District News Roundup
The Michigan Board of Education is seeking to end noon-time Bible classes at two elementary schools, claiming the sessions violate the es-tablishment clause of the U.S. Constitution.
The state attorney general's office filed suit in federal district court on Sept. 20 on behalf of the board against the Tri-County School District in Howard City. Gerald Young, assistant attorney general, said a hearing on a temporary injunction to stop the Bible sessions would be held this week.
The Bible Club Movement Inc., an independent Bible club, has been meeting at the Sand Lake Elementary School in Sand Lake and the MacNaughton Elementary School in Howard City for the past 30 years, Mr. Young said, but the meetings did not come to the attention of the state board until the parent of a student complained last year.
Students are allowed to attend the lunch-time classes only if a parent signs a permission slip, he said.
The new federal equal-access law allows religious groups to meet on school grounds before or after school, but the issue of whether such groups can meet during the noninstructional periods of the school day is currently being litigated in federal courts. (See related story on page 13.))
John Stevenson, president of the Tri County school board, said he was "disappointed" by the suit.
"This is just one more freedom we think we have and someone says we don't really have. We're not going to stop until the court says we have to," he said.
"This club is not sponsored by the school, it's strictly voluntary, and it doesn't cost anything. I can't believe someone would construe this as violating the First Amendment," he continued.
However, Mr. Stevenson said the school district may not be able to afford to fight the case by itself and will have to decide whether to seek outside funding or to voluntarily end the sessions.
A secretary who claims she was fired because she complained about being sexually harassed on the job has sued the Idaho school district that served as fiscal agent for her employer.
In a federal-court suit filed in Boise, Connie Chacartegui claimed she was fired by Russell Joki, superintendent of the Nampa School District, after she complained that Brent McDonald, her supervisor at the Migrant Education Resource Center, made verbal and physical sexual advances toward her.
The Migrant Education Resource Center is one of two federally funded centers in Idaho that provide technical assistance to local migrant-education projects, according to Mr. Joki.
The Nampa School District, hesaid, was named by the state department of education to serve as a fiscal agent for the center.
Mr. Joki said he offered Ms. Chacartegui a job in the school district after she complained of sexual harassment in September 1983. He said Ms. Chacartegui, who was employed as a library inventory clerk at the center, refused the transfer. "The conclusion by Mr. McDonald and I was that there was no work for her to continue," Mr. Joki said.
Mr. Joki, who, with Mr. McDonald, was named as a defendant in the suit, said the charges brought by Ms. Chacartegui were also brought before the state's human-rights commission, which ruled against Ms. Chacartegui in May of this year.
"We intend to rely on the commission's findings as a defense," Mr. Joki said.
The Rhode Island affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a complaint with the state department of education, claiming that an elementary school that separates students who bring their lunches from those who buy lunches or participate in the federally sponsored lunch program is discriminatory and in violation of federal law.
The aclu complaint was initiated by Anthony and Elaine DeQuattro, who complained to the principal and school committee of the Saylesville Elementary School in Lincoln last year on behalf of their two children.
The DeQuattros said the school policy prevents their children, who buy their lunches under the federally subsidized lunch program, from socializing with friends who bring their lunches.
When no action was taken on the DeQuattros' complaint last year, they decided to bring their case to the aclu
Steven Brown, executive director of the state aclu, said that under federal law, children participating in such programs cannot be required to use a separate dining area.
Mr. Brown said that at Saylesville, where all students who buy lunches are separated from those who bring their lunches, "the long-run effect is to ostracize."
John H. Ambrogi, superintendent of the Lincoln schools, said the separation policy was instituted last year to make the lunchroom process safer and more efficient, and to minimize students' stay in the lunchroom.
David Andreozzi, fiscal officer for the state department of education's office of food services, said that according to federal regulations, the DeQuattro's complaint was forwarded to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's regional office in Burlington, Mass.
That office, Mr. Andreozzi said, will pass the complaint to federal headquarters in Washington, D.C., if necessary. "We do not recommend the practice, and have it in writing as not recommending it," he said. "But at this point we are not treating it as a violation."
Meanwhile, in another Rhode Island district, the school board has voted to save more than $200,000 a year by hiring part-time monitors to replace teachers who keep order in school lunchrooms.
Providence's superintendent of schools, Robert Ricci, who advocated the switch from teachers to monitors, successfully argued during a recent board meeting that it was not economically feasible to continue using teachers to handle noninstructional duties.
He maintained that the part-time workers, who will be paid $4 an hour and will not be eligible for other benefits, will cost the school district six to eight times less than teachers performing identical lunchroom duties.
Mr. Ricci said the switch to monitors has already been successfully made in the school system's 25 elementary schools.
A federal district court has ruled that a girls' Little League softball team in Navajo, Calif., violated the First Amendment rights of two Mormon students who were expelled from the team because they would not attend Sunday practices.
In his decision, U.S. District Judge Rudi Brewster ordered the Navajo Bobby Sox Minor League to reinstate the two Mormon girls, who had argued that Sunday practices violated their religious beliefs.
Teams using public facilities cannot discriminate against students because of their religious beliefs, the judge ruled.
A Key Largo, Fla., elementary-school principal has been suspended on charges of "gross insubordination" because he refused to concede that religious courses he established at the school were in violation of Monroe County School District policy and the state and federal constitutions.
The Monroe County School Board voted to suspend Ed Caputo, the principal of the 500-student Key Largo Elementary School, for an indefinite period, according to Janet H. Padron, a spokesman for the school district.
"He refused to accept these courses as illegal even after he had been handed the board attorney's opinion, which stated that they were," she said.
"He refused to dismantle thes and when he was told that the district superintendent would dismantle them, he refused to give the superintendent assurance that he would abide by county, state, and federal laws."
According to Ms. Padron, elective courses in Judaism, Protestantism, and Catholicism taught by volunteers were offered last month during "enrichment" periods set aside for nonacademic subjects such as chorus or art.
Students were required to have parental permission to attend the classes, which met on Sept. 19 but were cancelled by Superintendent Armando J. Henriquez on Sept. 21, she said.
According to Ms. Padron, Mr. Caputo argued that the classes were legal under the new federal Equal Access Act, which allows religious clubs to meet at public secondary schools outside of school hours.
The decision of the board's lawyer stated, however, that the courses were not within the provi-sions of the act since they were not held at a secondary school and were not student-initiated.
In addition, the courses were school-sponsored and therefore in violation of the act, according to lawyer's the decision.
Mr. Caputo was not available for comment.
Vol. 04, Issue 05