Districts News Roundup

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The threat of a lawsuit has forced officials at West Fork High School in northwestern Arkansas to end the practice of allowing monthly in-school meetings of the Teens for Christ Club, a group that has operated without incident at the school for 33 years.

"The American Civil Liberties Union got ahold of it,'' explained Doyle A. Baker, superintendent of the West Fork district. "They had a complaint from some individual, so we are going to have to restructure it.''

He said the Teens for Christ Club was the most popular group at the school, drawing 155 students out of a total enrollment of 250 for 45-minute meetings one day a month during school hours.

"We brought in outside speakers, and they would talk about drugs, alcohol, and good moral habits and all those good things we should be teaching,'' Mr. Baker said.

"But we did have prayer,'' he acknowledged, "and that's a problem.''

The A.C.L.U. contended that by permitting the club to meet during school hours, West Fork officials violated the First Amendment's ban on state establishement of religion. It threatened to file suit if the meetings were not stopped.

The superintendent said the district decided to end the meetings rather than defend the club in court. He said the district would decide this summer whether to allow the club to meet before or after school. The club, he added, has received "99.9 percent support in the community.''

The Garden City, Kan., school district has launched an unusual scholarship program aimed at meeting its growing need for bilingual teachers.

Under the "Teachers of Tomorrow'' program, six high-school seniors from the district will receive scholarships to attend Garden City Community College for two years. During that time, they will work as teachers' aides in summer bilingual-education and migrant programs.

Part of their pay will go into a fund, to be matched by Fort Hays State University, that will cover tuition and fees at the four-year teachers' college, where the students will complete their training. In exchange, they must agree to teach in the district's bilingual classes for three years after graduation.

Superintendent of Schools Gerald H. Moseman said the program was designed to improve education for the children of Hispanic and Southeast Asian immigrants, who have flocked to the area in recent years seeking jobs at local meat-packing plants. Such children make up 30 percent of the district's 6,200 students.

Garden City has been unable to compete successfully for bilingual teachers with larger districts in other parts of the country, Mr. Moseman said. Only 9 of the 16 teachers currently assigned to the district's 400 limited-English-proficient students are bilingual.

Using a novel collective-bargaining method, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and negotiators representing 1,000 lay teachers in the city's 28 Roman Catholic high schools have agreed on a three-year contract.

In the unprecedented settlement, reached three months in advance of the current contract's expiration, the two sides scrapped traditional collective-bargaining techniques in favor of a "collegial'' method developed by the late Miami sociologist Irving Goldaber; the method has been used in more than 80 public and Catholic school systems.

Under the new contract, teacher salaries will rise by $6,000 over the three years. First-year high-school teachers in the archdiocese currently earn $13,550, and teachers with 20 years' experience and a bachelor's degree earn $27,433. For the first time, the contract also limits class size to 35 students.

Frustration over the teachers' last salary pact two years ago resulted in a one-day sick-out, said Rita C. Schwartz, the union president. The new bargaining method, she said, "was basic collective bargaining, but a new atmosphere was established so that we were looking at each other's needs.''

The editors of the student magazine at Ridgefield (Conn.) High School have won a temporary victory in a dispute over a new school-district policy prohibiting publication of articles written by alumni or other nonstudents.

The district's superintendent, David Larson, has said the magazine will be allowed to publish articles by alumni as planned and with school funds, pending the resolution of a lawsuit over the issue.

Robert Cox, the faculty adviser for the literary publication, Lodestar, filed suit in federal district court charging that the school board's ban on alumni authors violated the student editors' First and 14th Amendment rights to determine the magazine's content.

But Mr. Larson has maintained that limiting the magazine's contributors to current students and faculty would promote more participation.

After the Lodestar staff refused to comply with the new policy, school officials withheld the magazine's $4,000 printing allocation. Mr. Larson's position, according to a lawyer for the school board, was that the staff had disavowed its affiliation with the high school, thereby losing the privilege of school funding.

The district has made settlement proposals, but Mr. Cox and the students want to let the courts decide the issue.

An Illinois 1st grader infected with the AIDS virus has been returned to his regular classroom under the terms of a federal court order.

A federal district judge on May 4 ordered Granite City school officials to permit 7-year-old Jason Robertson to attend class with other children at Prather Elementary School.

Since November, the boy--who suffers from AIDS-related complex--had been taught in a trailer located about 50 feet from the school. School officials have declined to comment on their reasons for seeking to educate the child outside the classroom.

School officials in Portsmouth, N.H., have disconnected 31 water fountains and faucets after finding lead levels that were more than 20 times above the current Environmental Protection Agency standard.

School officials had tested 250 water fountains and faucets in the district's nine school buildings last month after a local newspaper found a high level of lead in the water of one school fountain. The highest reading found by the district exceeded 1,000 parts per billion, or more than 20 times the current standard of 50 parts per billion.

The Houston Independent School District, which last year became the first urban district in Texas to have its accreditation status reduced, has been told by the state that it will be returned to "fully accredited'' status.

The district had been cited for deficiencies in some 23 areas, including overcrowding, lack of instructional supplies, and inadequate library facilities. But state officials said this month that an $8.5-million improvement program authorized by the school board had begun to show results.

"You are on the right road,'' Education Commissioner William Kirby reportedly told local officials.

Some 60 toy guns have been confiscated in the Duval County, Fla., schools since Superintendent Herb Sang banned them from school property in March.

Students carrying the toy guns have had to go before school hearing officers and many have had to undergo a three-hour counseling session with their parents.

Mr. Sang said he initiated the ban because his security department had found many students carrying the toy versions when it did spot checks for real guns.

"These guns look so authentic,'' Mr. Sang said. "There are a lot of things to play with other than guns. We just don't feel toy guns belong at school.''

School officials have also tried to discourage parents from allowing their children to play with toy guns at home. "With the gun scare in this city, one of these toy guns is going to turn out to be a real one, and someone will be shot and killed,'' Mr. Sang said.

The Jacksonville district has also cracked down on students carrying real weapons, using random checks with metal detectors. Fifty-seven real guns have been confiscated this year, Mr. Sang said.

Vol. 07, Issue 36

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