Update News

January 10, 1990 5 min read

The Seattle board of education has voted 4 to 3 to reject an anti-busing initiative narrowly approved by voters last November. (See Education Week, Nov. 15, 1989.)

The initiative would have required the City of Seattle to provide the school district with 6 percent of its sales-tax revenues--roughly $4.5 million a year--for voluntary desegregation programs if the board voted to abandon a “controlled choice” student-assignment plan implemented last fall.

Several board members said it was not feasible for the district to move quickly to adopt the districtwide open-enrollment plan called for in the initiative. Although most students are enrolled in schools of their choice under the “controlled choice” plan, its requirements for a racially balanced enrollment at each school force some students to accept schools they had not chosen.

Both supporters and opponents of the initiative have said they are willing to seek a compromise solution that would eliminate mandatory student assignments over the next several years.

Three organizations that threatened to challenge the initiative in court said they would heed the request of Norm Rice, the newly elected mayor and a staunch opponent of the initiative, to delay legal action until after Feb. 6. On that day, voters will be asked to approve a special property-tax levy for school operations.

The New York City Board of Education has abandoned a controversial plan to permit an Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program to be established at a school named for the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (See Education Week, Nov. 1, 1989.)

The board announced its decision last month after encountering opposition from teachers, politicians, and Coretta Scott King, Dr. King’s widow, who said the program did not belong in a school named for the slain civil-rights leader and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Dade County, Fla., school officials have released a new gun-awareness curriculum to teach children the dangers of firearms.

The curriculum for students in preschool through the 12th grade was developed in part by the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence. Last fall, the center released a study estimating that 10 percent of youths who died in 1987 nationwide were killed by guns.

Under the program, whose development was authorized by the county school board in November 1988, students will learn that guns are dangerous, that they should never touch a gun, and that should stay away from others who do. (See Education Week, Nov. 16, 1988.)

For primary-grade students, the curriculum is designed to address the issue without highlighting violence. Through role play, children will be taught general safety procedures, decisionmaking skills, and conflict-resolution strategies, as well as the basic message to stay away from guns, according to a district spokesman.

The secondary curriculum focuses more on gun violence and methods of conflict resolution. It includes a video in which local teenagers discuss how their lives have been changed by gun violence, and offers advice on how to avoid dangerous situations involving firearms.

The district also plans to distribute pamphlets on gun safety to parents.

The commissioners of education of New York and the six New England states have signed an agreement establishing the nation’s first regional teaching certificate.

The certificate, which will be issued beginning April 1, will allow qualified educators in any of the seven states to take a job immediately in any other participating state. Educators will have up to two years to complete the requirements forcertification in the new state. (See Education Week, Aug. 2, 1989.)

Several commissioners at the Dec. 20 signing in Boston said the credential will help the region attract and keep qualified teachers.

In Connecticut, which recently enacted a comprehensive continuum of teacher examinations and performance assessments, the new credential will be available only for teachers of trade-related and occupational subjects.

In response to complaints by teachers and other school employees, Fairfax County, Va., school officials have proposed that a controversial drug and alcohol policy be narrowed.

Under the policy, implemented in November, school employees could have been fired on the first offense for having any amount of a drug or alcohol in their systems while on school grounds. (See Education Week, Dec. 13, 1989.)

At a school-board subcommittee meeting last month, officials proposed that the policy be applied only to employees who are on “assigned duties” and added a guarantee that employees would receive due process, said Burton Carnegie, the district’s director of support employment services.

Mr. Carnegie also said school officials would no longer be required to administer a breathalyzer test to employees thought to be impaired on the job, or to automatically fire employees caught with drugs or alcohol in their systems. Rather, the revised policy states that the department “may” require such a test or impose such a penalty on an employee, he said.

Philadelphia school officials must devise a new plan to encourage women and minorities to do business with the district, the city school board decided last month.

The order comes in the wake of a U.S. District Court decision invalidating the district’s six-year-old set-aside program. (See Education Week, Dec. 6, 1989.)

In a resolution adopted Dec. 11, the board gave school officials 60 days to complete a report on “race- and sex-neutral means by which to increase minority and women participation in school-district contracting.”

According to a district spokesman, all bids have been placed on hold until the report is released. The district may need to rebid some contracts, he added.

The Jefferson County (Colo.) School Board voted last month to eliminate more than 100 jobs to balance the district’s 1990 budget.

Teachers, administrators, and support staff will be laid off next fall to make up a $5.4-million deficit. The board made its decision after seeking the advice of educators, parents, and students. (See Education Week, Dec. 13, 1989.)

A total of 33 teachers and 12 administrators will lose their jobs. The remaining cuts will be made by eliminating full- and part-time nonteaching positions.

The board rejected other measures to reduce the deficit, such as increasing activity fees or curtailing athletic programs.

The cuts became necessary after voters rejected a tax-increase proposal last November.

School officials in Mesa, Ariz., will no longer be required to report sexually active students to the police.

Revised guidelines issued by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office late last month clarify a new state child-abuse law that--according to Mesa school officials and local police officials--mandated the reporting of all suspected sexual activity involving a minor. (See Education Week, Nov. 29, 1989.)

Under the new guidelines, employees are only bound to report students when there are “reasonable grounds to believe that a minor has been a victim” of a sexual offense.

A version of this article appeared in the January 10, 1990 edition of Education Week as Update News