News in Brief: A National Roundup

January 23, 2002 6 min read
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Two Students Wounded in N.Y.C. School Shooting

Two students were wounded last week in the first shooting inside a New York City public school in nearly eight years.

Andre Wilkins, 16, and Andrel Napper, 17, were taken to St. Vincent’s Manhattan Hospital on Jan. 15 with gunshot wounds. The shooting took place inside Martin Luther King Jr. High School, where the two are enrolled.

“The police are still investigating, but this wasn’t random, and it looks like it was just an isolated incident,” district spokeswoman spokeswoman Margie Feinberg said.

Schools Chancellor Harold O. Levy sent extra crisis counselors to the high school to work with students, staff members, and any parents in need of help. Additional police officers also were assigned to the school, Ms. Feinberg said.

The school already had 14 school security officers, and district officials said it was unclear how the .380-caliber handgun found lying on the floor of a fifth-floor hallway had made it past the building’s metal detectors.

—Darcia Harris Bowman

Chicago Archdiocese to Close 14 Schools, Open 3 Others

In a consolidation brought on by a shifting demographic and financial picture, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago has announced plans to close 14 schools in the city and surrounding suburbs.

The schools to be closed in June enroll about 2,400 of the archdiocese’s 123,000 students. Archdiocesan officials say they hope to find spots for those children in other neighborhood Catholic schools.

Meanwhile, the archdiocese plans to open three new elementary schools on the city’s west, north, and southeast sides in the fall and consolidate two others on the northwest side. The three openings represent the first new schools in the archdiocese in 13 years.

Jim Dwyer, a spokesman for the archdiocese, which runs the largest nonpublic school system in the country, said declining enrollment in some areas of Chicago and rising costs as retiring nuns are replaced with lay teachers have made it impossible to avoid school closures.

—Catherine Gewertz

Business, Education Leaders Appointed To Phila. Schools Panel

Pennsylvania’s governor and Philadelphia’s mayor have appointed a mix of business and education leaders to the new panel charged with leading the city’s schools out of academic and fiscal crisis.

Gov. Mark S. Schweiker announced Jan. 14 that he had chosen James P. Gallagher, the president of Philadelphia University, and Daniel J. Whelan, the president and chief executive of Verizon Pennsylvania, to serve on the School Reform Commission. He made James Nevels, whom he had earlier named interim chairman, the commission’s permanent chairman.

Mayor John F. Street, who can appoint two of the five panel members, chose members of the city school board, which was dissolved when the state took over operation of the Philadelphia schools Dec. 22. Michael Masch and Sandra Dungee Glenn will complete the panel.

The commission will hire a chief executive officer for the 198,000-student district and choose a private firm to serve as consultant to the district. It also will approve a list of companies that can partner with community groups to run dozens of the city’s most poorly performing schools. (“It’s Official: State Takes Over Philadelphia Schools,” Jan. 9, 2002.)

—Catherine Gewertz

Student Holds Two Administrators Hostage At Mississippi School

A Raymond, Miss., student was arrested after holding his high school principal and assistant principal hostage at gunpoint for nearly four hours on Jan 11.

The student, an 18-year-old junior, faces two counts of kidnapping and one count of weapon possession on school grounds. No one was harmed during the incident at Raymond High School near Jackson.

The morning of the incident, Principal Delesicia Martin, whose tenure at the school had begun that week, notified the student that he would be suspended for 10 days, and he left school grounds. Later in the afternoon, he returned to the principal’s office and pulled a gun.

—Erik W. Robelen

Teacher Suspended for Role In Science-Fair Bomb Project

A teacher in the Kiowa, Colo., school district was suspended last week after police launched an investigation into a project on bombs displayed at a student science fair.

Police reported that the project exhibited at the Jan. 8 science fair did not include an operational bomb, but that the necessary ingredients and instructions to explode such a device were present, said Michael Knight, a spokesman for the district attorney in Colorado’s 18th Judicial District.

But Gregory F. Kruthaupt, the superintendent of the rural, 440-student Kiowa school system, located about 35 miles southeast of Denver, said last week that bomb ingredients were listed but were not present at the exhibit. “There’s no evidence that the safety of any students or staff was at risk because of the project,” Mr. Kruthaupt said.

Mr. Knight noted that clarifying whether the necessary bomb-making ingredients were on site would be an important factor in determining if criminal charges would be brought, either against the 17-year-old high school junior involved or against his science teacher.

Superintendent Kruthaupt said the teacher, Randy Wilson, had exercised “poor judgment” in approving the project. Attempts to reach Mr. Wilson last week were unsuccessful.

Mr. Wilson was placed on paid leave Jan. 14, pending the outcome of the criminal investigation and the school district’s own inquiry, the superintendent said. He added that he had no plans to discipline the student.

—Caroline Hendrie

California District Acquires Brothel Site In Plea Deal

California’s Pomona school district acquired some new property through some highly unusual circumstances last week, after a husband and wife accused of running two brothels in the area agreed to a court settlement.

The agreement will give the land on which one of the brothels stood to the district for use by the neighboring elementary school. The former brothel, known as the Swedish Salon, is bordered on three sides by the 700-student Abraham Lincoln Elementary School’s campus.

The brothel’s owner, 65-year-old Herschel H. Jennings, pleaded guilty on Jan. 9 to a felony count of conspiracy to run a house of prostitution and two misdemeanor counts of running houses of prostitution. His wife, 64-year-old Kay J. Jennings, pleaded no contest to the same charges.

Deputy District Attorney Gail Ehrlich of Los Angeles County said that the forfeiture of the land by the couple “turns a successful criminal prosecution of operation of a brothel into an opportunity for more classrooms for children in Pomona.”

William J. Stelzner, a spokesman for the school district, said the 35,000-student district plans to raze the existing structure and use it either as a place for new portable classrooms or as a playground.

“We will no longer be in a situation where parents and students have to be confronted by a very undesirable element that’s been there for 30 years now,” Mr. Stelzner said.

—Jessica L. Sandham

Student’s Controversial Sweatshirt Didn’t Violate Dress Code, Judge Says

A Woodbury, Minn., high school student’s constitutional rights were violated when his principal told him he could not wear a sweatshirt that read “Straight Pride,” a federal judge ruled last week.

U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank ruled that the 15,300-student South Washington County district’s dress code was unconstitutional, and that officials did not sufficiently demonstrate how Elliot Chambers’ sweatshirt could disrupt the school environment.

The Center for Law and Policy at the Tupelo, Miss.-based American Family Association had filed a lawsuit on behalf of the student and his parents last April. The organization, which promotes “traditional family values,” argued that the student’s right to free expression was violated.

The judge had issued a preliminary injuction last May allowing the student to continue wearing the shirt. At the time, district officials said they accepted the ruling. “That hasn’t changed,” Mary Elrod, a spokeswoman for the district, said last week.

Stephen M. Crampton, the chief counsel for the center, said, “We are pleased that Elliot’s rights have been vindicated.”

—Linda Jacobson

A version of this article appeared in the January 23, 2002 edition of Education Week as News in Brief: A National Roundup


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