News in Brief: A National Roundup

May 01, 2002 6 min read
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Florida Board Approves Gay Sensitivity Training

After rejecting a similar proposal last fall, the Broward County, Fla., school board last week formalized its partnership with a local advocacy group that will help train teachers and administrators to recognize and take action against harassment aimed at gay and lesbian students.

In a 6-3 vote, the board approved the plan to offer voluntary sensitivity training to adults in the school district. The group, a local chapter of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, or GLSEN, will not have access to students. The board had rejected last fall’s proposal because it did not make clear that students and student groups would not be included in the program.

Several students in the district of 260,000 have spoken before the board recently to describe how they have been harassed—taunted verbally or had rocks and bottles thrown at them— because they are, or were perceived as being, homosexual.

“Many teachers recognize when a student is harassed because of their race,” said board spokesman Joe Donzelli. “This is intended to heighten the awareness of teachers so that when they see a student who is being harassed by other students based on their perceived sexual-orientation differences, they know what is going on and they can respond.”

—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

Michigan Judge Orders Truant’s Mother to School

A Michigan mother must attend junior high school for a month with her truant daughter.

Judge Thomas Gilbert of Grand Traverse County District Court in Traverse City sentenced Brenda Lee Hansen to spending 30 days at West Junior High School with her daughter, beginning April 17.

Two days earlier, Ms. Hansen pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor related to her daughter’s truancy. The girl had piled up 37 unexcused absences this school year, according to the county prosecutor, Dennis LaBelle. “We hate to have these dramatic steps taken, but if it works, that’s great,” said Conrad Reiter, the principal of the 1,465-student school. He said Ms. Hansen was attending classes daily and having lunch in the cafeteria at her daughter’s side.

In addition, Ms. Hansen, 37, spent two days in jail and must attend parenting classes, cooperate with the county family-services agency, and be on probation until her daughter turns 16, next February. This is the first time a parent has been ordered to attend school in the district.

—Andrew Trotter

Mother-Daughter Work Day To Shift Focus, Include Boys

Mothers and daughters across the country on April 25 marked the 10th and final “Take Our Daughters to Work Day,” an annual event sponsored by the Ms. Foundation in New York City.

Starting next year, boys will be included in the program, which will focus on the challenge of balancing work and family life instead of equal opportunities for girls in the workplace.

Marie C. Wilson, the foundation’s president, said the new program would teach both boys and girls to work together “to bring about a more equitable world—at home, at school, and in the workplace.” She added that workplace cultures need to be changed so that men and women alike feel that they can spend fewer hours at work and more time at home with their families.

To drum up support for this year’s 10th anniversary, the foundation released a series of public-service announcements with such slogans as “Mary had a little lamb at a corporate luncheon honoring her promotion.” The posters and advertisements appeared in magazines and on New York City subway trains.

—Michelle Galley

Reno Casinos Roll Dice, Support Arts in Schools

Three Reno casinos are betting on the arts in the local schools.

Circus Circus Hotel and Casino-Reno, Eldorado Hotel-Casino, and the Silver Legacy Resort Casino together donated $15,000 to save the 25-year-old Artists in Residence program run by Sierra Arts, a nonprofit community arts organization. The program linked local visual, theatrical, literary, and dance artists with elementary schools to work with students.

Facing an $8 million budget shortfall this year, the Washoe County, Nev., school district, which includes Reno, cut all financial contributions to community groups, including Sierra Arts. Jill Berryman, the executive director of the arts group, said she understood that the 58,000- student system had to make tough budget decisions.

Ms. Berryman explained that a casino executive called Sierra Arts after reading about the program’s demise in a local newspaper. She called the casinos’ donation “extraordinary.”

—Karla Scoon Reid

L.A. School Bars Recruiters After Muslim Student Detained

A Los Angeles high school has barred U.S. Air Force recruiters from campus after a misunderstanding that prompted them to put plastic wrist restraints on a teenager and briefly detain him.

James Noble, the principal of George Washington Preparatory High School in South-Central Los Angeles, said last week he had not yet decided when he would allow Air Force recruiters back on campus.

The ban stems from an incident April 12 in which 17-year-old Hassan Ali Bahar III approached a display that had been set up by the Air Force’s 372nd Recruiting Group and typed a few words into the computer.

Believing that Mr. Bahar had written words supportive of Islamic terrorists, two officers put plastic wrist restraints on him and “interrogated him about what he meant,” Mr. Noble said.

When it became clear that the teenager was only joking by typing his name, the rank of “general,” and the phrase “can’t be stopped,” he was released, Mr. Noble said.

Jerry Thomas, a spokesman for the Air Force Recruiting Service, based at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas, said one of the recruiters has been removed from recruiting duties pending the outcome of an investigation.

—Catherine Gewertz

Priest Returns to Fla. School; Allegations Deemed Unfounded

A Roman Catholic priest in Florida is back on the job as the principal of a Catholic high school, after church officials said he had been falsely accused of sexual misconduct by a former student who had demanded a large cash settlement.

The Rev. Louis Molinelli, the principal of St. Petersburg Catholic High School, had been removed from his post while his religious order investigated a man’s claim the priest had touched him inappropriately in 1984. He returned to his post in late April.

At the time of the alleged incident, Father Molinelli was a teacher at Mary Help of Christians School in Tampa, where the accuser was a student. Although the priest works within the Diocese of St. Petersburg, he belongs to the Salesian order, which carried out the inquiry once it was notified by the diocese.

Investigators turned up “inconsistencies in the allegations,” diocesan officials said. Also, they added, Father Molinelli passed a polygraph test that he volunteered to take.

The Catholic Church nationally is confronting questions about its handling of actual or alleged sexual misconduct with minors by priests. (“Catholic Church’s Priest Abuse Crisis Tests School Policies, Educators’ Faith,” April 3, 2002.)

—Jeff Archer

Two Columbine Students Suspended for ‘Hit List’

Two juniors at Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colo., have been suspended over a “hit list” written on a picnic pavilion near the school that named 11 students and two assistant principals.

The list was discovered April 15 by fellow students, who alerted officials at Columbine High, where students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and one teacher before taking their own lives on April 20, 1999, in the deadliest school shooting in American history.

Officials of the 88,700-student Jefferson County district said they would pursue the expulsion of the two students, who allegedly each wrote names in pencil under the heading “My Hit List” at the pavilion in Clement Park, adjacent to Columbine High.

The boys also face possible felony charges, authorities said. The boys’ school lockers were searched, but no weapons or explosives were found. A lawyer for one of the boys has said his client is sorry and had no intention of acting on the list.

About 300 people gathered in Clement Park on April 20 to mark the third anniversary of the shootings.

—Mark Walsh

A version of this article appeared in the May 01, 2002 edition of Education Week as News in Brief: A National Roundup

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