Districts News Roundup
Reports of "reverse white flight" into the Los Angeles schools following the end of mandatory busing for desegregation may be premature and exaggerated, officials say.
Sheldon E. Erlich, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Unified School District, said that early indications are that enrollment is up this year in the system, which enrolls more than 500,000 pupils. And some of the increase is indeed in predominantly white areas that were affected by the short-lived busing program, which was dismantled last spring after the state courts upheld an amendment to the California constitution limiting state courts' authority to mandate busing.
But Mr. Erlich added that the district will not complete its enrollment count until next week, and that a city bus strike affecting several thousand students may complicate the counting.
What appears so far to be an enrollment increase is "particularly noticeable" in the 7th grade, Mr. Erlich noted. "It may be that families that sent their children to private grade schools are switching to public junior highs," he said.
"We don't know and probably will never know how much is from white flight, how much is from a baby boomlet that took place four to six years ago, and how much is from other demographic changes," he added. "There may be a number of factors. We can't really pin it on any one thing."
Working in cooperation with Baltimore school and health officials, researchers from The Johns Hopkins University are conducting a sex-education project for high-school students that they hope will lower the city's high rate of teen-age pregnancy. The project is funded with a $600,000 grant provided by four foundations.
The program includes classroom instruction, counseling, medical examinations, and, if the students choose, free contraceptives. The contraceptives are distributed from hospital clinics near the two participating schools.
The project, an expansion of an adolescent-pregnancy program the university has been operating for several years, is designed both to provide a service and to yield information on what methods are most effective in preventing teen-age pregnancy, according to Dr. Janet Hardy, professor of pediatrics at the university and co-director of the project.
In Baltimore, teen-age pregnancies account for 25 percent of all pregnancies in the city, and almost 50 percent of all first births are to teen-age mothers. Nationally, teen-age pregnancies account for about 17 percent of all births each year.
Currently, Dr. Hardy said, little information is available on what methods are most effective in preventing teen-age pregnancy. However, a large body of research indicates that becoming pregnant while still a teen-ager in effect "puts a cap on the life chances" of young women, Dr. Hardy said.
The project has been very well received by parents, school officials, community leaders, and students, she said. "We went to a lot of trouble to let parents know what we were doing," she added. Parents had the choice of withdrawing their children from the program. To date, none have done so.
A survey conducted by the researchers found that 92 percent of the parents of 7th-grade-students in the school are "very supportive" of the effort to prevent teen-age pregnancy. "They know its a big problem," Dr. Hardy said.
The researchers do not yet have statistics on participation, but, "We know students are interested," Dr. Hardy said.
An "asbestos boycott" at the Denver Elementary School in Chandler, Ariz., ended last week, and school officials have agreed to shift some students to rented trailers so that they may safely remove the asbestos from the ceilings of the elementary school.
The boycott began the week of Sept. 20, after a series of articles about asbestos appeared in a Phoenix newspaper, according to district officials. Parents, frightened by the potential hazards, began keeping their children home from the elementary school. At the height of the boycott, which lasted several days, 190 of the school's 488 students stayed home.
The school was one of three buildings in which district officials had found asbestos in the course of an inspection conducted in the fall of 1981. Their removal schedule, however, was based on the degree of hazard they believed was present, and the elementary school was judged by school officials and technical consultants to pose a "very minimal exposure risk." The asbestos that had been found and judged to present a greater hazard was removed last summer, according to a district spokesman.
The offending substance was found in a spray-on insulating mate-rial that was commonly used during the 1960's. District officials estimate it will cost about $67,000 to remove the asbestos, plus the cost of renting the trailers to serve as temporary classrooms. Last summer, the district, which has 10 schools, paid $96,000 to remove asbestos, according to the spokesman.
J. Edward Andrews, superintendent of the 93,000-student Montgomery County school system in Maryland, has resigned, effective next June.
In announcing his resignation after two years as superintendent, Mr. Andrews acknowledged that he has had substantial differences of opinion with the school board in the suburban Washington, D.C., district, but added that tension and fatigue were his major reasons for leaving. He said he did not have specific plans but would seek a "new career" that would allow him to spend more time with his family.
A 26-year veteran of the Montgomery County system, Mr. Andrews helped draw up the district's integration plan, which in recent years has been under attack by school-board members. The board's school-closing and rezoning plans, adopted over the superintendent's objections, were overturned by the Maryland State Board of Education earlier this year.
Robert Bailey, who won a seat on the McAlester, Okla., school board on a platform that included a call for better drug education, has been charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute it.
Mr. Bailey, 29 years old, was arrested after police found 26 one-ounce bags of a substance believed to be marijuana in his home. Investigators came to his home after Mr. Bailey's daughter, who suspected that someone had broken in, called police to investigate.
He had lost to the incumbent president of the school board in January. But because of voting irregularities, he persuaded a district-court judge to nullify the election. In a subsequent election, in which he called for better drug-education efforts, Mr. Bailey won.
Mr. Bailey has pleaded not guilty in Pittsburgh County District Court; he is scheduled for trial in November. The offense is a felony in Oklahoma.
Vol. 02, Issue 05