News Updates

November 14, 1984 6 min read

Families must still fulfill the income-verification requirements outlined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1982 to be eligible for federally subsidized school meals, a federal district court in San Francisco ruled early this month.

According to N. Eugene Hill, assistant attorney general for the state, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled on an appeal to two suits that were brought against the Agriculture Department in April 1982 by the state education department, individuals, andwelfare-rights groups. (See Education Week, April 21, 1982.)

The suits were the result of regulations requiring schools to collect the Social Security numbers of all adults in households with children applying for the federal school-lunch, summer feeding, and child-care programs.

The plaintiffs charged that the requirement was in violation of the Privacy Act of 1974 because it was not clearly spelled out what the Social Security numbers were to be used for. They also argued that the requirement put an unfair administrative burden on schools and was in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act, and that the collection of the Social Security numbers was unconstitutional.

The plan of Gov. John H. Sununu of New Hampshire to put computers in every classroom got a boost last month when a state judge ruled that $957,677 in surplus state-lottery revenues for fiscal 1984 could be sent to school districts on a per-pupil basis.

Under Superior Court Chief Justice Richard P. Dunfey’s ruling, a similar surplus in fiscal 1985 is also expected to be available for the computer program, said Bruce Mohl, the assistant attorney general who represented the Governor.

But Randy Bell of the New Hampshire School Boards Association later told reporters that the surplus dollars might be needed to offset local property-tax assessments.

In June, Governor Sununu announced a plan to use state lottery money to buy Digital Equipment Corporation computers for local school districts. He later said that he had merely negotiated a “pricing agreement” with Digital so school districts could purchase the computers at a reduced price with their share of the lottery surplus. (See Education Week, Sept. 12, 1984.)

The issue ended up in court when State Representative Michael King argued that the Governor was not authorized to distribute any state money, including a surplus in lottery funds, to the districts for the program without legislative approval.

A federal district judge has dismissed a suit challenging a Minneapolis high school’s policy forbidding the distribution of religious literature in school.

U.S. District Judge Edward Devitt last month dismissed the suit, brought by Douglas Pagitt, a senior at Hopkins High School last spring, on the grounds that it became moot when Mr. Pagitt graduated in May.

But he hinted that the policy might be ruled unconstitutional if it were challenged again, and advised school-board members and administrators to seek legal counsel as to its propriety in light of recent decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court and courts of appeal.

Mr. Pagitt was suspended for continuing to distribute a religious newspaper for teen-agers following warnings from the principal that his actions violated school policy. (See Education Week, May 30, 1984.)

That policy, based on Minnesota Board of Education rules, prohibits the distribution on school grounds of religious materials that are not part of academic study about religion. Mr. Pagitt brought the suit on the grounds that the policy violated his First Amendment rights.

The West Haven Board of Education has agreed by consensus to keep the “Blue Devil” mascot that a local minister said was “making evil look good and good look evil.”

Richard Mallette, the founder and pastor of Living Word Ministries Inc., reportedly asked that the West Haven High School mascot be changed after a church member told the school board that using the “ruler of hell” as a mascot was a violation of the First Commandment, which forbids the worship of false gods. (See Education

Week, Oct. 17, 1984.)

On Nov. 5, the board agreed by consensus that the tradition of using the “Blue Devil,” a high-school mascot for 39 years, should continue.

The president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors has criticized a $49-billion plan to “rebuild America’s cities” that was issued two weeks ago by the organization’s special committee on urban policy. (See Education Week, Nov. 7, 1984.)

The plan, released by Mayor Marion S. Barry Jr. of the District of Columbia, chairman of the seven-member task force on urban policy, included 12 education recommendations and was endorsed by the president of the National Education Association.

Mayor Hernan Padilla of San Juan, P.R., the president of the mayors’ conference, this month criticized the plan’s anti-Administration partisanship and added that the 421-page book, A Plan To Rebuild America’s Cities, has not yet been formally approved by the mayors’ conference.

Mr. Padilla said the report ignored “many of the positive effects that Reagan Administration policies have had in cities--increased productivity and resulting dramatic increases in jobs, among them.”

An Illinois hearing officer has reinstated a physical-education teacher who was fired for showing a videotape of male dancers to her female aerobics classes.

Limestone High School trustees last April unanimously voted to dismiss Alice Zook for showing a film of the Chippendales, a Los Angeles dance troupe.

Ms. Zook complied with an administration order to stop showing the film, but school officials charged she failed to stop other students from harassing some of the 130 students who had seen the film. (See Education Week, May 23, 1984.)

Under Illinois law, a tenured3teacher has the right to a hearing upon being fired.

In ordering the Bartonville School District to reinstate Ms. Zook with back pay, the hearing officer said the district had failed to prove her actions were damaging to students, faculty members, or the district.

At a meeting last week, the school board moved to authorize the district’s lawyer to appeal the officer’s decision, according to Superintendent Norman T. Endsley.

The board also received a petition signed by 252 students protesting Ms. Zook’s reinstatement and supporting an appeal, Mr. Endsley said. Ms. Zook will not be reinstated by the district pending the appeal.

Nine asbestos manufacturers and two school districts have appealed a federal district court’s decision to grant class-action status to a lawsuit by school districts against 54 asbestos manufacturers.

Judge James M. Kelly in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on Sept. 28 granted class-action status in In Re: School Asbestos Litigation. (See Education Week, Oct. 10, 1984.)

Judge Kelly approved a voluntary class for compensatory damages and a mandatory class for punitive damages.

GAF Corporation, Dana Corporation, Fiberboard Corporation, Celotex, Carey-Canada, Pfizer Inc., National Gypsum, U.S. Gypsum, W.R. Grace, the Los Angeles Unified School District, and the Clifton (N.J.) Board of Education have filed appeals to the order, according to Edward K. Rodgers, deputy clerk for the court.

National Gypsum, U.S. Gypsum, and W.R. Grace specifically are opposing the judge’s denial of a mandatory class for compensatory damages, according to their lawyer, Lawrence T. Hoyle Jr. A mandatory class would have prevented schools from pursuing asbestos litigation on their own.

A version of this article appeared in the November 14, 1984 edition of Education Week as News Updates