District News Roundup

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Students in the Burlington (Wis.) Area School District who are suspected of using illegal drugs but deny doing so will be required under a new policy to submit urine samples for drug testing.

According to the policy approved unanimously by the district's school board last month, students suspected of being at school under the influence of a drug or alcohol will be given the choice of admitting the violation or reporting to a community health clinic for testing.

Students who admit to drug or alcohol use or who fail the urinalysis may be suspended and will be required to enter a student-assistance program for substance abusers, said Gary M. Fields, the district's superintendent of schools.

Those who refuse to submit to the urinalysis may also be suspended and required to enter the program, he said.

"The intent of the policy is to deal with the issue of denial, whereby youngsters and their parents refuse to admit that there is a problem," Mr. Fields said. "It is intended to be a positive policy that forces youngsters to get help."

The policy, which was recommended by a local citizens' advisory committee, is modeled after one that has been in place in the Milton, Wis., school district for several years.

Eunice Z. Edgar, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, said last week that she had not seen the Burlington policy. But she noted that the aclu considers such policies a violation of students' constitutional right to privacy.

Her organization has not challenged the Milton policy in court, she said, because "we have never had a complaint."

Chicago System Excludes 36,000 For Not Meeting Vaccine Deadline

More than 36,000 students have been turned away from public schools in Chicago for failing to complete required immunizations or doctor's examinations by Nov. 16.

The number of students missing this year's deadline is more than twice last year's tally and represents nearly 8 percent city's total public-school enrollment, district officials said.

State law requires all students entering the system in kindergarten or 1st grade, as well as all 5th and 9th graders, to prove that they have seen a doctor and have received measles, rubella, pertussis, and polio immunizations by one month after the beginning of the school year.

School officials said they believed that many students excluded from class had not met two new requirements. For the first time, students this fall were required to prove that they had been vaccinated for mumps, and all girls age 10 or older had to prove they had received a rubella shot.

The vast majority of pupils sent home are expected to meet the requirements and return to school shortly, a district official said.

Judge Grants Class-Action Status In Tennessee Bible-Reading Suit

A federal judge in Tennessee has granted class-action status to a lawsuit charging that Bible-reading classes in the Claiborne County school district violate the U.S. Constitution's requirement for the separation of church and state.

U.S. District Judge Thomas G. Hull ruled last month that the suit, originally filed by two parents on behalf of a child in the district, could include all parents of children in Claiborne schools and all taxpayers in the district.

Judge Hull presided over Mozert v. Hawkins County Public Schools, the suit filed by seven families in Church Hill who objected on religious grounds to their children's textbooks.

The Claiborne lawsuit, filed in March, contends that classes held in the district's schools by two fundamentalist Christian organizations, Sports World Ministries and cbm Ministries, contained prayer, devotional reading and teaching of the Bible, and proselytizing.

The suit charges that the classes violated the plaintiffs' rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and seeks $250,000 in punitive damages against the district. The classes have been suspended until the suit is resolved, according to a spokesman for the Tennessee chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is providing legal assistance to the plaintiffs.

The aclu also is involved in a similar suit filed in July by two families in Carter County seeking to end the cbm Bible classes there.

The major teachers' union and the superintendent of schools in Fairfax County, Va., have forged a tentative agreement that provides for an average 8.8 percent pay increase and addresses several of the union's criticisms of an evaluation system that will be used in setting teachers' salaries.

Last year, the 6,600-member Fairfax Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, agreed to support the controversial career-ladder plan in exchange for an average pay raise of 30 percent over three years.

Salary increases must be approved by the school board every year. This year, the district's 8,500 teachers received an average increase of slightly more than 12 percent.

The new evaluation system, which rates teachers on a five-point scale, is being phased in districtwide this year and next year.

The tentative agreement more clearly defines the system's time lines and procedures, clarifies what standards teachers must meet to get a high rating, requires principals to perform interim assessments of teachers so that they know how they are doing before their final evaluation, and guarantees assistance to teachers wanting to improve their ratings, according to Mimi Dash, president of the fea

Teachers, who may not engage in collective bargaining under Virginia law, will vote on the agreement this month. The school board will vote on it in February.

Operators of a religious center in Willmar, Minn., have agreed to pay higher rent to the school district from which the center leases land, following a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the lease.

The Willmar Religion in Life Center, which had been paying the Willmar school district a token rent of $1 a year since 1976 for 2,000 square feet of school land, will begin paying $100 a month. The center was built on the campus of the Willmar Technical Institute with private funds raised by Lutheran, Catholic, and other Christian groups.

A suit filed last month in federal district court in Minneapolis by the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union, naming the school district and the technical school, charged that the $1 rent amounted to a state establishment of religion in violation of the First Amendment.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs have said they will continue the suit, which seeks eviction of the religious groups, removal of a brick cross built into the facade of the center, and a ruling opening the center to nonreligious organizations. The suit also seeks $75,000 in damages for each of the plaintiffs, three students and a teacher at the technical school.

Students at Greenwich Academy, an independent girls' school in Greenwich, Conn., took the Scholastic Aptitude Test a week later than scheduled, after school officials found evidence that a sealed carton containing test materials had been opened.

Officials of the Educational Testing Service, which administers the test, ordered school administrators to postpone the test for a week, until Nov. 14, and then administered an alternative examination to the 95 juniors and seniors. The tests were immediately scored, and the delay will not affect students' chances of being admitted to college, according to Richard Noeth, director of admissions-testing programs for the ets

The testing organization generally finds one incident of such tampering each year, he said, and cancels the sat scores of any students found to be involved.

The school's headmaster, Alexander Uhle, said any student found guilty of tampering with the tests would be "severely" punished.

In a $500,000 project underwritten by the Travelers Companies Foundation, the University of Hartford and the city's public schools will use computers to help instruct local kindergarten students and track their progress.

The Hartford Early Learning Partnership, which will be launched in the Mary M. Hooker School and expanded to several other city elementary schools in the next few years, is intended to improve educational efforts aiding children considered "developmentally unprepared" to enter 1st grade after completing kindergarten, according to the foundation.

District officials have reported that 25 percent of the city's kindergartners had to repeat kindergarten in 1986.

The project, known as help, will integrate computers into the curriculum and establish a telecommunications link between kindergarten classrooms and a computer center at the university.

Vol. 07, Issue 13

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