District News Roundup
Within hours after a Philadelphia 9th grader committed suicide in a school bathroom, Clyde O. Basham, the vice principal of Martin Luther King High School, held an assembly to discuss the incident and encourage troubled students to seek help from school employees.
"What we'd like to do is give you the straight information so you can go home and see your parents and tell them exactly what happened," Mr. Basham told the 9th graders, who are attending the Morris E. Leeds Middle School while workers remove asbestos from their school.
The next day, Albert S. Session, principal of Leeds, held similar assemblies for 6th and 7th graders.
According to Mr. Session, Edward Pierre, a Haitian student who transferred from another school in January, allegedly gave his girlfriend his watch after his fourth-period gym class on Jan. 30 and told her he was going to kill himself.
The student then went to his locker, took out a .38-caliber revolver, and went into the bathroom, where two 6th graders saw him sit at the edge of the sink and shoot himself in the head, Mr. Session said.
The principal said school officials will discuss suicide in 9th-grade health classes, post in each classroom signs that give hotline and crisis-intervention telephone numbers, and participate in a districtwide counseling program designed to help prevent suicide.
A South Carolina school district can continue to offer both single-sex and coeducational physical-education classes because those programs do not receive federal funds, a federal administrative law judge ruled last month.
Basing his decision on the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling last year in Grove City College v. Bell, Judge Francis L. Young held on Jan. 17 that the U.S. Education Department "has no authority to apply" the federal law barring sex discrimination in education to the Pickens County School District's physical-education program. In the Grove City case, the Court ruled that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 applies only to those parts of an educational institution that receive federal aid directly.
According to Bruce Davis, the school district's lawyer, Pickens County officials began offering single-sex gym courses after a female student complained in 1979 that attendance in a coeducational course would violate her religious beliefs. The federal department's office for civil rights, which became aware of the single-sex courses while investigating an unrelated complaint against the district, issued a letter of finding in 1980 charging that the policy violated Title IX.
Laurie Snow, a spokesman for the civil-rights office, confirmed Mr. Davis's report that the department has filed papers with Judge Young asking him to reconsider his decision.
The lawyer handling the case for the department could not be reached to explain the grounds on which the department is basing its appeal.
Norfolk school officials last month announced that the district will no longer ask employees to submit to a polygraph examination if they are accused of wrongdoing.
In the future, "the only time the administration will utilize polygraph examinations with employees will be on a voluntary basis," said Gene R. Carter, Norfolk's superintendent of schools. He called the polygraph issue "sensitive and potentially volatile," and said he was changing the policy out of concern for "the morale of our employees and their sense of professionalism."
George D. Raiss, an administrative assistant to the superintendent, said the test had been given about 20 times during the past six years and in some cases exonerated the employee. Teachers expressed the most opposition to the test, Mr. Raiss said.
The Virginia Education Association initiated legislation in the current session of the state General Assembly to prohibit polygraph examinations of public employees but the proposal was shelved in committee, according to David L. Johnson, executive director of the v.e.a.
Officials and lawyers for national and state education associations said they were unaware of widespread use of the polygraph examination in schools in other states.
Study Finds Lack
Vol. 04, Issue 21