Districts News Roundup

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School officials in Tornillo, Tex., have asked Mexican-American parents to discipline their children if they are caught speaking Spanish in school--a move denounced last week by a national Hispanic organization.

Parents of nearly one-third of Tornillo's students have so far returned consent forms to the district, pledging to punish their children for any violations of the English-only rule, according to Francis Brooks, superintendent of schools for the rural district near El Paso.

Mr. Brooks, who acknowledged that the school itself is prohibited from meting out such punishments under both federal and state civil-rights laws, defended the policy as necessary to improve the children's English skills.

"School is the only place many of our students have any exposure to English,'' he said. "Without the practice [in English], they're not going to learn.''

About 60 percent of the district's 370 children are limited-English-proficient, and 10 percent speak only Spanish. Although Texas law requires bilingual education in schools where at least 20 LEP children are concentrated at the same grade level, it does not apply in Tornillo because classrooms are too small, Mr. Brooks said. Only English-as-a-second-language instruction is provided.

Ruben Bonilla, general counsel of the League of United Latin American Citizens, criticized Tornillo's policy as "a throwback'' to the time when Spanish was routinely suppressed in Texas schools, a practice that "stigmatized innocent children.''

Instead of "making scapegoats of the students,'' he said, the district should "focus on improving its curriculum.''

"Rather than sending [discipline requests], the superintendent would do better to send books home ... so that the children can gradually gain a mastery of both languages,'' said Mr. Bonilla.

He said that LULAC plans to ask the state board of education to cancel Tornillo's accreditation unless the district rescinds its "discriminatory policy.''

A music teacher accused of disciplining elementary-school children by placing them in an unlighted storage closet adjoining a boiler room has been issued a warning by the Manteno, Ill., school board.

The teacher, Edward Grabow, put 62 children in the "hot room'' for up to 15 minutes each for classroom disturbances between October and March of the current school year, according to William Dickson, the district's superintendent of schools.

The practice has stopped, Mr.Dickson said, and the school is allowing parents to remove their children from the class.

The school board, meeting late last month, voted to reprimand Mr. Grabow and warned him that repeating the practice might be grounds for dismissal. Because no parent had claimed that a child was irrevocably damaged by the punishment, Mr. Dickson said, the stiffest penalty the board could legally impose on the tenured teacher was a warning.

The state department of children and family services will finish its own investigation by the middle of next month, a spokesman for the agency said.

If evidence of child abuse is found, he said, the department could recommend that the teacher be suspended or reassigned to a position involving no contact with children.

The superintendent of a California school district has barred a high-school newspaper from running an advertisement promoting the use of condoms as a protection against acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

Robert Sanchis, superintendent of the Glendale school district, opposed the ad because he did not want "to give the impression that the school was advocating premarital sex'' and because the school board "has no formal policy concerning advertising of this type in student newspapers,'' according to Vic Pallos, director of public information for the district.

Students at Hoover High School had planned to run the ad in the last issue of the Purple Press this spring, right before the school's senior prom.

The school board plans to meet with parents, students, teachers, and other staff members to draft a policy on condom advertising, Mr. Pallos said last week, adding that officials hope to have such a policy in place before school starts in the fall.

Several students have written letters to the board requesting that they be allowed to present their case for running the ad at its next meeting, said Diane Bell, the school's journalism adviser.

Students at Hoover High are the first in the district to attempt to publish a condom ad in a school publication, according to Ms. Bell and Mr. Pallos.

School officials in Los Angeles and in a nearby suburb have voted to ask student athletes to take voluntary drug tests next fall.

Starting in September, all high-school athletes in the Simi Valley Unified School District, and athletes at Granada Hills High School in Los Angeles, will be tested for drug use during their pre-season physical examinations if they and their parents consent to the procedure, according to spokesmen for both districts.

Banning High School in Los Angeles instituted a similar program last fall, apparently the first of its kind in the state.

According to Allan Jacobs, the Simi Valley district's associate superintendent, in addition to the pre-season tests, every week during the athletic season a total of five students from all sports will selected at random for drug tests.

Mr. Jacobs said the program's main objective was to give students "a reason to say 'no' to drugs.''

"When they're at parties or with friends, kids are under a tremendous amount of peer pressure to take drugs,'' he said.

"We wanted to give them the ability to say, 'I can't because I might get tested.'''

A local hospital will test the athletes' urine samples free of charge for the presence of, among other substances, alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, phencyclidine (PCP), and steroids, Mr. Jacobs said.

The test results will be made known only to the students, their parents, and their physicians.

Police in Salt Lake City wrapped up a three-month undercover operation late last month with the arrests of 40 people on charges of selling illegal drugs in two city high schools.

Lieut. Martinus Vuyk of the police department's narcotics unit said last week that two undercover agents--one of whom was a student--had made the drug purchases that led to the arrests. Two additional arrests are expected, he said.

Mr. Vuyk said that Utah law calls for harsher penalties in drug-dealing cases if the transaction was made on school grounds.

For example, he said, the sale of marijuana, which is normally labeled a Class A misdemeanor, becomes a third-degree felony. Likewise, individuals accused of selling cocaine, L.S.D., or amphetamines face second-degree, instead of third-degree, felony charges.

The drug dealers apparently were not part of a single drug ring, Mr. Vuyk said, though many purchased their narcotics from the same sources. He said most of the dealers were students or former students at the two high schools.

He noted that the school district has a policy of expelling for nine weeks students convicted of selling drugs on school grounds.

A high-school sophomore who objects to dissecting frogs in biology class has said she will take her case to court unless her school agrees to an alternate means of learning anatomy.

Jenifer Graham, a student at Victor Valley High School in Victorville, Calif., has refused to take part in the required dissection on the grounds that she has a "strong moral belief'' in respecting all living things, according to her mother, Pat Graham.

The student and her lawyers asked the school board last week to allow Ms. Graham to use an alternative learning method to complete the assignment, such as a computer program or a plastic model. The board will make its decision within a week, according to O.J. Ramsey, one of Ms. Graham's lawyers.

According to Julian Weaver, the school's principal, the student rejected the option of switching her biology class to a life-sciences class and taking another laboratory science to fulfill her course requirements. When she insisted on remaining in the biology class without completing the dissection, he said, school officials decided to fail her for the portion of the class she does not complete.

The problem with providing alternatives to dissection, Mr. Weaver said, is that it would be "modifying our curriculum.''

He said the incident extended beyond the dissection of a frog to include a larger "global issue'': whether schools have to change their curricula because a student might take offense at something being taught.

Because Ms. Graham could encounter the same problem in other science classes, given the fact that she has indicated she wants to be a biologist, Mr. Weaver said it might "be a good idea'' if the issue were settled in court.

Vol. 06, Issue 32

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