Districts News Roundup

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Mississippi District Orders Drug Tests for Athletes

High-school athletes in Tupelo, Miss., face mandatory drug testing beginning this fall under a plan adopted last month by the Tupelo city school board.

Under the program, approved on a 4-0 vote, Tupelo High School's 350 athletes in grades 10 to 12 would be required to undergo urine testing at the beginning of the sports season. Athletes also would be subject to random tests.

Any athlete found to have used illegal drugs would be required to undergo counseling. If a second test showed evidence of continuing abuse, the athlete would be suspended from sports programs. Suspended athletes could be reinstated after completing a counseling program and testing as drug-free.

Parents and students have supported the idea since the plan was first proposed in May, according to Ricky J. Black, the school's athletic director.

At least one federal court has upheld drug tests for students participating in extracurricular activities. But courts have struck down mass screening programs involving all students.

Illinois District Erred in Barring Handicapped Student From Sports

A panel appointed by an Illinois school district was not qualified to decide whether a disabled student should be permitted to compete in regular high-school sports, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Stanley Roszkowski held that the Rochelle Township school board violated Scot Hollenbeck's civil rights by failing to comply with a hearing officer's decision that the student could be barred from regular sports teams only if a panel of experts found that it would be unsafe.

A panel made up of two special educators, the student's counselor, his physical therapist, a nurse, the school's athletic director, a sociologist, and the school's principal decided it would be unsafe for Mr. Hollenbeck to compete on the regular track team. It limited his sports participation to golf, tennis, and a wheelchair division of the track team.

The judge found that not only was the panel unqualified to make such a determination, but also had acted unfairly by denying the student a chance to present expert testimony on the safety question. Mr. Hollenbeck, a wheelchair athlete, has set national records in swimming.

A pilot plan to test doorway metal detectors in five New York City high schools has been dropped as too costly.

Schools Chancellor Richard R. Green made the decision after learning that the project would cost $9 million--$2 million for the equipment and $7 million to operate it. School officials, who are studying a variety of ideas to stem school violence, say they are still considering less costly hand-held detectors.

The Jefferson Parish, La., school board wants to know if any of its employees are working while intoxicated.

Under a "noninvasive'' testing plan being considered, only on-the-job drug abuse would be targeted--by means of random, private examinations of an employee's balance, eye movement, memory, and attention span. Workers found to be intoxicated would be sent home for the rest of the day on sick leave and encouraged to enroll in a drug or alcohol assistance program.

Any employee who failed the test three times would be given a urinalysis test and disciplined if the results indicated illegal drug use. The program would cost about $100,000 to implement, officials say.

Teachers improperly urged use of the drug Ritalin on a 13-year-old student, the boy's parents have charged in a $1.3-million lawsuit against the Gwinnett County, Ga., school system.

Rilla and Lonnie Cothran say the district labeled their son David as emotionally handicapped, even though other doctors diagnosed the boy as reading-disabled. Following the teachers' recommendations, the couple asked a physician to prescribe the drug, which is a controversial medication used to treat attention-deficit disorders in children. The Cothrans say the drug caused their son to be disoriented.

The school district has denied that teachers gave the parents medical advice.

The state board of regents is not doing enough to help troubled schools in New York City, according to a report by the state comptroller's office.

The audit charges that the board of regents, which oversees the state department of education, overemphasizes support for suburban and upstate districts at the expense of the city's schools.

In one example cited in the audit, the department had assigned 16 education specialists to assist 45 low-performing schools outside the city, but only 11 for the 400 such schools within the city.

A new study by a New York City watchdog group projects that about 26 percent of the city's high-school students will fail to graduate within four years.

Black leaders in Houston are pondering a campaign to carve out a separate school district in the inner city.

Consideration of a break-away district--an idea that mirrors proposals being discussed in several other cities--has been spurred by anger at Superintendent of Schools Joan Raymond's plans to transfer a number of black administrators to new jobs within the Houston Independent School District.

State Representative Al Edwards will head a committee to study the separate-district proposal. Some black leaders have accused Ms. Raymond of racism, on the grounds that the new jobs given black administrators provide them with little real power.

More than half the children entering the Chicago public schools are unable to recite their first and last names, speak in complete simple sentences, sit still for a brief story, identify colors, or draw stick figures, according to a recent Chicago Sun-Times survey of kindergarten teachers.

The newspaper poll found dramatic differences between Chicago kindergartners and those of nearby Wilmette. Kindergarten teachers in that affluent suburb said almost all their students had the basic skills needed to begin school work.

For the first time in more than a decade, the St. Paul school system will provide counselors for troubled elementary-school students.

Under a proposal approved by the school board, the system will hire two elementary-school counselors, one with school-district funds and another with federal funds earmarked for early-intervention programs.

The Citizens Budget and Finance Committee, a panel of teachers, parents, and citizens appointed by the board, had proposed that the district hire four to six such counselors.

Criticism by the state education department of vocational and career education in Boston has spurred city officials to consider taking control of some school-system programs.

Mayor Raymond L. Flynn's employment commission held a hearing in late June to examine why vocational programs in a city with a large and growing labor shortage nevertheless were experiencing sharp decreases in enrollment.

A recent state report had chided school officials for administrative delays and budget cuts, which it said had harmed the city's main vocational school, the Hubert Humphrey Occupational Resource Center.

The employment commission is expected this month to recommend improvements in the city's employment-training system.

Dearborn, Mich., school officials are working with students and parents to head off any problems when they begin busing Arab-American pupils this fall.

The new busing plan, aimed at reducing overcrowded conditions in three schools with large Arab-American enrollments, will transfer up to 450 students to four schools with low enrollments of such students.

The Detroit suburb has the nation's largest population of Arab-Americans.

Vol. 07, Issue 39 Extra Edition

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