States News Roundup
Calif. Minorities Ask Review of Policy On College Transfers
Charging that California's Hispanic and black students are "mired in two-year college ghettos," three advocacy groups have delivered a petition to leaders of the state's major four-year colleges and universities that charges them with disregard of state laws that facilitate transfers from two-year to four-year schools.
The three groups, the Sacramento Urban League, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (maldef) and Public Advocates Inc., sent their petition last week to the Regents of the University of California, the Trustees of California State University and Colleges, and the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges.
About 80 percent of the state's college-bound black and Hispanic students go to community colleges but most never transfer, said Susan Brown, an attorney with maldef. One reason, she said, is the "astounding'' confusion and lack of agreement among the colleges about which courses are transferable and which are not.
Ms. Brown said the advocacy groups had been futilely discussing the problem with the colleges for a year. The petition requests a meeting with the college officials within a month and calls for the establishment of a committee representing members of all the groups, she said. If the colleges do not respond, Ms. Brown said, the groups will take formal legal action.
Immunization Rule Keeps 50,000 Pupils Out of School in Pa.
An estimated 50,000 schoolchildren in Pennsylvania were barred from school last week because they had not received the immunizations that the state health department now requires all students to have.
The rule, which was approved last September and went into effect at the start of this school year, requires that all students be immunized against measles, mumps, polio, rubella, diphtheria, and tetanus. Pennsylvania is one of a growing number of states with such "all-grade" immunization requirements. The state decided to extend the requirement, which had been in effect only for students beginning the 1st grade, following two large outbreaks of measles in 1981. Health officials noted that secondary-school students were generally hit harder during such epidemics, and decided that they too should be immunized.
A spokesman for the health department said that once the children were barred from school, parents generally brought them into compliance quickly. He speculated that those who failed to have children immunized earlier had not really believed that the state would enforce its "no shots, no school" rule.
No definitive figures on the number of children not yet immunized will be available until October. But the spokesman said "spot checks" suggested last week that the more than half of the 110,000 students who had not been immunized as of June had received their shots.
S.C. Citizens Back School Spending
A South Carolina survey has found that most citizens favor higher expenditures to make improvements in the state's school system--a finding that could affect the way lawmakers treat Governor Richard W. Riley's proposals for education reform.
Seventy-four percent of the respondents in the poll, commissioned by a private education organization formed by Governor Riley, said more money should be spent on education.
However, 61 percent also said the schools could be improved without any increase in funding.
About 33 percent of the respondents said they agreed strongly and 29 percent said they agreed moderately that the best way to increase funds for education would be to hike the sales tax by a penny. Governor Riley last year proposed a raise in the tax from 4 to 5 percent.
A spokesman for the Governor said the poll was commissioned to determine whether "we have to convince the public" that increased funding is important for improving education. "The only surprise" in the poll, he said, was the relatively high percentage of people who agree with the Governor's position.
The Foundation for Education and Economic Excellence, a private panel created by the Governor, paid $13,000 for the random telephone survey of 496 people, which was conducted by Metromark Research Inc.
Virginia Delegate To Propose Bill For Open Meetings
Following the Virginia Supreme Court's ruling that telephone conference calls are not covered by the state's open-meetings law, the state legislator who chaired a committee that studied the open-meetings pro6vision said he will introduce a measure in January to expand the law.
The state's high court ruled 4-to-3 that the Roanoke Board of Education did not violate the open-meetings law when it conducted official business in a 1981 telephone conference without notifying the public. The court ruled that the law referred only to physical meetings.
But Delegate Ralph L. Axselle of Henrico, the committee chairman, said the law was also intended to be "liberally construed," and that telephone meetings as well as actual gatherings should require public notice. Mr. Axselle said he had "no doubt" a bill that stated his interpretation would pass.
Forrest M. Landon, the executive editor of the Roanoke Times & News-World and the person who brought the suit, said he probably would not appeal the decision since new legislation could clarify the intent of the law.
Officials of the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups assailed the court ruling, saying it made a "mockery" of the state law.
Raleigh To Appeal Open Meeting Ruling
Five members of the Raleigh County Board of Education who last month were convicted of breaking the county's open-meetings law say they will appeal the decision.
County Magistrate Harold Hanks ruled that the board members broke the open-meetings law--which allows the board to go into executive session only to discuss personnel issues--at a June 20 meeting.
Sixteen teachers protested the executive session called during that meeting so that the board, its members said, could discuss the qualifications of teachers in the district.
The lawyer for the board members, Warren Thornhill, said the magistrate did not explain his decision and added that he still does not know what open-meetings provision the board members were said to violate.
The Circuit Court of Raleigh County is expected to hear the case by the end of the year, Mr. Thornhill said.
Free Education Means No Fees, Ark. Attorney Says
In an opinion released last week, the Arkansas attorney general's office said the state statute that grants citizens the right to free public education prohibits schools from charging students incidental fees for courses required for graduation.
