Education

News in Brief: A National Roundup

October 17, 2001 7 min read
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Union-Backed Candidate Loses N.Y.C. Mayoral Runoff

Mark Green, New York City’s public advocate, last week defeated the candidate backed by the United Federation of Teachers for the Democratic nomination for mayor.

In a runoff election for the nomination, Mr. Green beat Fernando Ferrer, the president of the Bronx borough, who was endorsed by the powerful affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.

The union had previously supported Alan Hevesi, the city comptroller, who finished fourth in the September primary.

Mr. Green, who has called for giving the mayor direct control of the 1.1 million-student city school district, will face Republican communications entrepreneur Michael R. Bloomberg in the Nov. 6 general election.

—Ann Bradley

Said to Resemble Attacks, Test Illustration Altered

The publisher of a commonly used achievement test has decided to alter an illustration that accompanied one of the test questions after customers said it resembled the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

Riverside Publishing, the clinical and academic-testing division of Houghton Mifflin Co. in Boston, expects to send its customers replacement pages with a slightly different illustration by the end of the month.

“We immediately consulted with our authors to make sure that any modifications wouldn’t effect the technical quality of the test,” said Margaret Sherry, a spokeswoman for Houghton Mifflin.

The original drawing, used on the newest version of the Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement published in 2000, featured a generic cityscape with an airplane flying in the direction of two tall buildings.

The series of tests is widely used by school psychologists and others to gauge students’ intelligence, scholastic aptitude, and oral- language skills.

—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

High School Students to Ask For Change in Sex Education

A group of high school students in Santa Ana, Calif., saying it is concerned about the high local rate of teenage pregnancy, is challenging the district’s focus on abstinence-based sex education.

The 56,000-student Santa Ana district, which has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in California, has had an abstinence-based program for more than five years.

The 18 students in the group intend to make a presentation to the school board on Oct. 23 to call for providing students with more information about sexually transmitted diseases and the use of condoms and other forms of birth control.

Those participating in the lobbying effort are members of Campfire USA’s Orange County Council Speak Out program, which supports guidelines on sex education that were developed by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, a nonprofit organization based in New York City that advocates comprehensive sex education.

Superintendent Al Mijares said the current program was formed in response to parents’ wishes. But if the board decides to make changes, he said, the district’s sex education committee will see if any are warranted.

—Marianne Hurst

Miss. District Votes to Drop Separate Homecoming Courts

The Tate County, Miss., school board has voted to stop the longtime practice of electing racially separate homecoming courts in the district’s two high schools.

After a group of parents filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights, the board voted 5-0 this month to have just one court in each school, starting next year.

Truman Albritton, the superintendent of the 2,930-student district, said the practice of electing separate black and white homecoming queens and courts dated back to the integration of the district and was aimed at being fair to both races.

The parents had asked the district to invalidate this fall’s election results, but the request came too late to be practical, Mr. Albritton said.

—Ann Bradley

Student Allowed in Class After Suspension for Posters

An Ohio student suspended for displaying on his school locker posters depicting American bombs falling on Afghanistan returned to class last week after a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order in his favor.

Aaron Petitt, a 16-year-old junior at Fairview High School in Fairview Park, Ohio, was suspended by his school principal on Oct. 4 for putting up several posters he made showing aerial bombings and including such slogans as “Good Morning, Afghan” and “May God have mercy because we will not.”

School officials considered the posters “disruptive, threatening, and inappropriate in the school setting,” said Nylajean R. McDaniel, the superintendent of the 1,800-student Fairview Park district near Cleveland. She said other posters drawn by Mr. Petitt, including ones featuring an American flag and a crying eagle, were not removed.

Administrators were concerned that Arab-American students might feel threatened by the depictions of bombing, she added.

While Mr. Petitt’s 10-day suspension was under review by the superintendent, his parents filed a lawsuit arguing that the posters were protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech and that the district had violated his 14th Amendment right of due process in disciplining him.

Sarah J. Moore, one of the family’s lawyers, said the posters—a reaction to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States—had been up as long as 19 days and had not disrupted school. Ms. McDaniel disputed the length of time the posters were up and said administrators took action as soon as they noticed them.

In an Oct. 9 ruling from the bench, U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. of Cleveland ordered that Mr. Petitt be allowed to return to school. The district should have warned him to remove the posters before suspending him, the judge said.

Judge Oliver did not rule on the free-speech question, but he indicated he would take up that issue later. The judge asked that the posters depicting bombs not be displayed in the meantime.

—Mark Walsh

Group Raising Money to Expand Voucher Seats

A Milwaukee group has launched a plan to raise $40 million to help local central-city schools expand so they can accommodate more students using vouchers or other forms of school choice.

Partners in Advancing Values in Education, or PAVE, which provides private school scholarships to low-income families, announced the program last week. Officials of the nonprofit group said they would partner with banks to offer low-interest loans to schools.

The program’s first loan, of $1 million, went to Harambee Community School, a local private school. The school will use the money to complete a $5 million expansion.

The loan program will span five years, with the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation committing $20 million and PAVE promising to secure another $20 million to establish a revolving loan fund. The loans are aimed to private schools participating in the voucher program, charter schools, and a small group of city public schools that share private school facilities.

“We are trying to increase the options for parents, both in private schools and public schools,” said Dan McKinley, PAVE’s executive director.

Milwaukee’s 11-year-old voucher program allows low-income families to use public money to send their children to private schools. About 10,000 students participate in the program.

—Catherine Gewertz

Federal Judge Orders Woman Hired as Boys’ Varsity Coach

A federal judge last week ordered a Michigan high school to hire a woman who was passed over as head coach of the boy’s varsity basketball team.

U.S. District Judge George C. Steeh in Ann Arbor, Mich., said Hazel Park High School must give Geraldine Fuhr the job she sought two years ago.

Ms. Fuhr, who was the assistant coach of the team and coaches the girls’ varsity basketball team, was passed over in favor of a man with less experience. She sued the 4,900-student Hazel Park district for sex discrimination and won $455,000 in damages in August.

Judge Steeh must now decide by how much to reduce her award. Part of it was based on her loss of future income for not getting the job.

Deborah Gordon, Ms. Fuhr’s lawyer, said her client intended to take the job rather than the money.

Timothy Mullins, the district’s lawyer, said the district would comply with the ruling. But it is appealing the verdict in the discrimination case.

—Ann Bradley

Death

Lisa Y. Sullivan, the founder and president of a national nonprofit organization that seeks to build civic and political leadership among poor urban youths, died Oct. 1. She was 40 and had been ill.

Ms. Sullivan founded LISTEN, or the Local Initiative Support, Training, and Education Network, in 1998. The Washington-based group tries to strengthen leadership skills and opportunities for 14- to 29-year-olds in urban areas.

She served as a consultant to the Rockefeller Foundation’s Next Generation Leadership Program and worked as the director of the field division at the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington. She also founded and directed the Black Student Leadership Network.

Ms. Sullivan was a 1983 graduate of what is now Clark Atlanta University and earned a master’s degree in political science from Yale University.

—Ann Bradley


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