News in Brief A Washington Roundup

December 11, 2002 3 min read

Whitehurst to Lead New Research Arm

As expected, President Bush has appointed Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst to become the first director of the newly formed Institute of Education Sciences.

Before his new job began late last month, Mr. Whitehurst was the assistant secretary in charge of the Department of Education’s office of educational research and improvement. Under a measure revamping the department’s research operations that the president signed into law last month, the OERI was reorganized as the new institute. (“New Research Agency’s Independence in Question,” Nov. 13, 2002.)

That law included a provision allowing Mr. Whitehurst to, in effect, change his job title without Senate confirmation. Those appointed to the post in the future, however, will have to pass Senate muster.

While it will still be part of the Education Department, the Institute of Education Sciences is intended to be more politically independent than the old education research office. Toward that end, the director’s appointment lasts six years.

—Debra Viadero

High Court Rejects Case Involving Student Suicide

The U.S. Supreme Court declined last week to hear an appeal from Wisconsin parents who alleged that school administrators were partially responsible for the suicide of their 13-year-old daughter.

Timijane Martin was a 7th grader at Shawano (Wis.) Community Middle School in 1999 when administrators suspended her for three days for having a pack of cigarettes in her locker. An assistant principal tried to call her mother to come pick her up at school, but was able only to leave a message. At the end of the school day, Timijane took the bus home, where she hanged herself.

Charla and Timothy Martin’s lawsuit against the 3,000-student Shawano-Gresham district alleged, among other charges, that the suspension had caused their daughter severe emotional distress and that administrators had failed to protect her. The parents lost in both federal district court and in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, in Chicago.

The justices declined without comment to hear the parents’ appeal in Martin v. Shawano-Gresham School District (Case No. 02- 507).

—Mark Walsh

Mass. Seeks Exception To College-Aid Rule

The Massachusetts education commissioner has asked the U.S. Department of Education to make federal financial aid for college available to students who receive state- endorsed certificates in lieu of high school diplomas.

The Massachusetts state board of education voted last month to allow local school boards to issue certificates to students who meet graduation requirements, but have not passed the state’s high school exit exams. The federal government requires that, to qualify for federal college aid, students have a regular diploma, a General Educational Development diploma, or at least a threshold score on a test that measures their ability to benefit from additional schooling.

“Some students will need more time to reach the standards we have set, but if they tried hard and have met their local school requirements, that should be acknowledged,” Massachusetts Commissioner of Education David P. Driscoll said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for the Massachusetts state board said that the request had been submitted, but that the federal department had not yet responded. Department spokeswoman Stephanie Babyak said the request was being reviewed.

State board members said the local credentials would be for students who had failed to pass the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System test three times and had used tutoring and additional programs for academic help.

—Michelle R. Davis

A version of this article appeared in the December 11, 2002 edition of Education Week as News in Brief A Washington Roundup