Districts News Roundup

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The Lawrenceville School, a private boarding school in Lawrenceville, N.J., has been sued by the father of a former student, who contends the school is responsible for his son's alcohol and drug abuse.

The father, Manuel C. Palao of Bethlehem, Pa., filed suit Aug. 17 in U.S. district court in Trenton, N.J., against the school and several of its employees. He argues that school officials were negligent in "condoning and permitting the presence, use, and retention of illegal drugs and alcohol by minors" in dormitories at the school.

The suit charges that school officials knew of such use because at the end of each school year they would pass around a cardboard box so students could anonymously surrender drugs and alcohol.

Mr. Palao is seeking recovery of more than $32,000 spent on rehabilitation pro6grams for his son, Michael, now 16 years old. Michael, the suit says, began using aland marijuana at age 13 while a student at the school.

Also sought is $33,739 in tuition and expenses for Michael's enrollment at the boarding school from fall 1985 to June 1988.

A school spokesman said Lawrenceville has developed programs to discourage drug use by students and has a strict disciplinary policy for dealing with offenders.

The Dallas school board has lost its bid to have the district declared legally desegregated.

In a tersely worded order, U.S. District Judge Barefoot Sanders last month denied the board's contention that it no longer operates a dual school system based on race, chastised the board majority for disobeying a previous court order, and forbade the board to file another petition until after Jan. 15.

In May, the Dallas board voted 6-to-3 to ask the court to grant the district "unitary" status, prompting an eight-page dissent from three minority board members whocx31poppose ending court supervision of the district.

Judge Sanders apparently was angry that the deeply divided board could not agree on how to respond to his July 21 directive to answer a series of questions posed by the plaintiffs' attorneys, including what commitments the board would make to prevent resegregation.

A federal judge has ruled that the Yonkers, N.Y., school board may proceed with a lawsuit that seeks to force the state to pay for new school-desegregation programs in the district.

The ruling last month by U.S. District Judge Leonard B. Sand rejected the state's motion to dismiss the case on grounds that the state is immune from lawsuits by its own political subdivisions under the 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Meanwhile, the Yonkers city council's continued resistance to Judge Sand's orders in the case forced another confrontation with state financial officers this summer. The state imposed a wage-and-hiring freeze and other measures to force the city council to adopt a budget that included $24 million for court-ordered school construction.

A Birmingham, Ala., radio station is broadcasting a one-minute nondenominational prayer before football games, in the wake of court rulings in the past year declaring school-organized invocations to be unconstitutional.

The first broadcast was "very well received," said Ken Barnett, program director of WMJJ-fm in Birmingham. The station invites local ministers to tape the prayers, which are then broadcast five minutes before the start of Friday-night football games.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, ruling in a Georgia case, said in January that organized prayer before public-school games is unconstitutional. In May, the Supreme Court let stand the ruling, which affects Alabama, Florida, and Georgia.

As the first football season after the ruling unfolds, the issue is becoming controversial throughout the region.

"In the South, an invocation before a football game is as much tradition as anything else," Mr. Barnett said. "We felt this was a freedom that someone was taking away."

The New York City Board of Education has voted to create a high school for teaching as part of its broader efforts to expand the pool of teacher candidates for the district.

The Richard R. Green High School of Teaching, named for the late chancellor of the district, is scheduled to open this month with an enrollment of 250 freshmen and sophomores. Students will receive instruction that emphasizes innovative pedagogy and will be required to participate in a variety of internships in educational and public-policy enterprises.

In a related move last month, the board also unveiled a new teacher-corps program designed to encourage local college students to pursue a career in teaching.

The program will identify college juniors and provide them with preservice training and work opportunities during the summer before their senior years. Corps members who go on to teach in the district would become eligible to have up to $10,000 of their college loans forgiven.

An elementary-school principal in suburban Washington has been placed on administrative leave following reports linking him to a male prostitute whose relationship with a member of Congress touched off a political scandal.

A spokesman for the Montgomery County, Md., public schools said last week that district officials were investigating charges that Gabriel A. Massaro, principal of Chevy Chase Elementary School, was involved with the prostitute and may have allowed him access to school offices.

The charges were published by The Washington Times in conjunction with a report on the prostitute's relationship with Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts.

The Newport, Ky., school district must rehire a principal fired in 1987 for using a racial epithet in addressing a teacher, a state court of appeals has ruled.

In a split decision, the court ruled that the Newport Board of Education arbitrarily dismissed Robert G. Eaton, an elementary-school principal, after he had called a black school employee a "nigger."

The board dismissed Mr. Eaton for insubordination and conduct unbecoming a teacher, even though he had apologized to the employee. During the trial of the case, Mr. Eaton said he and the employee had been friends for 18 years and had often engaged in racial bantering.

The appeals court ruled that "while the use of such words is inappropriate, crude, ill-advised, insensitive, and even immoral, Eaton's singular indiscretion does not constitute sufficient legal cause to terminate his employment."

The school board is seeking a review of the ruling by the full appeals court.

Despite 12 years of programs that have successfully desegregated schools in Milwaukee, the achievement of the city's black students remains far below expectations, according to a report by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.

The group found that black high-school students typically maintain D grade-point averages, often fail more than 25 percent of their courses, and usually score below average on standardized tests.

The report also charges that the district's desegregation programs have replaced racial segregation with economic segregation. Black students from middle-class families are the main beneficiaries of programs that allow them to transfer to suburban schools or specialty schools within the city, it says, while students from less advantaged backgrounds typically attend the city's traditional comprehensive high schools.

The report recommends that school officials provide an integrated education only when parents request it.

Vol. 09, Issue 01

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