits to Office

Parents may no longer visit their children in classrooms in Cudahy, Wis., because a father spanked his daughter in front of her high school biology class.

James P. Heiden, the director of student services for the 2,800- student Cudahy school district, said the procedural change requires parents instead to meet their children in the school office.

Mr. Heiden said that on Feb. 12, the father checked in at the office of Cudahy High School to visit one of his children. At the time, Assistant Principal Greg DePue told him that another of his children, a daughter, had been disruptive in biology class the day before.

The parent asked to visit his daughter’s biology classroom and was accompanied by Mr. DePue, who took over the class while the parent spoke to the teacher and then to his daughter.

After his daughter swore at him, and before anyone could stop him, the father ordered her to turn around, and he spanked her three times in front of the class, according to Mr. Heiden.

The school reported the incident to the police and the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare, which are investigating the incident.

—Andrew Trotter

Hundreds of Students Get Sick At High School in Minnesota

It was business as usual by the end of last week at Minnesota’s Eagan High School after a fast-spreading illness caused hundreds of student absences earlier in the week.

Principal Polly Reikowski said roughly 350 of the 2,200 students enrolled in the school in Eagan were out on Feb. 23, roughly three times the average. Some 15 teachers were also absent.

Many of those absent had called in sick with symptoms that included vomiting and diarrhea, prompting some students and parents to suspect food poisoning. But health investigators couldn’t immediately support that theory after inspecting the school’s kitchens and finding that none of the staff handling food had been sick, Ms. Reikowski said.

For now, the state health department’s main suspect is a so-called norovirus that can spread through food or personal contact. Health officials were continuing their investigation late last week.

—Darcia Harris Bowman

Columbine Report, Evidence Are Released to the Public

After a four-month investigation, officials with the Colorado attorney general’s office released a 55-page report last week on the 1999 Columbine High School shootings.

The report, along with documentation of the physical evidence and related videos, was shown to the victims’ families on Feb. 25. The following afternoon, officials placed some of the evidence—including guns, ammunition, gasoline cans, and a note that was placed in a window stating that a teacher was bleeding to death—on public display.

The material evidence will be painful, Attorney General Ken Salazar said in a statement, but he expressed hope that the release of the documents would “shed light” on events leading up to the shootings and help both schools and parents improve student safety, counseling, and family awareness. The incident at the Jefferson County, Colo., school left 15 people dead, including the two student gunmen.

Deputy Attorney General Ken Lang said that the physical evidence would be placed in the state archives, but that details of how much access the public would have to the material were still being worked out.

—Marianne D. Hurst

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