Districts News Roundup

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Oklahoma Union Officials Resign Amid Reports of Illegal Voting

The presidents of the Oklahoma and Oklahoma City affiliates of the American Federation of Teachers have resigned in the wake of local press reports that they voted illegally in a recent school-board election.

Both Ted Metscher, president of the local affiliate, and Joel Robison, president of the state organization, had acknowledged that they registered to vote under the address of the local union headquarters so that they could vote in the election. Neither of the men live in the voting district where the election was held.

Under Oklahoma law, citizens can cast ballots only in the district where they live.

According to Anthony DeGiusti, the newly appointed president of the Oklahoma City Federation of Teachers, the union had strongly opposed the incumbent school-board member running for re-election in the subdistrict of the school system where the union office is located.

Mr. Metscher and Mr. Robison "got overzealous and made a mistake,'' he said. "They both regret it.''

He noted that two local teachers--Georgia Ianello, a former president of the local, and Donna Robison, Mr. Robison's wife--also used the union address to vote in the election.

As of last week, no criminal charges had been filed against the four individuals. But a spokesman for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said the agency was investigating the matter at the request of the local district attorney.

New Milwaukee Policy Will Gauge Effectiveness of 'Add-on' Programs

Under a new policy adopted by the Milwaukee school system, the fate of some of the district's most popular special programs will be determined for the first time by how well they work.

The policy seeks to link evaluations of 11 "add-on'' programs--including driver's education, bilingual education, and projects designed to serve disadvantaged students--to the district's budget process.

"It's kind of a tightening up or quality control,'' said William Larkin, the assistant superintendent in charge of curriculum and instruction.

He said the evaluations would range from in-depth studies conducted by the school system's research staff to shorter analyses by the curriculum specialists in charge of the programs. Some programs may be further evaluated by independent consultants, he added.

The completed evaluations will be provided to school-board members later this month as they begin deliberating on the proposed 1988-89 budget.

The critiques "will help them decide whether to continue a program, modify it, or end it,'' Mr. Larkin said.

White Ohio Teacher Wins Damages In Suit Charging Race, Age Bias

A high-school English teacher in Xenia, Ohio, has been awarded $260,000 in damages, after a federal jury found that he had been discriminated against on the basis of his race and age when applying for a series of jobs.

The jury for the U.S. District Court returned the verdict in favor of Gerald Strong on April 20. But Judge Walter Rice has yet to decide whether the district also violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, by discriminating against Mr. Strong on the basis of his sex.

Mr. Strong, a 52-year-old white male, filed suit after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rejected his complaint that he was not promoted from his job as a curriculum supervisor because of his sex and race. Mr. Strong testified during the trial that he had not received any of 19 promotions he had asked for between 1977 and 1988.

The jury ruled that discrimination played a role in 11 of those decisions, although it found that the district had not engaged in a continuing pattern of willful discrimination against the teacher.

District officials have denied all claims of discrimination, and have testified that people more qualified than Mr. Strong were hired for the positions, according to Roy E. Leonard, a lawyer for the school board.

California High Court Lets Stand District's Banning of Religious Club

The California Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by a student religious club of a lower court's ruling allowing a school district to ban it.

The state high court voted 6 to 1 last month not to hear the case, letting the Fourth District Court of Appeals ruling stand. The appellate court upheld the Saddleback Valley Unified School District's policy prohibiting "off-campus or private clubs'' from functioning in district schools.

The club, called New Life, held outdoor lunchtime meetings at El Toro and Mission Viejo high schools. The district refused to recognize the group as school-sponsored, but did not stop members from gathering informally.

The district intervened, however, in the 1984-85 school year, when club leaders proposed distributing flyers and taking out advertisements in the student yearbook as ways of inviting students to the meetings.

The district prohibited the group from advertising and from holding formal meetings on campus. The district court ruled in favor of the school system, saying the ban on off-campus groups was applied equally to religious and secular groups.

The appellate-court opinion said permitting the flyers and advertisements would have lent school approval to the club.

Denver's public-school teachers have launched a work slowdown to protest what they say is an unacceptably low salary offer from the local school board.

In December, the board said it could not afford to raise teachers' salaries in 1988, but it has since agreed to a 2 percent increase recommended by an outside fact-finder.

The local teachers' union is asking for a 6 percent pay hike, and its leadership asserts that the district can afford the raise by tapping a contingency reserve account.

The teachers--who on April 26 voted 1,169 to 316 to reject the fact-finder's recommendation and begin the slowdown--are working only the 7 hours a day required in their contract, said Jan Erskine, president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, which represents the district's 3,700 teachers at the bargaining table.

"They are not grading papers at home, or taking home any unfinished work,'' she said.

Negotiations on the salary issue were scheduled to resume late last week. None have been held since December, when the union declared an impasse and requested the fact-finder.

The Jefferson County, Ala., school board has approved a policy that would bar junior- and senior-high-school students from participating in extracurricular activities if their grades in five classes average below 70.

The policy, passed unanimously by the board last month, is similar to a statewide rule for participation in school sports that was passed last year by the Alabama Athletic Association.

The new local requirement, which takes effect in the 1988-89 school year, will apply to such activities as band, cheerleading, chorus, and student government.

A federal judge in Atlanta has dismissed a lawsuit brought by three Georgia districts claiming that the state--and not local school systems--bears the responsibility for providing residential treatment for severely handicapped students.

In her April 7 ruling, U.S. District Judge Orinda Evans dismissed the suit on the ground that the plaintiffs--the Atlanta, DeKalb, and Gwinnett districts were not the handicapped recipients of the services and thus did not have legal standing in the case.

The districts had alleged that many of the state's emotionally disturbed and mentally retarded students are placed in private, out-of-state institutions because no school district has residential facilities to serve them. By refusing to serve such students, the local officials argued, the state health department and the state education department were violating a cooperative agreement both agencies signed in 1985.

A couple in Derry, N.H., is challenging what they claim are school-district "orders'' to keep their child on Ritalin or another medication used to treat attention-deficit disorders.

In a due-process special-education hearing last month, Valerie and Michael Jesson said they stopped giving their 9-year-old son Ritalin because the drug caused him to stop eating, lose sleep, and undergo violent outbursts.

"He's a changed kid,'' Ms. Jesson said. She said Derry school officials tried to order her to continue medicating her son as part of his individualized education program for special services.

School officials claim that the program merely stipulated that the family maintain contact with the doctors who prescribed the drug for the child.

Federal investigators say that a high level of bacteria in a teachers' dining area and a misused ventilation system may have caused a respiratory illness that affected one-third of the students and most teachers at Marcus Hook (Pa.) Elementary School.

School officials last week reopened the facility, which had been closed two weeks for testing, after researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety concluded that the illnesses may have been caused by teachers improperly adjusting the individual ventilation units in their classrooms and by the higher-than-average bacterial levels. Since March, students and teachers have experienced sore throats, shortness of breath, dizziness, and nausea when in the building.

New Jersey authorities suspect that heavy-metal music may have had an influence on a 16-year-old junior at Edison High School who shot himself to death in the woods behind the school.

School officials said Walter Kulkusky had been showing off an unregistered handgun and bullets to other students on a school bus one morning last month.

Police found Mr. Kulkusky's body, along with heavy-metal cassette tapes of songs such as "Suicide Solution'' and "Goodbye to Romance.'' They are investigating the role the music may have played in the student's death, as well as how Mr. Kulkusky obtained an unregistered handgun.

Principal Leo F. Scanlon said he did not believe the student's choice of music influenced his actions. "He was a troubled youngster,'' he said.

Vol. 07, Issue 33

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