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News Update

February 22, 1984 4 min read

Members of the Vermont Senate recently approved a measure that would require all school districts in the state to offer kindergarten programs.

A similar bill is now being considered by members of the House.

Under the proposed measure, school districts could either establish their own kindergarten programs or pay tuition for children in the district to attend a state-approved program in a private school.

If approved by the House, kindergarten programs also would be mandatory for all districts under the Vermont Department of Education’s proposed school-approval standards. (See Education Week, Nov. 2, 1983.)

Lawyers for a juvenile-justice advocacy group in Wisconsin say that a school district in the state is violating state and federal laws with a new policy that can require urine tests for students suspected of drug use.

Under the Milton School District’s policy, instituted early this month, urine analysis may be required of students who exhibit “abnormal behavior,” such as stum-bling, inattention in class, and apathy. If the tests prove positive, students are required to seek drug-abuse treatment and may be suspended. Students who refuse the urine tests also may be suspended.

“As a constitutional matter, I don’t see how the school can force students to make a choice between giving up their right to [be free of] unreasonable search and their right to an education,” said Thomas E. Dixon, chief legal counsel for the Youth Policy and Law Center Inc., a private, nonprofit group in Madison, Wis. The 2,400-student district’s suspension policy also violates a Wisconsin statute that limits suspension to three days, Mr. Dixon said, since students may be suspended for more than that time period under the policy.

Superintendent of Schools Jon C. Platts said the district is “very concerned about student rights.”

“The whole thing is based on a help and caring attitude,” Mr. Platts said. “We wanted to do our part in providing students with a drug-free environment.” The policy in Milton schools is similar to those operating in two Arkansas school districts. (See Education Week, Feb. 15, 1984.)

One million 5th graders in 35,000 public and private schools will receive an educational comic book on drug abuse this month as part of the President’s Drug Awareness Campaign.

The comic book, “Problem Child,” is about how a young boy and his older brother overcome involvement with drugs.

“This comic book approach is one way to reach [students] with the very important message that drugs are dangerous,” said Walton E. Burdick, a vice president of International Business Machines Corporation. ibm provided $200,000 to produce the book.

“Problem Child” is the third in a series of comic books for the drug-awareness program initiated by President Reagan in 1980. Sixth graders received a comic book last fall and another was distributed to 4th graders last spring.

Thirteen California legislators have introduced 29 measures to combat child abuse, including programs to increase awareness, aid victims, and raise reporting requirements. (See Education Week, Jan. 18, 1984.)

In 1982, an estimated 119,000 cases of child abuse were reported in California, according to Assemblyman Frank Vicencia, Democrat of Bellflower, who is chairman of the Assembly Select Committee on Child Abuse and who introduced several of the bills earlier this month.

One bill would provide $22 million over three years for statewide child-abuse training programs in elementary and secondary schools, according to Chet Olsen, a consultant for the child-abuse committee.

Another would allow a child-abuse victim to bring a civil action against anyone who failed to make an abuse report. A third would increase the maximum fine for failure to report suspected child-abuse cases from $500 to $5,000. And a fourth would allocate $15 million for the care of “high-risk” child-abuse victims--those children whose parents are in drug- and alcohol- abuse centers and shelters for battered women.

Five pieces of legislation drafted by Maryland’s task force on child abuse and neglect were the subject of hearings last week before the state Senate’s judicial proceedings committee in Annapolis.

One bill recommends that fines of up to $1,000 be levied against observers who fail to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect, according to Charles Shubin, a Baltimore pediatrician who chairs the governor’s task force. Currently, Maryland law carries no penalties for failure to report.

Sarah L. Lightfoot, a professor of education at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, will receive $200,000 over the next five years from the MacArthur Foundation.

Ms. Lightfoot, author of Worlds Apart: Relationships Between Families and Schools (Basic Books, 1978) and co-author, with Jean V. Zarew, of Beyond Bias, Perspectives on Classrooms (Harvard University Press, 1979), is one of the first scholars specializing in education to be selected by the foundation for the prestigious award.

In 1981, David Hawkins, a professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado in Boulder and former director of the Mountain View Center there, received a $300,000 award. The center since 1970 has worked to provide innovative inservice training to teachers.

Ms. Lightfoot is one of 22 recipients selected this year by the Chicago-based foundation, which established the fellowship program in 1981 to free “exceptionally talented individuals” from the pressures of earning a living to do scholarly research or “to fulfill their promise by devoting themselves to their own creative endeavors,” according to a foundation spokesman.

A version of this article appeared in the February 22, 1984 edition of Education Week as News Update