The opinion was rendered by the attorney general's office at the re-quest of a state legislator, according to R.B. Friedlander, the assistant state attorney general who wrote the opinion.
"There is a trend in this country, even despite the language mandating free public schools, to allow charging for incidental fees," Ms. Friedlander said.
The fees--charged for gym uniforms or breakage in chemistry labs, for example--"discriminate against students who cannot pay," she added.
In writing the opinion, Ms. Fried-lander said, she did some preliminary research on provisions and rulings on the matter in other states.
Of 12 states whose supreme courts have considered the issue of charging for incidental fees in recent years, eight--Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Montana, New Mexico, West Virginia, and Wisconsin--have allowed schools to charge for textbooks and supplies, the state attorney said.
Idaho, Michigan, Missouri, and North Dakota have prohibited such charges.
N.C. Schools Promote Religion, Study Contends
A survey of school administrators and superintendents in North Carolina conducted by People for theinued on Following Page
American Way contends that "there is a significant level of organized group prayer and sectarian religious instruction" in the state's schools.
The survey found that prayer is conducted at various times in 31 percent of the public schools.
Daily prayer is conducted in one in six schools in the state, either in individual classrooms or over the public-address system, according to the survey, which says that organized prayer "tends to be more prevalent in the lower elementary grades than in high school."
In one out of every 17 schools in the state, students are receiving academic credit for Bible-study courses as part of the regular curriculum, the survey claims.
Two separate rounds of surveys were distributed to members of the North Carolina Association of Educators and to the state's school superintendents. More than 2,000 surveys were mailed.
The survey results were based on a return rate of less than 20 percent.
The results of the survey were sent to all public-school superinten-dents in the state, to all local school boards, to all members of the state board of education, and to the state superintendent of public instruction.
Panel Finds State Paying Smaller Share Of School Costs
A Virginia legislative commission has found that the state's share of funding for public schools has de-clined over the past seven years, and a commission staff report predicts that the share will continue to drop despite Gov. Charles S. Robb's much-publicized campaign to increase aid to education.
The state supplied an average of 46.3 percent of local school resources in 1975, but the proportion fell to 43.6 percent in 1982, according to a report released last week by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission.
One reason for the decline is the high cost of reforms called for in the state's 1973 "standards of quality" program, said Myron E. Cale, the state's associate superintendent for finances and administrative services. The program mandated a gradual decrease in class sizes, for example, which increased costs.
The state legislature will have to allocate an additional $228 million to schools during the next two years in order to reverse the downward trend, predicted a report issued by the commission's staff, and senior legislators said they doubted those funds will be available.
Police Arrest One In School Attack Near Los Angeles
The 16-year-old youth who is being held in connection with the shooting of five students at a Compton, Cal., high school this week faces charges involving five counts of assault with a deadly weapon.
The youth was one of six who were part of a gang that apparently attacked students during a lunch period at Dominguez High School last Monday. A police official said the shootings appeared to be related to a fight between two gangs the previous weekend.
Four girls and one boy received gunshot wounds. All were reported in stable condition after treatment for the wounds.
Police and school officials said the victims were not gang members and were not involved in the dispute that led to the attack. Compton police and officials in the school's security office both said they would increase patrols in the area.
Classes at the predominantly black school near Los Angeles, which has a student population of 1,600, continued despite protests about the school's safety made by some parents. One parent said shootings occurred at the school "every week."
Six youths originally were arrested after the attack, but five were released. The name of the youth being held at the Los Padrinas Juvenile Home has not been released because he is a minor, police said.
Sixth Circuit Rules Rights Not Violated By Teachers' Strike
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit last month upheld a lower court's decision that the constitutional rights of several administrators and a teacher for the Detroit Public Schools were not violated when a 1979 teachers' strike delayed the start of classes for 13 days.
The administrators filed suit against the Detroit school board and the Detroit Federation of Teachers on the grounds that the strike deprived them of due-process rights under the 14th Amendment.
Eileen Nowikowski, attorney for the dft, said the administrators were relying on the terms of their contract agreements, which specified the start and end of the school year, for their 14th Amendment claim; but the appeals court found no such violation. She said the court also ruled that the strike did not deprive them of their property rights because the 13 days during which they were out of work, were made up at the end of the year.
Ms. Nowikowski said the court's ruling was consistent with other court decisions that have found that "third parties can't bring claims for allegedly unlawful strikes." She said this case "was another effort by right-to-work proponents and their fellow travelers to put down public-sector unionism."
Interracial Couple Claims Dismissals Racially Motivated
An interracial couple employed by the Willingboro, N.J., school system until their dismissal in 1981 have filed a multi-million-dollar lawsuit in federal court charging that their firings were racially motivated.
The suit charges the school board and several current and former school officials with discrimination and asks for compensatory and punitive damages that could cost the district an estimated $11 million, according to Frederick W. Hardt, the attorney representing Robert and Gertrude LaCates.
