Districts News Roundup

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The District of Columbia school board has agreed to settle out of court with 18 former employees who sued after being fired for testing positive in a random drug screening for bus drivers, mechanics, and other school transportation workers.

Under the terms of the settlement, the school system will pay the plaintiffs a total of $315,000, offer them their jobs back, and remove the results of the 1984 tests from their employment records.

But the settlement will not end the debate over the legality of the board's drug-testing program, said Arthur Spitzer, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who represented the employees.

He said lawyers and school officials were awaiting an opinion by a federal appellate court, which is set to decide whether requiring a school-bus driver to submit to the drug test deprived her of her Constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

In a similar case in neighboring Fairfax County, Va., seven school-bus drivers have asked a federal court to halt that school system's across-the-board drug tests for drivers. In a lawsuit filed late last month, the drivers charge that the Fairfax program, which tests more than 1,000 drivers as part of an annual physical examination, is "unusually intrusive and inefficient."

High average test scores in some Denver public schools conceal the fact that minority students are not performing well atschools, according to the Denver Post, which has obtained and published a confidential school-by-school breakdown of scores by ethnic group.

The 1986 median scores for black and Hispanic students on standardized tests were below national norms at some grade levels in each of the district's 109 schools, with the exception of a magnet school emphasizing academic fundamentals, the newspaper reported.

Although the Denver school district was among the first in the nation to release districtwide scores broken down by ethnic group, officials had refused to release such data by school on the grounds that the confidentiality of some students could be violated.

District officials said last week that they were reconsidering their position and may release the 1987 test scores for each school this week.

The newspaper also charged that the district had minimized the extent of its dropout problem by calculating dropout rates on an annual basis. When the cumulative attrition rate was calculated for the classes of 1986 and 1987, the paper determined, two-thirds of Hispanic students and one-half of black students failed to graduate--a higher proportion than the district had indicated.

The four-year dropout rate for all races is 45 percent, according to school officials.

Concerned Women for America, the group that gained national attention last year by financing a suit against the Hawkins County, Tenn., school board over material in a reading series that they deemed offensive on religious grounds, has filed a federal lawsuit over a Bucks County, Pa., board's refusal to let a Christian student group hold a Halloween party on school property.

The U.S. district court in Philadelphia heard arguments Oct. 22 in the case, in which cwa charges that the Centennial school district unconstitutionally discriminated against the youth group. A decision was expected late last week.

The school board refused last month to rent the auditorium at William Tennant High School in Warminster to Student Venture, a high-school division of Campus Crusade for Christ.

The board said its denial was based on the participation of Andre Kole, a magician whose presentation includes an evangelical message. The religious aspect of the party would have made the use of school property improper, the board said.

A high-school senior has filed a $1-million suit against the Twin Falls, Idaho, school district and four administrators over his suspension for wearing a T-shirt imprinted with his caricatures of three school officials drinking beer and the slogan "It doesn't get any better than this."

The student, Rod Gano, contends that his constitutional rights to due process and freedom of speech were violated by the suspension. The suit names the principal, vice principal, and dean of men at Twin Falls High School, all of whom were depicted on the shirt, and the district superintendent.

Vol. 07, Issue 09

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