News in Brief: A National Roundup

April 18, 2001 5 min read
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Compton Board Barred
From Academic Powers

California’s superintendent of public instruction has decided that the Compton school board isn’t ready to run the district’s academic programs.

In a March 26 letter to the board of the state-run district, schools chief Delaine Eastin said she would not relinquish state control of student programs.

The 31,000-student district has been run by a state-appointed manager since 1993. Some powers have since been restored to the board, but Ms. Eastin’s decision is a blow to its attempts to regain full control of the schools. (“‘Comeback’ From State Control Means Solvency for Compton,” Jan. 31, 2001.)

Her letter also went against a recommendation by a state crisis-management team, which in February called for the board to once again oversee the academic programs.

Fausto Capobianco, the district’s director of communications, said district Superintendent Randolph E. Ward, who was appointed by Ms. Eastin, fully supported the decision.

Cloria Patillo, the president of the school board, could not be reached for comment.

—Ann Bradley

Hispanic Fund Gets Boost

The Goldman Sachs Foundation will support a $1 million national initiative aimed at improving college-retention rates for Hispanic students.

The money will be used to set up Hispanic Scholarship Fund student chapters at major universities, such as Columbia, Harvard, Stanford, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of California, Berkeley.

Founded in 1975, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund is the largest Hispanic scholarship-granting organization in the nation. The fund has given more than 45,000 scholarships totaling nearly $60 million to Hispanic students. It provides scholarships based on merit, with consideration of financial need. Seventy percent of last year’s recipients came from low-income families, and 57 percent were first-generation college students.

—John Gehring

Race Upheld in Admissions

Despite a state referendum that banned racial discrimination or preferential treatment by state and local government, a federal judge has ruled that Seattle’s high schools may consider race when admitting students.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein found that the district’s policy on using race as a tiebreaker in admissions was in line with the state constitution.

Seattle students can apply to any of the city’s 10 high schools, and Judge Rothstein’s ruling upholds the district’s policy of using race as the second tiebreaker in deciding whom to admit. The presence of applicants’ siblings in the schools is the first tiebreaker.

Mike Madden, a lawyer for the 47,000- student district, said the judge found that the district’s policy, despite the 1998 voter initiative, was consistent with past rulings by Washington state’s supreme court on integrating K-12 schools.

But Harry J. F. Korrell, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, Parents Involved in Community Schools, argued that the judge’s reading of previous case law was too narrow. The plaintiffs also argued that the admissions policy violated the U.S. Constitution and federal civil rights laws.

—Mark Stricherz

What Elementary Principals Earn

The salaries paid to elementary school principals in 2000-01 averaged $72,587, up 4.6 percent from the year before, according to the National Association of Elementary School Principals. But pay varies by region.

Region Amount Comparison to
national average
New England $79,246 +9.2
Middle Atlantic 83,047 +14.4
Southeast 66,881 -7.9
Great Lakes 70,439 -3.0
Plains 66,622 -8.2
Southwest 63,706 -12.2
Rocky Mountains 60,311 -16.9
Far West 82,456 +13.6
Average, all regions 72,587 +4.6
SOURCE: National Association of Elementary School Principals.

Media Said To Hype Violence

The news media exaggerate the tendency of young Americans, and especially black youths, to commit violent crime, according to a study released last week by Building Blocks for Youth. The Washington-based alliance includes children’s advocates, researchers, law- enforcement professionals, and community organizers.

Researchers analyzed 77 previous studies of the content of crime, race, and youth in the news and concluded that the news media report violent and other crimes by youths out of proportion to their actual occurrence, and without enough attention to the overall context in which incidents take place. News coverage, especially on television, also exaggerates the connection between race and crime, the study concludes. And portrayals of youths and violence are seldom balanced by stories about young people in general, it says.

The alliance recommends that reporters correct the distortions by reaching beyond their traditional police and court sources in reporting on crime and by providing more context and balance in news stories about youths.

—Andrew Trotter

Mother Paid To Remove Son

The Seattle school district has agreed to pay the mother of a special education student $180,000 if she removes her blind, autistic 16-year-old son from the city schools.

The terms agreed to last month in a settlement were proposed by Kathy Harris, who believed that her son’s school wasn’t providing the right services for him, said her lawyer, Carol Vaughn.

Officials in the 47,000-student district agreed to the settlement because they considered it the most cost effective approach to resolving the situation, said Christopher Hirst, a lawyer who represented the school district.

Ms. Harris could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Hirst said the school district knew as soon as the boy enrolled 18 months ago that it could not adequately serve him. The boy threw tantrums that threatened the safety of students and teachers, the lawyer for the district said.

The money paid to Ms. Harris will go toward an education fund for the boy, Mr. Hirst said.

—Lisa Fine

Sweatshirt Prompts Lawsuit

A student at Woodbury High School in Woodbury, Minn., who was barred from wearing a sweatshirt with the words “Straight Pride” is suing the school and the district for alleged violation of his First Amendment rights.

The lawsuit was filed this month by the American Family Association’s Center for Law and Policy. The association, based in Tupelo, Miss., promotes what it sees as “traditional family values.”

According to the suit, the 1,650-student school violated Elliot Chambers’ right to free expression by prohibiting his “positive statement about heterosexuality.” It also accuses the district of supporting homosexuality with its “safe rooms.”

The 15,300-student South Washington County district says that many students had complained to school officials that the sweatshirt was offensive, and officials deemed it a potential disruption to the school environment.

District officials say that the “safe rooms” are open all students for counseling on any personal concern.

—Vanessa Dea

A version of this article appeared in the April 18, 2001 edition of Education Week as News in Brief: A National Roundup


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