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Plaintiffs challenging the at-large election system for school-board members in the Del Valle (Tex.) Independent School District last week rejected a settlement offer from the school board and plan to proceed with a lawsuit filed in a state court last month.

The lawsuit is the first test of the applicability of the state's 1972 Equal Rights Amendment to voting-rights issues, said James C. Harrington, legal director of the Texas Civil Liberties Union, which together with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund is representing the plaintiffs.

The suit alleges that the district's at-large system has prevented more than one minority candidate from winning election to the seven-member board, even though nearly half the district's students are minorities.

The plaintiffs, three minority members who have unsuccessfully sought election to the board, are asking the court to create two "super districts," each of which would elect three board members. The seventh member would continue to be elected at-large.

Mr. Harrington termed "unacceptable" the school-board's offer to create five single-member districts and two at-large seats. Because the minority population is dispersed throughout the district, he said, such an arrangement would only guarantee a board seat to one minority member.

Edward Neal, superintendent of the Del Valle schools, said state law precludes any single-member election system that has fewer than five single-member districts.

The Chicago school district's bureaucracy is sabotaging efforts to implement the landmark education-reform plan imposed on the district by the state legislature, a coalition of business and community groups has charged.

The coalition, Alliance for Better Chicago Schools, is one of the city's largest such groups. In a statement this month, it issued several demands, including that the board dismantle barriers encountered as newly constituted local school councils begin their work, and that it discipline staff members who obstruct reform.

The coalition also demanded that all of the central-administration's departments be disbanded by June 1, and that new central-office departments geared to the requirements of the reform law be designed from the ground up.

"Throughout the system, local school councils and dedicated teachers and principals are being stymied by the dead hand of the past," the statement read.

The coalition also said it will seek new legislation from the Illinois General Assembly if its demands are not met.

State education officials in Texas have ordered the Arlington school district to either justify its practice of serving mentally retarded children in a center-based facility or else draft a plan for moving the children to their neighborhood schools.

The order, which came in a Dec. 11 letter to school officials, was prompted by a complaint from Bob and Teresa Dunning, who said their handicapped daughter had not been allowed to attend school near her home. The U.S. Office for Civil Rights is also investigating two other, similar complaints from parents of handicapped children in the district.

Denny Dowd, the school system's executive director for special-education services, said school officials planned to comply with the state order "by doing a little of both"--submitting justification for some centralized special-education programming and drafting a long-range plan for teaching some handicapped students in their neighborhood schools.

A Philadelphia educational partnership has received a $3.7-million grant from the National Science Foundation to provide minority students with new educational opportunities in science, mathematics, and engineering.

The Philadelphia Renaissance in Science and Mathematics--a collaboration of universities, foundations, corporations, and the Philadelphia school district--will use the money to establish a Comprehensive Regional Center for Minorities, officials said.

Several metropolitan Philadelphia school districts are expected to work with the center, which will seek to introduce elementary-school students to science and math and to encourage them to pursue careers in these fields.

The center will be one of eight funded by the nsf nationwide.

A group of teachers in Pike County, Ky., claims in a suit filed against the county school board that funds from a 1967 utility-tax increase have not been directed to teacher salaries as intended.

A year after the 3 percent utility-tax increase was enacted, the school board agreed that 70 percent of the funds would go for teacher salary increases and that the remaining 30 percent would cover increases for support personnel, according to the suit.

The suit, filed in Pike Circuit Court by the Pike County Education Association, estimates that the tax increase has raised $13 million. It asks the court to rule that those proceeds be applied to the salaries of teachers and bus drivers.

The district has responded that the funds have gone for other educational expenses, including the salaries of additional personnel.

A senior expelled from a Roman Catholic high school in Chicago because she got married will be allowed to finish her final year through correspondence courses.

Elizabeth Valeri, a 17-year-old student at Maria High School, was expelled earlier this month because school policy prohibits married students. (See Education Week, Jan. 24, 1990.)

Ms. Valeri demanded an apology and threatened to sue the school.

In agreeing to a settlement of the matter, the Catholic school said it will allow Ms. Valeri to graduate with her class by becoming an "extension student."

The Detroit school board last week adopted a requirement that each school in the district establish a dress code.

Under the new rule, each school must develop a dress code after consulting with parents, teachers, and other staff members. The proposed codes must be submitted to the district board for approval by March 20.

The board's resolution contends that clothing can be a "source of disputes and disruptive behavior," and that wide variations in student clothing causes a "distraction" that may place undue emphasis on the nonacademic environment of a school.

The board hailed the success of a strict dress code at the city's Mumford High School, which bans students from wearing such expensive items as gold neck chains, gym shoes, and leather coats. Mumford school officials claim that the two-year-old policy has curbed violence among students by reducing such incentives as theft and rivalry.

Vol. 09, Issue 19

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