Districts News Roundup

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Black students living in Kansas City, Mo., will gain the right to transfer to suburban school districts at state expense under a unanimous federal appeals panel ruling issued last week.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ordered a lower-court judge to develop an interdistrict desegregation plan that would allow up to 1,200 black students to transfer next year, and would gradually increase the ceiling to 6,000 students over the next five years.

The ruling could end a stalemate that has prevented adoption of a voluntary interdistrict transfer plan since 1985, when a lower court ordered the state of Missouri to develop and pay for such a plan as part of a comprehensive desegregation remedy.

But last week's ruling came in a separate case that was filed on behalf of 184 black students who had sought and were denied admission to three suburban districts for the 1988-89 school year.

The appeals court ruled that a lower court had erred in dismissing the second case in a summary judgment, and hinted that it could proceed to trial if the suburban districts, who are not a party to the main desegregation case, continued to refuse to admit the students.

The interdistrict plan would be similar to one now in place in St. Louis, under which 12,000 black students are enrolled in suburban districts at state expense.

The former president of Community School Board 9 in New York City has been sentenced to six months in jail and 4 years on probation for taking bribes from school-district vendors.

Curtis Johnson admitted receiving kickbacks worth $18,000 from vendors in return for approving falsified purchase orders, and pleaded guilty to charges of receiving bribes, grand larceny, defrauding the government, and official misconduct, according to the Bronx district attorney's office.

The incidents were uncovered during ongoing investigations of corruption and mismanagement in the city's 32 community school districts. Nearly a dozen school officials have already been arrested as a result of the probes.

A journalism class at Dearborn (Mich.) High School sparked a furor last month when it attempted to measure anti-Arab prejudice and was accused of perpetuating such prejudice through its survey.

Included in the survey were questions that asked non-Arab students if they believed Arab students are too aggressive, steal, deal drugs, have poor personal hygiene, or discriminate against women.

Arab-American students, who account for about 10 percent of the school's enrollment, complained that they had not even heard of many of the listed stereotypes until the survey publicized them.

The school's principal, Ann Superko, sent a letter of apology to Arab students and their parents, and withheld the survey results from publication in the student paper.

The former superintendent of the Carlsbad, N.M., school district, ousted amid allegations of fraud in office, has filed a lawsuit contending that he was denied due process in his dismissal.

Roger Harrell filed the lawsuit last month in state court. School-board members voted 5 to 0 to fire him after reviewing a list of 23 allegations against the superintendent. Among other charges, the district contends that Mr. Harrell filed twice for reimbursements for business trips and filled his airplane with district gasoline to take personal trips, according to Pat Gaffney, the acting superintendent.

Mr. Harrell, who has mounted a public campaign on his own behalf, is scheduled to have an arbitration hearing in early May as part of the procedure for removing him, Mr. Gaffney said. His lawsuit seeks his reinstatement as superintendent and asks the court to halt any further attempt to remove him from the job.

A citizens' group has filed suit against officials of Rio Arriba County, N.M., over the scheduled construction of a jail next to an elementary school.

The lawsuit, filed March 27 in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, seeks to prevent the jail from being built next to an elementary school in Tierra Amarilla.

County officials did not tell voters the location of the proposed 50-bed jail until after the voters approved a bond issue to build the facility, the lawsuit contends.

The suit was filed by People for Rights of Children's Education, as well as three members of the Chama Valley school board. The board decided against filing its own lawsuit against the county, according to the superintendent, Delfinio Trujillo.

A rapist, a robber, a prostitute, and a dozen other convicted felons have been fired as school-bus drivers in Houston.

The drivers' felonious pasts were revealed late last month in a copyrighted story in The Houston Post. The article reported that 157--17.7 percent--of the district's drivers had criminal records.

Jean Raymond, superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, fired at least 15 drivers as a result of the story. Most of the drivers were fired for lying about their pasts, Ms. Raymond said, although some were fired because of the severity of their crimes.

According to the Post, 22 drivers had been sentenced for at least one felony; two had been convicted of committing misdemeanor sex offenses; and five had been found guilty of drunken driving. Post reporters checked Harris County records dating back to 1976.

According to its spokesman, the district has a system for checking the police records of all new employees. But the newspaper's investigation was much more thorough, she said, and revealed crimes committed after the drivers were hired and before the district's record-checking system was established in 1988.

The district currently is investigating ways to improve its system, the spokesman added.

A school-based health clinic in Cambridge, Mass., will be the first in the state to dispense condoms to students as a way of preventing the spread of aids.

By a vote of 4 to 3, the Cambridge School Committee last week approved the distribution of condoms at a health center run by the city in the Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School. No date has been set for distribution to begin. The health department was also charged with developing protocols for distributing the condoms.

The panel had approved the policy at its March meeting, but two members who voted against the decision asked for it to be reconsidered this month.

Massachusetts school officials are exerting pressure on the Boston School Committee to help individual schools that have not been successful in attracting students under the district's new "controlled choice" plan to become more educationally effective and attractive.

The state board of education is scheduled to vote this month on whether to approve the district's proposal to implement a new student-assignment plan for all grade levels in the district beginning next fall.

During its first limited year of operation, the plan has proved to be an effective means of improving desegregation in the district, state officials said..

The educational reorganization called for in the plan, however, has been delayed by a variety of factors, especially in the district's high schools, they added.

The state board may grant only provisional approval of the plan if improvements in meeting the reorganization are not made, said Charles Glenn, director of a new state team that is monitoring Boston's effort.

Vol. 09, Issue 29

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