News Updates

May 30, 1990 2 min read

A state hearing officer has ordered two Michigan school districts to use a controversial electric-shock device when gentler means fail to keep a severely handicapped student from continually banging his head.

The decision this month in the case, Phelan v. Northville Public Schools and Wayne-Westland Public Schools, is among the first to test the legality of using the electric-shock device in a school setting. Known as the Self-Injurious Behavior Inhibiting Device, or sibis, the apparatus is worn on the head and administers a shock upon impact. (See Education Week, Jan. 17, 1990.)

The case involves a 15-year-old handicapped student who banged his head as often as twice a second. School officials had refused to allow the boy to wear the sibis in school, contending that its use was inhumane and a violation of state and federal laws. The boy’s mother contested that decision.

The state hearing officer said the child is entitled to the controversial therapy as “a related service,” like physical therapy or occupational therapy, under federal special-education law. He ordered school officials to first try a gentler method of curbing the boy’s self-injurious behavior. If that produces no results within a specified period of time, the opinion states, educators must immediately consider using sibis.

The U.S. Justice Department has begun a criminal investigation to determine whether Virginia dairies are using anti-competitive practices to make greater profits on school and government contracts.

The federal probe is the second major inquiry into milk contracts in the state. It was requested by Mary Sue Terry, Virginia’s attorney general, whose office is conducting a civil investigation of the milk contracts of the state’s 133 school districts.

Similar probes have led to convictions of dairy executives in Florida, Georgia, and Kentucky. (See Education Week, Feb. 28, 1990.)

A yearlong investigation of milk con3tracts revealed several indications of alleged collusion among dairy companies, including a failure by dairy distributors to bid for lucrative school contracts.

A superior court judge in Connecticut has rejected the state’s motion to dismiss a school-desegregation lawsuit, and has ordered the case to trial.

The lawsuit, brought on behalf of 17 students from Hartford and West Hartford, alleges that racial imbalances in the state’s schools violate the Connecticut constitution’s guarantee of equal educational opportunity. (See Education Week, April 19, 1989.)

Although Acting Attorney General Claudine N. Riddle had argued in a motion filed last summer that the state did not violate the constitution, Judge Harry Hammer ruled this month that “it is inappropriate for the court to consider the constitutional claims ... prior to trial.”

A version of this article appeared in the May 30, 1990 edition of Education Week as News Updates