State News Roundup

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Five former students of private trade schools in Louisiana have filed suit against state officials, charging that they have been lax in enforcing licensing standards for the schools.

Many proprietary schools are inflicting "educational and economic injury" on their students, according to the lawsuit, filed this month in state district court in Baton Rouge. Many students drop out of the schools because of inadequate instruction and are unemployed, adding to the problem of student-loan defaults, the suit contends.

The state currently licenses 175 such schools, most of them for-profit institutions that provide training in such skills as cosmetology, nursing assistance, and computer data entry.

Named as defendants in the suit are Gov. Buddy Roemer, state Superintendent of Education Wilmer S. Cody, the department of education, and the state Advisory Commission on Proprietary Schools, including its members and executive director.

The five former students from the New Orleans area ask that their suit be certified as a class action, representing all other students at proprietary schools in the state.

The suit asks, among other things, that state officials be required to ensure that such schools have honest advertising about their completion and job-placement rates.

A North Carolina task force created to identify ways to improve the state's system of secondary education has called for a change in top-level leader6ship positions and in tenure and certification policies for teachers and principals.

The Task Force on Excellence in Secondary Education was appointed last fall by Superintendent of Public Instruction Bob Etheridge after the state's students scored last in the nation on the Scholastic Aptitude Test.

In a preliminary report issued this month, the panel criticized the state's general high-school track as archaic and called for advancement through the school system and graduation to be based on demonstrated competency.

The task force also said that the state's system of shared leadership between an elected state superintendent and a state board of education nominated by the governor contributed to the problem.

The state's Governor, James G. Martin, is a Republican, while Mr. Etheridge is a Democrat.

A series of public hearings will be held on the task force's proposals before it issues a final report in November.

The provision in North Carolina's constitution requiring that state fines and forfeitures go to public schools does not apply to funds seized during federal drug arrests, a federal appeals court has ruled.

Instead, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled, such money can properly be used to beef up law enforcement in the state.

The three-judge panel of the court upheld a lower-court decision that the Winston-Salen-Forsyth County schools are not entitled to $10,638 seized by Winston-Salem police during a drug arrest in February. The money was turned over to officials of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. The police department later applied to receive 85 percent of the money under a U.S. Justice Department program to disburse funds seized during drug raids.

The court ruled that the language of the state constitution limits how state fines and forfeitures can be used.

"The plain language [of the section] limits its application to forfeitures resulting from a 'breach of the penal laws of the state,"' Judge William W. Wilkins Jr. wrote in the unanimous decision.

Law-enforcement officials say the decision could free up some $3 million a year to fight crime in the state.

The Vermont Supreme Court has upheld the state's truancy law in the face of a claim by two parents that its enforcement violated their religious freedoms under the First Amendment to the Constitution.

The decision, handed down earlier this month, cleared the way for Lisette and Richard DeLaBruere to stand trial on truancy charges, which were filed after the couple placed their son, Luke, in a religious school that failed to meet state requirements.

The school, operated by the Church at Island Pond sect, had refused to comply with requirements that it provide the state with a list of students.

The religious group's refusal stemmed from a 1984 incident in which the state raided the sect's headquarters and removed 112 children to investigate allegations of child abuse. The children were released when a court declared the raid unconstitutional.

In the Supreme Court ruling, the justices said the state's interest in ensuring that the child receives an education outweighed the religious concerns involved.

Vol. 09, Issue 35

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