Districts News Roundup

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In a unanimous decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that Philadelphia teachers who participated in a 50-day strike at the beginning of the 1981-82 school year were actually locked out by the city school district and are entitled to unemployment compensation.

The decision, which upholds a 1985 Commonwealth Court ruling, will cost the district up to $18 million, according to J. William Jones, a district spokesman.

Under the ruling, approximately 18,000 teachers and other employees represented by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers at the time of the strike are entitled to compensation, Mr. Jones said.

The union, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, had argued that the strike was actually a lockout because the district had reneged on contract obligations by withholding a 10 percent negotiated pay increase.

The state's highest court agreed. "To deny unemployment-compensation benefits,'' the ruling states, "would make illusory the agreements made by public employees in this commonwealth as a result of their good-faith bargaining.''

The district will accept the court's decision and pay the unemployment claims, Mr. Jones said.

"We can afford it now,'' he noted, "but it will make our projected deficit for 1988-89 that much larger.''

Concerned about student injuries that have occurred since the start of court-ordered busing last fall, officials of the Yonkers, N.Y., school system are launching a traffic-safety campaign aimed at local motorists.

Since September, five children have been hit by cars failing to stop for school buses, resulting in minor injuries, according to the district's superintendent of schools, Donald Batista.

Under the school-desegregation plan, the number of children in Yonkers being transported to and from school by bus has increased from
2,000 to more than 10,000, while the number of school buses has increased from roughly 25 to about 150, according to Mr. Batista.

The superintendent said he had held a press conference late last month to publicize the problem and to kick off a campaign that includes "flooding the city with pamphlets telling motorists what their responsibilities are'' when approaching a stopped school bus. He said the district was also reinforcing "our education program'' to ensure that children know how to cross streets, and has asked the local press to publish daily the number of tickets given to motorists violating safety laws.

The American Automobile Association has agreed to help "step up public awareness,'' Mr. Batista said.

In addition, he said, more police officers have been assigned to city intersections and areas identified as being particularly dangerous.

A federal judge has ordered the school board in Cabell County, W.Va., to pay more than $67,000 in private-school tuition for a 10th-grade student with a learning disability.

U.S. District Judge Charles Haden ruled on April 7 that the school district must pay for Paul Dienelt's private instruction because it could not provide the teen-ager with the kind of individualized program he needed, according to William F. Byrne, the lawyer for Mr. Dienelt and his parents.

The student has been attending Oakland School, a private school for the learning-disabled in Boyd's Tavern, Va., since September 1984. His parents removed him from the Cabell County schools after school officials refused to provide him with one-to-one special-education instruction, Mr. Byrne said. He said the boy now reads at the 7th-grade level, but was able to read at only the 2nd-grade level when he entered Oakland School.

Vaughn Leadman, director of special education for the county schools, said he feared the ruling would encourage other parents of handicapped children to seek out-of-state placements for their children.

"We certainly could not afford to give every learning-disabled student that kind of specialized instruction,'' he said.

The school board has 30 days to decide whether to appeal the decision, Mr. Byrne said.

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