Update News

September 06, 1989 4 min read

Nearly three out of four chronically truant students in Wisconsin began attending school faithfully soon after their families’ welfare benefits were cut, state health and human services officials say.

A report on the state’s controversial new “learnfare” program found that close to 70 percent of the 7,501 teenagers whose families were penalized under the program began attending school regularly within three months of the sanctions.

The program, which began last September, reduces welfare benefits by an average of $100 a month to families in which a teenager has more than two unexcused absences a month from school. (See Education Week, Nov. 25, 1987.)

While state officials contended that the data attested to the program’s success, some local school officials were skeptical. Student attendance patterns are often er6ratic, they said, and students can easily meet the law’s requirements by bringing notes from their parents after an absence.

Connecticut’s acting attorney general has asked a state court to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to mandate that the state’s schools be desegregated.

The lawsuit, filed in April on behalf of 17 students from Hartford, charges that racial imbalances violate the state’s constitutional guarantee of equal educational opportunity. (See Education Week, April 19, 1989.)

But Acting Attorney General Claudine N. Riddle, in a motion submitted to the superior court last month, claims that the state cannot be held responsible for the high concentration of minority students in the Hartford schools. “There is no violation of the state constitution,” John R. Whelan, assistant attorney general, said. “The state did not cause the conditions the plaintiffs are complaining about.”

A decision is expected this spring.

Norman Najimy, the principal of the Richmond (Mass.) Consolidated School who eliminated his own position so teachers would not be laid off, is back on the job. (See Education Week, Aug. 2, 1989.)

The town school board voted unanimously last month to reappoint the elementary-school principal, even though board members admitted that they did not know where they would get the $43,000 to pay his salary.

Najimy reportedly received job offers from across the country.

Parents who win special-education disputes with school districts may be awarded attorney’s fees even if their cases never go to court, a federal appellate court has ruled in a Georgia case.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit said in July that the parents of Paige Mitten, a mentally retarded girl, were entitled to legal fees even though their case against the Muscogee County school systemat the administrative-hearing level.

At issue was the interpretation of a 1986 federal law that awards legal fees to parents who prevail over school districts in special-education “actions or proceedings.” The question before the court was whether the law applied to administrative hearings conducted by state school officials.

The ruling was the fifth by a federal appeals court to side with the parents on that question.

Only in one other case, Moore v. District of Columbia, has an appellate court ruled the other way. But a final decision in that case is still pending. The federal appellate court that ruled on the Moore case, meeting late last month, granted a request by the parents for a rehearing before a full panel of the court. Experts say the issue could wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court. (See Education Week, Aug. 2, 1989.)

Boston schoolchildren this fall will watch videotapes depicting graphic re-enactments of racial violence as part of a civil-rights education program developed by the city police department.

Police said they hope the two 20-minute videotapes--one for elementary-school students, the other for teenagers--will become models for schools and communities combatting racism. (See Education Week, May 24, 1989.)

The videotape targeted to teenagers shows a white man beating a Vietnamese youth and two black teenagers punching a white youngster at a bus stop. In the tape geared to younger children, 8-year-olds are shown being ostracized by a group of people chanting, “Down with eights.”

The videotapes, accompanied by an anti-racism curriculum, will be shown in all the city’s public and parochial schools.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is investigating the bleacher industry in response to several bleacher collapses at schools around the country.

The agency is trying to figure out why the collapses occurred and to find ways to prevent them in the future, said Judith Hayes, of the commission’s division of corrective actions. She declined to name the companies being investigated.

At least nine bleacher accidents in the past seven years have been attributed to bleachers manufactured before 1977 by The Vecta Group or by Interkal Inc. of Kalamazoo, Mich., which took over the Vecta product line in 1974. More than 220 students have been hurt in the accidents. (See Education Week, June 7, 1989.)

A version of this article appeared in the September 06, 1989 edition of Education Week as Update News