News in Brief: A National Roundup

March 31, 1999 7 min read
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Calif., Texas Critics Eye Corporate Logos in Texts

An influential California legislator and the Texas chapter of the National PTA are questioning the presence of corporate logos and trademarks in a mathematics book approved for use in those states.

California Assemblywoman Kerry Mazzoni, a Democrat, has introduced a bill that would prohibit the state school board from approving textbooks that include corporate images unless it decides the symbols are integral to the book’s educational purpose.

Karen B. Miller, the chairwoman of the Texas PTA’s legislative committee, said she plans to send out a bulletin alerting the group’s members about commercial references in Mathematics: Applications and Connections, a series of middle school texts approved for use in the state.

The issue gained attention with publication of an article in The New York Times.

Neal Allen, a spokesman for McGraw-Hill Cos., the New York City-based publisher of the series, said the use of corporate symbols for candy, sneaker manufacturers, and fast-food franchises is a technique that teachers want so they can use real-world examples to help students learn. McGraw-Hill receives no compensation for including the images, he added.

--David J. Hoff

Ark. Pay Dispute Continues

Both sides of a dispute are appealing a commission’s decision to award millions of dollars in back pay to thousands of Arkansas teachers.

The controversy stems from a state court’s 1994 finding that Arkansas, in failing to properly follow its school finance formula, had overfunded some districts while underfunding others. The state has since enacted major finance reforms, but teachers from some underfunded districts argued that they deserved back pay. They sought redress from the Arkansas Claims Commission, an independent agency that decides claims against the state.

Although the commission last month ruled that the state owed the teachers $7.15 million--the largest financial award it had ever made--the teachers protested that it wasn’t enough. So last month they filed for an appeal with the state legislature’s joint budget committee, which hears such cases. Also lodging an appeal is Arkansas’ finance and administration department, which argues that the commission lacked authority to make the award. Ultimately, the decision will fall to the legislature and the governor.

--Jeff Archer

Harassment Award Overturned

A federal appeals court has overturned a jury’s 1997 award of $25,000 to a former Omaha public school student who claimed she was sexually harassed by a female teacher.

Janet Kinman, a 1990 graduate of the 1,300-student Bryan High School, told the jury that teacher Sheryl McDougall coerced her into a long-term sexual relationship beginning in the summer of 1989. Ms. Kinman was a student in Ms. McDougall’s sophomore English class.

Ms. Kinman maintained that her educational experience had been drastically altered because the school didn’t take action when officials learned of the affair.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit based in St. Louis, Mo., unanimously concluded in a March 19 ruling that administrators had investigated the claims. The teacher’s contract was terminated in 1992.

--Julie Blair

District Settles Sex-Abuse Case

Five girls who accused school officials of mishandling complaints of their sexual molestation by a teacher have settled their lawsuits against the Boulder Valley district in Colorado for a total of $1.25 million.

The students sued after the elementary school computer teacher was sentenced to five years in prison in 1997 for fondling two girls, then ages 9 and 11. The case was discussed in a three-part Education Week series on the sexual abuse of students by school employees. (“Shifting Legal Ground on Harassment Has Made It Harder for Victims To Win,” Dec. 9, 1998.)

Tom Seigel, the superintendent of the 26,000-student district, called the settlements “a very fair and reasonable way to bring closure to this most difficult case.” Each of the suits was settled for $250,000, including lawyers’ fees.

School board members could not be reached for comment last week, but published reports said the board had apologized to the girls and promised that the district would take reports of sexual abuse more seriously in the future.

--Caroline Hendrie

Expelled Students Get Settlement

Officials of the Easthampton, Mass., public schools have reached a settlement with two former students who were expelled for alleged drug possession.

The 1,900-student district adopted a policy in 1997 that ordered the automatic expulsion of any student caught with drugs at school or at school-related functions. That same year, five students from Easthampton High School were expelled when they allegedly were found with marijuana while on a school trip to Canada.

Two students sued the district, asking to be reinstated. At an injunction hearing in 1997, a Hampshire County Superior Court judge ruled that the policy denied the students due process. All five students were readmitted and graduated on time.

Several of the students later filed separate lawsuits against the district, claiming their civil rights had been violated, according to John Cullinan, the system’s superintendent. The first settlement was reached last year and the second on Feb. 25. Citing a gag order, Mr. Cullinan would not divulge the amount of the settlements.

--Karen L. Abercrombie

Mayor Pitches Millions for Schools

District of Columbia Mayor Anthony A. Williams has proposed a $620 million school-building spree the likes of which have not been seen in Washington since the 1970s.

Mr. Williams’ proposal, which needs City Council approval, would double school construction spending over the next six years. With the money, two new schools--a $25 million technology-oriented high school and a $10 million middle school--would be built by 2002. Another $25 million would renovate restrooms systemwide, and an additional $303 million would modernize eight schools a year over the six-year life of the plan.

In recent years, the 75,000-student system has closed some outmoded and underused buildings and spent millions of dollars on basic repairs.

Mr. Williams, who was elected in November, would raise much of the construction money by borrowing against the $1.4 billion the city expects to receive by 2030 from the multiple-state settlement with the tobacco industry reached in November.

--Bess Keller

Vendor Sentenced for Fraud

A business owner who defrauded state high school associations and students has been sentenced to 6« years in federal prison and ordered to pay $22.6 million in restitution.

Douglas O. Ruedlinger, 60, ran a program through his Topeka, Kan.-based company, Fund Administrators Association, that provided liability protection to state high school activities associations. A jury found that he had misrepresented the use of funds paid to his company.

He also marketed an insurance policy that promised lifetime benefits to students who were catastrophically injured during school-sponsored activities. He was found guilty of funneling into a sham corporation money that could have been used to compensate injured students.

Fifteen students and groups in almost 40 states will receive restitution.

Mr. Ruedlinger was sentenced March 12 in U.S. District Court in Topeka for both an April 1997 conviction on 12 counts of fraud and one count of money laundering, and for a February 1998 guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and bankruptcy fraud.

--Erik W. Robelen

Girl Gets Prison for Beating Teacher

A 16-year-old girl who hit her pregnant social studies teacher in the head with a hammer last spring has been sentenced to 2 1/2 to seven years in prison.

Jalise Salvatto was sentenced March 16 for the incident in which she--then a 15-year-old freshman at the 1,700-student Roosevelt High School in Yonkers, N.Y.--struck her teacher in the head with a hammer. The teacher, Dawn Jawrower, was five weeks pregnant at the time.

Ms. Salvatto told police that she was angry because Ms. Jawrower called her parents about her failing grades, prompting her parents to prohibit her from attending the school prom.

Ms. Jawrower suffered a fractured skull, and Ms. Salvatto was charged with first-degree assault for the April 1998 incident. She pleaded guilty to the charge in January. Ms. Jawrower is almost fully recovered and her son, now three months old is fine.

--Adrienne D. Coles


Elizabeth Paisley Huckaby, an Arkansas English teacher whose writings chronicled the desegregation of Little Rock’s Central High School in the the 1950s, died March 18 of heart failure. She was 93.

Ms. Huckaby, who began teaching at Central High in 1930, was the dean of girls when nine black students made history and attracted fierce protests as they integrated the all-white school.

She assumed a role as their protector, even after her own life was threatened. Ms. Huckaby kept a diary of her experiences and wrote a book, Crisis at Central High, that was later turned into a television movie starring Joanne Woodward.

--Marnie Roberts

A version of this article appeared in the March 31, 1999 edition of Education Week as News in Brief: A National Roundup


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