State News Roundup

April 04, 1990 6 min read

Florida would streamline its statewide testing program and assess a broader range of student abilities under legislation proposed by Commissioner of Education Betty Castor.

“We do too much testing, and we do the wrong kind of testing,” Ms. Castor said.

The legislation, which is based on the recommendations of a task force appointed by Ms. Castor, calls for scrapping the state’s tests of minimum skills in grades 3, 5, 8, and 10, as well as the minimum-competency test required for high-school graduation.

In their place, the legislation proposes, districts would administer norm-referenced achievement tests and writing tests in grades 4 and 7, and the state would administer a nationally normed achievement test--which also includes a writing component--in grade 10.

The state would also create a competency test for grade 11, which students must pass in order to earn a high-school diploma. Students who performed well on the 10th-grade test, however, could be granted a waiver from taking the competency test.

School districts in Iowa cannot enforce compulsory-attendance laws against Indian families unless their tribal governments have specifically agreed to uphold those laws, the state supreme court has ruled.

The court ruled last month that unilateral application of the state’s compulsory-education law would “interfere with tribal self-government.”

Specifically, the court ruled that the South Tama School district could not compel Anna Lee Bear and Archie Bear, members of the Sac and Fox Tribe of Mississippi in Iowa, to send their son to school.

According to court papers, the Bears, who live on the Tama Indian Reservation, were charged with three counts each of failing to obey the attendance law during the 1987-88 school year. Lawyers for the state also charged that the Bears ignored orders to appear before a local magistrate on those charges.

But the court held that because the Sac and Fox tribal government has never consented to obey Iowa’s compulsory-attendance laws, the federal courts have “exclusive jurisdiction” in the matter.

The court also found, however, that the state could prosecute Ms. Bear on criminal harassment charges that stemmed from the disagreement over school attendance.

The Texas Education Agency’s recent implementation of a program that uses Social Security numbers to identify students has met with resistance from Hispanic and civil-liberties groups.

The groups say they fear the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service will use the system to track undocumented aliens.

Parents of all public-school students in the state were asked to submit their children’s Social Security numbers by March 16. Children whose parents did not submit the numbers were assigned an eight-digit number preceded by an “S.”

An education agency spokesman said the identification numbers will be used to establish a computerized information system to aid in the transfer of records among districts. He added that the agency is prohibited by state law from sharing the information with federal agencies other than the Education Department and the Office of the General Controller.

But Joe Cook, president of the Dallas Civil Liberties Union, said that asking students to submit a Social Security number violates their right to privacy, and that he is skeptical of the state’s assurances that the information will be used properly.

The hiring practices of the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind have come under fire in a new report by a team of state auditors.

Investigators from the Colorado legislative audit committee said the Colorado Springs school may have endangered the well-being of its 161 students by failing to check its employees’ backgrounds for possible criminal records.

They said the school had hired a thrice-convicted rapist as a dormitory supervisor and hired other employees who had arrest records for burglary, resisting an officer, and shoplifting.

In addition, according to the report, one staff member was listed on the state’s central child-protection registry--a list of people suspected of abusing or neglecting a child.

Gordon Kaufman, superintendent of the school, said the harshly worded report was misleading. He noted, for example, that the convicted rapist had resigned less than a week after he was hired. He left after the school’s personnel director contacted the local police department in search of information about the man.

Mr. Kaufman also said the Colorado Bureau of Investigation had repeatedly failed to honor his requests for the criminal records of employees.

A Pennsylvania judge has ruled that the Valley Forge Military Academy violated a senior cadet’s rights under the state’s “student bill of rights” when it expelled him for allegedly possessing a small amount of marijuana.

The ruling last month by Delaware County Court Judge John V. Diggins is thought to be the first in the state to apply Pennsylvania’s student bill of rights to a private school.

The judge said the prestigious private school in Wayne had violated the 1984 law when it refused to allow 17-year-old Joseph Christopher Ciccarelli to have a lawyer or his parents present during a hearing on the charge against him.

The judge also noted that the school failed to inform the student of the allegation against him, provide him with adequate notice of the hearing date, or allow him to confront his accusers--all requirements under the state law.

Mr. Ciccarelli was expelled in January after school officials conducted an impromptu search of luggage belonging to students leaving for a school-sponsored ski trip. The bag of marijuana allegedly was found in the boy’s ski pants, which had been hanging in another student’s room for several days before the search.

The court ordered the academy to reinstate Mr. Ciccarelli. The academy is expected to appeal the decision.

Nonpublic schools seeking state accreditation in Mississippi will be charged for copies of three standardized tests under a new policy of the state board of education.

Each of the 49 nonpublic schools seeking accreditation from the state department of education will pay a per-pupil fee for the tests, a spokesman for the department said. Schools seeking state accreditation must administer the tests to their students.

The board, concerned over spending state money on private and parochial schools, adopted the policy last month. The decision will cost the schools a total of about $16,000 this year, officials said.

A New York student who was living with her aunt must attend school in the district where her parents live, a federal district court judge has ruled.

In a summary judgment, U.S. District Judge Thomas McAvoy wrote that ''there is no presumption that the child’s residence is wherever the child is presently located.”

The case, Rogowski v. New Hartford Central School District, involved a student who said she lived with her aunt in the New Hartford, N.Y., school district. Her parents lived in Utica, in another district.

The New Hartford district originally agreed that the student could attend school there, and she enrolled in junior high in January 1987. But after an internal investigation, the district’s lawyer said, school officials determined that she did not live in the district, and she was expelled in Sep 1987.

The student then sought reinstatement in state court, and won. The district did not appeal and was prepared to allow her back, according to its lawyer, but she chose to attend school elsewhere.

She then filed suit against the district in federal court, claiming that her due-process rights had been violated because she had been expelled without a fair hearing.

Judge McAvoy ruled that since her expulsion was based on residency rather than on disciplinary grounds, the student’s due-process rights were not compromised. A free public education was also available to her in Utica, he noted.

The student’s lawyer has appealed the decision.

A version of this article appeared in the April 04, 1990 edition of Education Week as State News Roundup