News in Brief: A National Roundup

October 08, 2003 7 min read
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Police Shoot Student In Calif. High School

A standoff with an armed 19-year-old student in a California high school ended last week when police officers shot and injured the teenager.

Police arrived at Rio Cazadero High School in Sacramento’s 34,000-student Elk Grove Unified School District to find the school’s vice principal struggling outside the door of a classroom with the student, who was armed with a loaded 12-gauge shotgun.

Officers shot the student, identified as Mario Michael Rodriguez, in the upper body and leg when he pulled away from the administrator and leveled his gun at police, according to a report from the Sacramento Police Department. The teenager was reported to be in serious condition.

During the Oct. 1 struggle, the vice principal, identified as L.C. Brown, was injured in the leg, police said.

Police investigators had not detailed an official motive for the teenager’s actions, but they said the student was apparently despondent over a breakup with his girlfriend. He was in serious condition.

The incident followed the shooting death of a 15-year- old boy on Sept. 30, one block from a high school in the Sacramento City Unified School District. That shooting happened just after students had been released from classes for the day.

—Darcia Harris Bowman

N.Y. District Cancels Football Following Reported Assaults

The football season at W.C. Mepham High School in Bellmore, N.Y., has been canceled by the school board after three varsity players allegedly sodomized three junior-varsity players at a summer football camp in Pennsylvania.

The three older players allegedly used a broomstick, pine cones, and golf balls to assault the younger students while other players watched. The students accused of committing the assaults were suspended from school.

On Oct. 2, three juveniles were charged with aggregated assault and unlawful restraint, among other offenses, by investigators in Wayne County, Pa. It was not clear whether the students charged were the same students who were suspended, because their names were not released.

The school board found that “a significant majority” of the team’s players violated the district’s code of conduct, according to Charles Reinhardt, the president of the 5,900-student Bellmore- Merrick Central High School District on Long Island.

While Kevin McElroy, the head football coach, said his staff had done everything possible to create a safe environment for players, he apologized for not being able to protect the students who were hurt.

—John Gehring

School Board Fires Vt. Teacher Who Resigned From NEA Board

A Vermont teacher who had to step down from his new position on the National Education Association’s top governing body because of his sexual misconduct with a teacher’s aide in his classroom has been fired from his teaching job.

Wayne Nadeau was dismissed late last month by the Lamoille North Supervisory Union school board for allegedly violating the district’s substance-abuse policy and displaying conduct unbecoming to a teacher on a school-sponsored trip to Russia in 1996.

Those allegations came to light this past summer, following the revelation of the consensual sexual activity, which had led the state last winter to suspend Mr. Nadeau’s teaching license for 20 days.

Mr. Nadeau admitted to having had sex several times in his classroom at Lamoille Union High School in Hyde Park, Vt., last year.

He resigned from the NEA’s elected executive board under pressure in late July, and was put on administrative leave with pay before school started this fall. (“In Wake of Scandal, NEA Board Member Resigns,” Aug. 6, 2003.)

Mr. Nadeau’s lawyer would not say last week whether his client would appeal the firing.

—Bess Keller

Third Man Charged in Probe Of Corruption in D.C. Union

A third person has been charged in the investigation into corruption in the Washington Teachers’ Union.

Errol Alderman, who had no official connection with the District of Columbia union, was charged with helping to steal money from the organization in a “criminal information” filed last week in U.S. District Court. Such documents typically indicate that a defendant plans to plead guilty.

Prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office said that Mr. Alderman, an employee of the District of Columbia government, was a friend of Michael M. Martin, the son-in-law of a top union official. Together, the two men conspired to launder union money through a bogus company called Expressions Unlimited, according to the charging document.

Mr. Martin pleaded guilty in April to setting up the company, which prosecutors said received some $483,000 of the union’s money. Leroy Holmes, a former chauffeur for union officials, pleaded guilty to money-laundering charges in February.

Mr. Alderman’s lawyer, Kenneth Robinson, said his client would cooperate with investigators and plead guilty to the charges. He noted that Mr. Alderman did not personally profit from the transactions.

The probe centers on the three top elected officials of the union, none of whom has been charged. But they have been accused in court documents of stealing more than $5.2 million from the 5,000-member union, which is now being run by its parent organization, the American Federation of Teachers.

—Ann Bradley

Texas School District Apologizes For Offensive Band Performance

The Paris, Texas, school district has issued an official apology to the Dallas Independent School District for a musical performance by the district’s high school marching band, on the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah, in which a student waved a Nazi flag and the band played the German anthem “Deutschland Uber Alles.”

The performance took place during the half-time break of a Sept. 26 football game between students from Paris High School and Hillcrest High School. Many of those attending the game were offended by the performance.

The performance—which included students waving flags from the United States, France, Japan, and Britain as well as the Nazi flag—was meant to show the “triumph of good over evil, and to honor our veterans” from World War II, Charles Grissom, the band director for the 3,900-student Paris district, said in a press release.

The district’s apology has been accepted, said Roxan DeRosier, a spokeswoman for the Paris schools. The U.S. flag will be the only one waved in future performances of the number, according to a release, and the German national anthem will not be played.

—Michelle Galley

Kansas City, Mo., Marks End Of Desegregation Case

The Kansas City, Mo., school district’s long-running desegregation case has come to an end.

U.S. District Court Judge Dean Whipple ruled in August that the the 35,000-student district had met its obligation to close the achievement gap between black and white students. Reaching that goal was the last step required of the district by the courts.

Arthur Benson, the lawyer who has represented the plaintiffs in the case since 1979, appealed that ruling. But on Sept. 25, he withdrew the appeal, ending one of the nation’s lengthiest struggles to desegregate a school district.

Bernard Taylor Jr., the superintendent of the Kansas City schools, said in a statement that the district had been confident that it had in fact “met its burden” to close the achievement gap.

“The desegregation case is now, once and for all, over,” Mr. Taylor said.

—Ann Bradley

N.C. Schools Reopen Following Extensive Hurricane Damage

Education officials in North Carolina estimated last week that damage to school buildings and other school property from Hurricane Isabel had reached $3.7 million and could go higher.

As many as 114 schools in 16 districts lost electricity and were closed for two to eight days after the storm pummeled the Mid-Atlantic region on Sept. 18. All were open by late last week.Compared with Hurricanes Floyd and Fran in 1998 and 1996, respectively, Hurricane Isabel did less harm, said Ben Matthews, the director of school support for the North Carolina education department. Schools suffered $14 million in damage in Hurricane Floyd, while school damages in Fran reached $9 million, he said.

Gov. Michael F. Easley last month declared 26 counties in the state disaster areas.

—Rhea R. Borja

New Orleans Appeals Ruling Reinstating $22 Million Penalty

The New Orleans school system has appealed a federal district judge’s ruling reinstating a jury award of more than $22 million against it in a whistleblower case brought by two former district auditors.

A jury found that district employees had bilked the federal government of more than $7 million through a scheme involving unemployment and workers’ compensation. Under the federal False Claims Act, the federal government was eligible to recover triple the actual damages, and the auditors, as whistleblowers, were to receive one-quarter of the total judgment.

The 70,000-student district had thought it was off the hook, though, because the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, in New Orleans, had held in a 2001 ruling in the same case that local governmental entities could not be held liable under the federal false-claims law. The U.S. Supreme Court twice declined to hear the auditors’ appeals.

In reviving the judgment on Sept. 17, U.S. District Judge Stanwood R. Duval Jr. of New Orleans pointed to the Supreme Court’s decision last March in Cook County v. Chandler, in which the justices held that municipalities could be sued under the federal statute.

—Caroline Hendrie


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