States News Roundup

May 02, 1990 4 min read

The Maryland Human Relations Commission has charged the Harford County school system with age discrimination for failing to hire a 36-year-old teacher with 13 years’ experience while hiring less-experienced job candidates.

The age-discrimination charge, the first of its kind in Maryland involving a teacher, is expected to have broad implications for school districts throughout the state, said Michael L. Foreman, the commission’s general counsel. Many districts routinely hire less-experienced teachers in order to pay them less, he said.

The commission found that the Harford County schools discriminated against Donald L. Stoltenberg, a social-studies teacher who was told in 1987 he had “too much experience” when he inquired about a job. He later learned that four social-studies teachers were hired that year.

While it is unusual for age-discrimination cases to involve someone under age 40--the threshold under federal statutes--Maryland law specifies no minimum age.

Mr. Foreman said the commission is now negotiating with Harford County officials to settle the case. Possible remedies include offering Mr. Stoltenberg a job or compensating him for the lost wages he suffered as a result of the discriminatory action, he said.

Illinois school districts may issue high-interest bonds to pay for capital improvements, the state supreme court has ruled.

The opinion, delivered April 18, held that a 1984 bond issue by the Allendale Community Consolidated School District No. 17 in Wabash County was legal. The interest rate on the bonds, which were to be used for safety improvements, was 9.75 percent. Their total value was $275,000.

A group of taxpayers in the county sued the district, claiming state law limited the interest rate on local-government bonds to 7 percent. In 1986, their claim was dismissed in county court, but an appellate court overturned that decision in May 1989.

In its ruling, the Illinois Supreme Court cited a law passed last June by the legislature that retroactively validated all such high-interest bonds.

“The objection to the bonds which existed at the time of the appellate court’s decision no longer exists,” the court said.

The Maine Supreme Court has unanimously upheld a lower-court decision that a 4th-grade teacher’s due-process rights were not violated when she was fired for having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old boy.

Kathleen Elvin, who was fired by Superintendent Albert Hall of Waterville in February 1989, had acknowledged her affair and had pleaded no contest to one count of assault stemming from her sexual contact with the boy, who had babysat for her two children.

She challenged the way she was fired, however, contending that the district denied her due-process rights granted under the state constitution by not allowing her to cross-examine the boy over the contents of an affidavit he had submitted.

In upholding the Kennebec County Superior Court decision, the supreme court last month said that the affidavit was only one portion of the evidence that was “corroborated by extensive information from other sources.”

The federal government’s count of school dropouts in Florida is highly inaccurate and should be updated, a state auditor general’s report has charged.

In an evaluation of the 1982-1988 school years, the Florida auditor general’s office found that the federal dropout count had included students who had died or transferred to another district.

Since 1982, Florida has been identified by the federal government as having a graduation rate that ranks among the worst in the country.

The auditor general’s report, released last month, cited consistency problems in both the state and federal dropout counts in defining who is and is not a dropout. The definition varied from county to county, it said, and students were often counted twice.

According to the report, Florida’s graduation rate in 1987 was 77 percent. The federal government estimated the state’s graduation rate that year at 58 percent--the lowest of any state.

Commissioner of Education Betty Castor said she was pleased that the report confirmed her suspicions that the state dropout rate was not as bad as had been reported.

A more detailed report on the state’s tracking methods for dropouts is expected to be released this month.

A special panel formed by the Idaho education department has recommended that students be allowed to count up to four vocational-education classes toward meeting admission requirements for state colleges and universities.

The panel recommended that students be allowed to take two scientifically oriented vocational classes, such as horticulture or agricultural science, as part of their six-unit natural-sciences requirement for admission to state higher-education institutions.

It would also allow two of the three free electives required for admission to be vocational-education classes.

Robin Dodson, the board’s chief academic officer, said the board would probably approve these changes in admission requirements for the graduating class of 1992 at its September meeting.

A version of this article appeared in the May 02, 1990 edition of Education Week as States News Roundup