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Lawyers for the Milwaukee Public Schools and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People last week began presenting arguments in federal district court in their case against 24 suburban school districts and the state of Wisconsin.

The lawsuit filed by the Milwaukee schools in June 1984 charges that the suburban districts and the state have taken actions that have contributed to segregation in the 93,500-student district, the makeup of which is about 54 percent black and 34 percent white. (See Education Week, Jan. 15, 1986.)

Negotiations on a possible out-of-court agreement continued until two days before the trial began, but the parties involved "were unable to come to a settlement,'' according to a spokesman for the city school district.

U.S. District Judge Thomas J. Curran last week warned lawyers in the case not to expect a "hasty'' trial. Lawyers in the case estimate that it may take as long as three months.

Teachers and students at a suburban Los Angeles school that was evacuated last year after a chlorine-gas leak at a nearby chemical plant have gone to court to force the school to close and to seek monetary damages for their injuries.

Twenty-seven students and 16 staff members at the Tweedy Elementary School in South Gate were hospitalized in Feburary of last year following an accident at a Purex bleach plant that released toxic gas into the atmosphere. (See Education Week, March 5, 1986.)

Fourteen teachers at the school filed suit in a state court this month seeking to force the Los Angeles Unified School District to close the school and to build a replacement facility at a safer site. The teachers have also asked the court to require the owners of several plants surrounding the school to cover the cost of the move, according to the plaintiffs' lawyer, Ray Boucher.

Mr. Boucher added that teachers and students who were injured by the gas leak had filed separate suits against the owner of the bleach plant seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. He said his clients had suffered respiratory problems and psychological distress.

The California Board of Education this month voted 9 to 1 against a proposal to allow the community of Lomita to pull out of the Los Angeles Unified School District, a spokesman for the board said.

Proponents of the move to set up a separate district had argued that the school system has neglected Lomita's 2,100 students and three schools.

Last December, the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization, a key county education panel, voted 6 to 4 to recommend to the state board that the proposal be approved. (See Education Week, Dec. 17, 1986.)

Los Angeles school officials and Bill Honig, the state's superintendent of public instruction, had opposed the secession bid on the grounds that an independent Lomita district would upset desegregation programs and the racial balance of the current district.

Vol. 06, Issue 31

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