District News Roundup

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Youthful police officers who posed as students for eight months in New York City schools found relatively little drug use or violence, the city's Joint Commission on Integrity in the Public Schools announced last week.

Austin V. Campriello, chief counsel for the commission, said the five officers who attended nine high schools did not find a situation like that depicted in "The Blackboard Jungle," a 1950's movie in which teachers in the city's schools were cowed by tough teenagers.

The commission, which was created in 1988 by the board of education and the Mayor's office, placed officers in schools that school officials and the teachers' union rated as the worst in terms of violence and other serious incidents.

Mr. Campriello said the officers who took part in the unusual operation, which was approved by the board last year, found beer and marijuana use, but not much other substance use in schools, and saw few weapons. There was also no evidence of school-based gang activity, he said.

One officer, however, was threatened by a knife-wielding student, who eventually was transferred to another school. "The situation was much better than we expected," Mr. Campriello said.

Milwaukee officials are developing a plan to guarantee college admission to students who graduate from the city's high schools with at least a C-plus average.

The so-called Milwaukee Guarantee was announced this month by Mayor John O. Norquist, but few details of the plan have been worked out. The city's effort is the latest in a series of government and business projects nationwide aimed at guaranteeing college access to students who meet prescribed academic goals. Boston, Detroit, and Baltimore, among other cities, have similar programs.

A committee of government, education, business, and labor leaders began meeting last week to start working out the Milwaukee proposal. The Mayor has said he will seek contributions from the business community to avoid a major increase in public spending for the project.

Year-round schooling is not a solution to overcrowding, the San Diego school board has decided.

Board members voted against further promotion of the concept Feb. 6, less than 24 hours after their counterparts in Los Angeles had voted to endorse a districtwide year-round calendar.

Slightly more than one-quarter of San Diego's 67,000 public-school students currently attend year-round schools. Next fall, four schools will be taken off year-round schedules, and the district will embark on a $2-million program to construct portable classrooms.

The district first began implementing a year-round calendar in 1988 as a response to overcrowding. Board members said they voted to reverse that trend because teachers were dissatisfied with the arrangement.

The Orange County (Fla.) School Board discriminates against minority middle-school students, an organization of black citizens has charged in a federal suit.

The Committee of Organized Groups filed a class action in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida this month charging that the needs of black and Hispanic children are being neglected.

The suit charges specifically that the district is failing to take black-American dia6lects into account in its teaching and evaluation, causing many black students to fall behind in their studies.

It asks that the district be required to develop individualized education plans for black middle-school students, who account for 24 percent of the district's 22,000-student middle-school enrollment.

James Schott, superintendent of schools, has argued that writing individual plans for such a large number of students would be costly and cumbersome. Denying the charges of discrimination, he said: "We share everyone's concern and interest in providing quality education for all students."

The district currently evaluates kindergartners and new students up to 3rd grade and places them in classrooms according to their needs, district officials said.

The New York State School Boards Association is suing the state of New York over the creation of a school district to serve handicapped students from a Hasidic Jewish community.

The Kiryas Joel district was created last year by the legislature as a solution to the problem of educating handicapped children from the strictly Orthodox Jewish sect, whose parents did not want them mingling with students from nearby public schools.

The parents had unsuccessfully sought to have the nearby Monroe-Woodbury school district provide separate special-education services for the approximately 200 handicapped students of the village. The village's other pupils attend private religious schools.

The school-boards association filed suit last month in the state supreme sourt in Albany, saying that the state would violate the First Amendment's establishment clause by allowing a religious group to form its own public school district.

The association also contends the Jewish district violates the state constitution and unlawfully segregates disabled children.

The parents of a 6th-grade student killed in a school-bus accident near Boulder, Colo., last year have settled a suit against the district out of court for $45,000.

Kevin Swenby, age 11, died, and 21 other Whittier Elementary School students were injured when their bus skidded off a mountain highway while returning from a field trip. Authorities blamed badly adjusted brakes and driver error in the accident.

The award to Paul and Rose Swenby was the maximum amount allowed under state law, school officials said.

The parents of eight other children injured in the accident have notified the Boulder Valley School District that they intend to sue.

Under state law, the district can be liable for a maximum of $400,000 in connection with the incident. The district also paid all medical expenses for the injured children.

Vol. 09, Issue 22

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