News in Brief: A National Roundup

May 12, 1999 6 min read

California Coach Receives Exemption for Wheelchair

A baseball coach who is a paraplegic has reached an agreement with local and state athletic organizations to allow him back on the field to coach at a suburban Los Angeles high school.

Victor Barrios sued the California Interscholastic Federation and the Orange County Baseball Officials Association last month because he was told that he had to coach Westminster High School games from the dugout.

This season, umpires began enforcing a National Interscholastic Federation rule that bars anyone with crutches or a wheelchair from the “field of play,” according to William R. Clark, the assistant commissioner of the California federation. Mr. Barrios, 26, coaches the Westminster High team from an athletic wheelchair. He said he has been the third-base coach for the 2,400-student school’s baseball team for the past four years.

After a hearing in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, an agreement was reached to waive the national federation rule for Mr. Barrios, Mr. Clark said.

--Karen L. Abercrombie

Federal Labs Unite Online

Hoping to raise their profile among educators nationwide, the U.S. Department of Education’s 10 regional laboratories last week launched a joint World Wide Web site.

Joining research facilities from Rhode Island to California, the site provides central access to the reports, publications, archives, and services of all the federally funded laboratories. Until now, the labs, which operate under contract to the department, have maintained individual Web sites.

“I see it as both important and a way to better allow our constituents to become aware of as well as access the products and services of all the labs,” said Ethel Simon-McWilliams, the chief executive officer for the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory in Portland, Ore., which is maintaining the new site. To access it, go to:

--Debra Viadero

Autistic Athlete Cleared To Play

A federal judge has cleared the way for an 18-year-old autistic student in northern Oregon to play on her high school softball team.

Believing that the disability put Anna Inskip and other team members at risk, school officials had barred the special education student from playing in Astoria High School junior-varsity softball games. She was permitted to practice with the team.

Ms. Inskip filed a lawsuit against the the Astoria district last month, and on April 26 U.S. District Judge Garr M. King ruled that the policy discriminated against her in a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Chuck Levin, a lawyer with the Oregon Advocacy Center, a legal-aid group that represented Ms. Inskip, said the decision to bar her was based on “stereotypical judgments about autism.”

He said that Ms. Inskip, an avid athlete who has a mild form of autism, was no threat to herself or members of the team and that she was “ready and eager to play” ball this spring.

Larry McMacken, the superintendent of the 2,500-student district, said that the school would abide by the judge’s ruling and that he wished Ms. Inskip the best.

--Kerry A. White

‘White Rabbit’ Ban Upheld

A federal judge has upheld an eastern Missouri district’s decision to prevent its high school marching band from playing the 1960s song “White Rabbit.’'

A U.S. district judge in St. Louis ruled last month that the Fort Zumwalt district could ban the Jefferson Airplane hit from the halftime routine at Fort Zumwalt North High School in O’Fallon, Mo.

Joseph L. Green, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, had filed a lawsuit on behalf of 14 students who wanted the song restored to the halftime show. The school’s 90-member band played “White Rabbit” as part of a 1960s medley.

Superintendent Bernard DuBray, however, pulled the song last September after a parent complained that it contained drug references. Mr. DuBray said the song’s “close association with the drug culture” could send the wrong message.

In his ruling, Judge Rodney W. Sippel said the district had the authority to restrict student speech that might “be perceived to advocate drug or alcohol use.”

--Adrienne D. Coles

No Going Back for Hoosier Hoops

Indiana’s 1996 shift away from the state’s beloved single-class system for high school basketball tournaments will remain in place, despite protests that it has diminished fan interest, players’ excitement, and game receipts.

On May 3, the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s governing board rejected a motion to return to the system in which all basketball teams competed in a single statewide tournament. The defeated motion also included baseball, soccer, softball, and volleyball. Since 1973, football teams have competed in the multitiered system used in most other states.

According to IHSAA spokesman James B. Russell, most members of the board and a majority of the Hoosier State’s principals believe the multiclass system levels the playing field between competing high schools and gives small schools a better shot at a state title.

--Kerry A. White

It’s Never Too Late

A 75-year old Tulsa, Okla., man earned his high school equivalency diploma last month after studying for more than a year

Mylum B. Ache, a retired maintenance supervisor for a local hamburger chain, said he dropped out of school in 8th grade to work odd jobs and support his family after his father died in 1941.

He was inspired to go back to school by his 85-year-old aunt, who recently earned her diploma, Mr. Ache said last week. He added that he plans to sit in on some undergraduate classes at a local college, “just to learn a bit more.”

--Michelle Galley

Wis. Test Procedures Violated

Two Wisconsin elementary schools violated test-taking standards on a statewide reading exam given earlier this spring, the state education department has found.

Officials at Pershing and Walker elementary schools in Milwaukee allowed a dozen 3rd graders to read the exam aloud to monitors, who were 4th graders, or to teachers, thus invalidating the tests, said Steven B. Dold, the deputy state superintendent.

State regulations mandate that students read the passages silently unless there are special circumstances, such as a learning disability, Mr. Dold said.

School officials allowed students who are easily distracted or who have limited reading abilities to use the monitors so that the state could get a more accurate description of their knowledge level, said Harold Sloan, the superintendent of the 9,000-student West/Allis-West Milwaukee district.

The students’ scores will be excluded from the state database but will be shared with parents, Mr. Dold said. The pupils will not be asked to take the test a second time.

--Julie Blair

San Francisco Names Interim Chief

The San Francisco school board has named veteran administrator Linda Davis the district’s interim superintendent. She will take over in August from Superintendent Waldemar “Bill” Rojas, who announced last month that he would leave to head the Dallas schools.

Ms. Davis has served 13 years as the deputy superintendent in San Francisco. She will become the first woman and the first African-American to be the top administrator in the 62,000-student district.

The board will conduct a nationwide search for a permanent chief, a process expected to take at least a year. Ms. Davis has declined to be considered for that job.

--Bess Keller

A Superintendent’s Sacrifice

A Kansas superintendent has volunteered to cut his pay by two-thirds to help keep his shrinking 91-student district afloat.

Emery Hart recently received approval from the Unified District 280 school board in rural Morland to reduce his salary by $31,600. In the coming school year, the board will pay the 55-year-old administrator just $15,000--which will allow him to begin drawing his pension. In exchange, Mr. Hart will step down as the principal of Morland’s two schools.

“People can’t understand why I don’t resign here and go to another school district,” Mr. Hart said. “But I think the district is worth it.”

The superintendent, who has been tightening the district’s $1.16 million budget since he came to Morland five years ago, said he would continue to press state lawmakers for changes that would help his district and others like it survive. Almost two-thirds of the state’s 304 districts have declining enrollments.

--Bess Keller

A version of this article appeared in the May 12, 1999 edition of Education Week as News in Brief: A National Roundup