States News Roundup
New Jersey's school board-elections, which got off to a stormy start in early April, concluded on a somewhat bright note for educators.
School budgets were approved in 68 percent of the state's 548 voting school districts, up by 4 percentage points from 1981. From 1978 to 1981, the percentage of budgets passed dropped each year.
In districts where the budget was defeated, municipal governments are empowered to initiate a review and to make cuts. School boards may appeal these cuts to the state commissioner of education.
The annual election, by which school-board members are also selected, took two weeks to complete because of a freak blizzard that blanketed the state on April 6.
Faced with 35-mile-per-hour winds, 20-degree temperatures, and a foot of snow, Gov. Thomas H. Kean suspended the voting in 11 counties halfway through the day.
Votes cast before the polls closed were counted alongside the tallies of April 20th, by which time the temperature had skyrocketed to 70 degrees.
Observers credited the second chance at voting for an increased turnout this year. Still, a random sampling by the New Jersey School Boards Association indicated that fewer than 16 percent of the state's registered voters took time to cast ballots, compared with 11.5 percent last year.
In several communities, neither rain, sleet, snow, nor war would seem likely to affect the annual results.
Voters in Lodi turned down the school budget for the 29th consecutive year, while Wallington voters said "no" for the 16th straight time.
In tiny Teterboro, more than half the electorate--11 voters--marched to the polls to approve a $6,000 school budget for the community's only student, who attends classes in a neighboring town. The $6,000 figure is approximately twice the state's average expenditure per pupil.
Let's get legal, students at Maryland's Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School said when school officials said they must stop wearing a button that read: "Nuke B-CC."
One of the students, who suspected this was a violation of the students' First Amendment rights, called the National Capital Area American Civil Liberties Union to inquire whether students have a right to advocate (albeit jokingly) the nuclear destruction of their own school.
The aclu advised the student that, yes, the students had the right to sport the buttons under the Supreme Court's 1969 decision in Tinker v. Des Moines, in which the Court held that the school district could not prohibit students from wearing black armbands to protest the Vietnam War.
The school board's lawyer agreed, according to Arthur B. Spitzer, legal director of the local aclu
So the buttons stay on, and appar-ently the matter is closed.
"The assistant principal said [that wearing these buttons] might lead to disruption of the school," Mr. Spitzer said. "But one can only prohibit free speech when there is a clear and present danger. If there were fistfights all over the school about it, that would be different."
The Garden State may soon have a new chief state school officer.
Ronald H. Lewis was nominated last week by Gov. Thomas H. Kean to be commissioner of education.
If his nomination is approved by the state legislature, Mr. Lewis, who is 50 years old, will be New Jersey's first black commissioner. He will replace Fred G. Burke, who submitted his resignation because of policy differences with Governor Kean.
Mr. Lewis started his career in education in 1960 as an elementary-school teacher. Since then, he has been a principal, a superintendent, and an administrator in the state education bureaucracy he has been chosen to lead.
The governor's nominee, a native of Philadelphia, is currently deputy secretary and commissioner for basic education in the Pennsylvania department of education.
He holds a doctorate in education from Fairleigh Dickinson University.
A Pennsylvania judge has dismissed a malpractice suit filed on behalf of a graduate who claimed his high school failed to educate him properly.
Luella Pope, the mother of J.B. Boyd, filed the educational-malpractice suit in 1979 against the Crawford County school district, claiming it allowed her son to graduate even though he could barely read and write.
Judge Robert L. Walker, of the Crawford County Court of Common Pleas, refused to send the suit to a jury, saying that there was insufficient evidence to sustain it.
However, a jury did rule in another part of the suit that Ms. Pope's constitutional rights were violated when the school district failed to notify her that her son had been placed in a special-education class.
The jury awarded Ms. Pope $500 in damages.
Vol. 01, Issue 32