The school board fired the couple two years ago on the grounds that, according to Mr. Hardt, they had taken leaves of absence from their jobs as maintenance workers without permission and their work was poor. But the Philadelphia office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, after conducting an investigation, found "reasonable cause" to believe the school board had discriminated against the LaCates when it voted to fire them.
In addition, Mr. Hardt said, the LaCateses are asking that they be reinstated in their jobs and that they receive back pay and tenure.
Parents Stage Protest Over N.Y. District's Transport Policy
About 200 students in the Lackawanna, N.Y., school district boycotted classes recently, with the permission of their parents, to protest district officials' policy barring the busing of students who live less than a mile and a half from school.
The protest began when about 50 parents prevented school buses from crossing a bridge that some students are forced to walk over as a result of the school board's busing policy. That demonstration ended with the arrests of 12 protesters, according to Mark Balen, superintendent of schools.
After staging the roadblock, Mr. Balen said, the parents then refused to send their children to school. That protest lasted four days, he added.
Although the students have since returned to classes, according to Mr. Balen, school officials are still monitoring the situation.
Mr. Balen said about 50 students in grades 7 and 8 are affected by the busing policy, which became an issue when the district's junior-high school was destroyed by a fire. For the past three years, junior-high-school students have been sharing facilities in split shifts with elementary and high-school students.
A Letter Bomb Injures Wife Of Superintendent
An exploding mail bomb injured the wife of the superintendent of schools in Plainedge, N.Y., last week.
The bomb--wrapped in a brown paper package--was addressed to George H. Kane but inflicted superficial wounds to his wife, Patricia, who opened the package.
Police are still seeking a motive and a suspect. Mr. Kane had not been threatened by anyone prior to the incident, police officials said.
Former Administrator Charges Racism, Rewrites Classic
A former Fairfax, Va., school administrator who last year called Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn "the most grotesque example of racist trash that I've ever seen in my life," has written his own version of the classic.
John H. Wallace, who is black, last year tried to have the book removed from the Fairfax County school system because he said it contains derogatory references to blacks.
The school district's officials opted to keep the book but stipulated that teachers must plan for its "appropriate" instructional use.
But Mr. Wallace thought there should be an alternative, so he devised one. Last week, 10,000 copies of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Adapted came rolling off the presses of the John H. Wallace and Sons Publishing Co. in Chicago; the book omits more than 200 references to blacks as "niggers."
The result does not please some who are concerned about the books children read. "We don't think that is the answer to the problem," said Bradford Chambers, director of the Council on Interracial Books for Children. "We think the answer is to raise awareness as to the content."
Douglas M. Adams, the former felon named superintendent of schools in Pleasant Plains, Ark., just six weeks after finishing a jail term for bank fraud, was dismissed from his job last week by the school board.
Mr. Adams was president of the First Security Bank of North Arkansas at Horseshoe Bend, and was convicted of taking more than $150,000 in illegal loans.
He was released from federal prison several weeks ago, and hired to replace Hubert Long Jr., who resigned. Concerned parents had pressed the school board for his dismissal.
The Mobile (Ala.) County school board last week rehired, under court order, dozens of teachers it recently fired for failing to score at about the 25th percentile on the National Teacher Examinaton.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta refused to temporarily overturn a lower court's decision to stop the board from requiring teachers to pass part of the test before they can be employed or receive tenure.
Judge Myron Thompson of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama in August ruled that the school system's use of the test discriminated against blacks because the system did not show when it introduced the test in 1979 that the exam tests for the skills that the system expects its teachers to have. He ordered the system to rehire the teachers who had been fired because of low test scores.
The Mobile school board rehired the teachers as full-time substitutes.
First Amendment Comes to Iowa Student's Rescue
The First Amendment has come to the rescue of an Iowa 7th grader who was suspended for being the recipient of a note passed last May in the lunchroom of Prairie Junior-Senior High School in Gowrie.
The State Department of Public Instruction's hearing panel earlier this month overruled the school board's initial decision to suspend the student. The state group ruled that a school regulation prohibiting note-passing among students is unconstitutional because it violates their right to free speech.
The question of "how much you could infringe on individual rights of students in communication" was at issue, according to David H. Bechtel, administrative assistant to the state superintendent. "The lunchroom situation didn't have anything to do with academics," he said, so the panel decided the regulation was unconstitutional.
The school's principal disagrees. "I really do not believe that our forefathers, when they wrote the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, had in mind a 7th-grade girl passing notes in school," says Principal Richard E. Phillips. "No one has been given the freedom to write that kind of material, slanderous and libelous material," he adds, referring to student notes that contained vulgar language and accusations about classmates.
The local board of education has 20 days to decide whether or not to appeal the state group's decision; if an appeal is lodged, the case could proceed to federal district court, according to Mr. Phillips.
The school's controversial rule, which originally included suspension and the removal of two percentage points from a student's grade-point average as the punishment for passing notes, was established temporarily in late April in response to several such incidents, according to Mr. Phillips. During the short time in which the rule was in effect, four students and Jori Ekis, the 7th grader, were suspended.
Vol. 03, Issue 03