Districts NEws Roundup

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Police will be assigned as full-time truant officers for Atlanta schools in an effort to reduce crime and the school system's rising rate of absenteeism, city officials say.

George Napper, the city's public-safety commissioner, said he would assign "8 to 10" officers to patrol high-crime areas looking for truants, beginning next fall.

School officials have welcomed the program as a way to improve attendance. Absenteeism in secondary schools, according to officials, has risen by 2.5 percent in the past year. At one high school, they noted, the average daily attendance rate was around 75 percent in April.

Mr. Napper also said the program would reduce the frequency of such daytime crimes as burglary, theft, and shoplifting.

Although beat officers previously have been instructed to return truants to school, the officers reportedly complained that such chores distracted them from their other duties.

A number of other police departments have taken similar steps to prevent juvenile crime, said Ronald Garrison, field-serirector for the National School Safety Center.

Fremont, Calif., voters last week overwhelmingly defeated what would have been the nation's first city tax on residents and businesses to support day care for all children.

The measure, opposed by 78 percent of those voting, would have raised $1 million a year by placing a $12 tax on households and a 20 percent surcharge on businesses' local taxes.

Of some 75,000 eligible voters, 3,671 cast ballots in favor of the proposal and 12,697 were opposed.

Although other local governments subsidize day care for poor children, the measure would have been the first to tax voters to support care for all children.

It would have allowed the city to purchase portable classrooms for before- and after-school care for about 1,800 K-6 students at 30 elementary schools.

The proposal also would have financed day-care programs for sick children and vouchers allowing infants, preschool-, and school-age children of low-income working parents to attend private child-care centers.

The measure was drafted by a task force that included representatives of the chamber of commerce, developers, businesses, day-care providers, and parents.

A 9th-grade student at George Washington Carver Junior High School in Los Angeles was fatally shot and a parent of another pupil wounded by a former student of the school in a May 26 incident.

Charles V. Caballero, principal of the school, said the 15-year-old suspect got into a dispute with a parent who had come to the school to pick up his 7th-grade daughter.

The youth shot the man when he got out of his car during the argument, the principal said. The suspect then ran down an alley next to the campus, where he encountered another student, whom he shot. The two allegedly had been involved in a prior dispute, Mr. Caballero said.

The student charged in the shooting was arrested by school police immediately after the incident and turned over to the Los Angeles police. Mr. Caballero, describing the youth as a known gang member, said police suspected that he might have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

An acclaimed alternative-education program for youthful offenders in Cleve6land is going out of business, its officials say.

The 10-year-old Cleveland Alternative Education Program, which had been administered by the Cuyahoga Community College, will shut down due to lack of funds. As a result, 140 juvenile offenders will return to regular classrooms.

"The funding all came from grants from agencies locally and those funds were just drying up," said Eugene W. Malone, the college's dean of access services.

Critics of the program, including some officials of the local juvenile-justice system, claimed that it was a wasteful duplication of public-school efforts.

Parents and students at a Birmingham, Ala., high school have expressed opposition to plans to move a districtwide program for pregnant girls and a nursery to their school.

The program serves approximately 110 pregnant girls and offers care for 12 infants. School officials want to move it from its current location at Hayes High School, which is slated to become a middle school next fall as part of the district's reorganization plan.

Superintendent Cleveland Hammonds Jr. has said he favors moving the program and the nursery to Ensley High School, which already contains a health clinic.

But more than 160 students at Ensley have signed a petition opposing the move. The critics argue both that the pregnancy program would encourage other girls to have children and that noise from the nursery would disturb students.

A newspaper in Washington State has undertaken a long-term effort to chronicle the education of a group of elementary students until their graduation in the year 2000.

Charles C. Cochrane Jr., publisher of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, said last week that the "Class of 2000" project will focus special attention on the precollegiate careers of some 100 students who currently attend the Berney Elementary School.

For the duration of the project, which began this school year, the newspaper will track local social trends, such as the divorce rate, to see how they affect students. Reporters also will attempt to keep tabs on students who drop out of school, in an effort to determine "what happens to them and why they left," Mr. Cochrane said.

Officials of the 5,000-student district are cooperating fully in the venture, Mr. Cochrane said. But, he added, the newspaper has an "arms-length agreement" with Superintendent Dennis A. Ray to ensure the initiative's editorial independence.

Vol. 08, Issue 38

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