Federal News Roundup

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On grounds that the suit lacks a "substantial federal question," the U.S. Supreme Court announced last week that it will not hear the case of Nebraska's Faith Christian School. In declining the case, the Court let stand a lower-court ruling allowing Nebraska to regulate private schools.

Except for Sunday and Wednesday worship services, Faith Baptist Church, which houses the school, has been padlocked since Sept. 13 because of the school's failure to meet state accreditation requirements.

Now Everett Sileven, pastor of the church and founder of the Faith Christian School, and several members of the congregation are occupying the church full-time to keep sheriff's deputies from locking the doors. Mr. Sileven says his 19 students will be brought back to school sometime this week, despite court orders to keep it closed.

"Nebraska has declared war on us," Mr. Sileven said. "We must stand. We must stand now. And we must stand here. And we must be the ones who stand."

In other school-related cases last week, the Court:

Let stand a federal appellate court's ruling that student prayers at public-school assemblies, even if voluntary, violate the separation of church and state.

Let stand the firing of a Hawthorne, N.J., teacher who was dismissed by the local school board for using too much silent reading in a literature class. The teacher, Patricia Markot, had maintained the firing was a violation of constitutionally guaranteed academic freedom and due process.

Refused to stay a lower federal court's decision ordering the state of Indiana to pay part of the desegregation costs in metropolitan Indianapolis. The Supreme Court did not address the merits of the case, which is on appeal to a federal circuit court.

The Senate last week confirmed two Presidential nominees for high posts in the Department of Education.

But a third choice, Jean Tufts, has not yet not been approved by the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee. Ms. Tufts was chosen to be assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services. But Senator Lowell P. Weicker Jr., Republican of Connecticut and chairman of the Subcommittee on the Handicapped, has expressed doubts about her commitment to the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975.

Confirmed were Gary L. Jones, deputy undersecretary for planning, budget, and evaluation, and Edward Curran, director of the National Institute of Education. They will be sworn in this week by Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell.

Mr. Jones's nomination was in trouble two weeks ago when a few committee members, led by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, expressed concern over his membership on the Fairfax County, Va., school board. During his confirmation hearings and afterward, Mr. Jones denied any conflict of interest and said he would continue to hold the local post. But on Sept. 30, after his nomination was held up in committee, he resigned his school-board membership.

An aide to Senator Weicker said that, as of last week, Mr. Weicker had not made up his mind on whether to release his "hold" on the nomination of Jean Tufts. Another committee source speculated that if Mr. Weicker continues to object to her nomination, she will fail to win committee approval.

Briefings sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education to familiarize state and local school officials with block grants will begin this Wednesday, Oct. 14. Participants in the sessions, which will be held in cities around the country, will include representatives of governors, state legislatures, state boards of education, and chief state school officers, according to a department spokesman.

The department's Office of Intergovernmental and Interagency Affairs is in charge of the briefings. Questions should be directed to Al White in that office, at (202) 245-7904.

Below is a schedule of the sessions.

October 14 in Newark, Del. States attending include: Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, District of Columbia, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

October 16 in Seattle. Attending: Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.

October 20-21 in Denver. Attending: Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Kansas.

October 22-23 in Indianapolis. Attending: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Iowa.

October 26-27 in Atlanta. Attending: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

October 28 in Boston. Attending: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and New York.

October 29-30 in Dallas. Attending: Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.

November 2-3 in San Francisco. Attending: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Guam, American Samoa, Trust Territories, and the Northern Mariannas.

Vol. 01, Issue 06

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