District News Roundup

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A state judge has ruled that teacher strikes are illegal in Pennsylvania, arguably the leading teacher-strike state in the nation, because they deny students their constitutional right to a "thorough and efficient" education.

The ruling, handed down this month, stems from a six-week strike by the North Penn Education Association in 1986. The judge ruled that even though the school district held classes on holidays and extended the calendar into the summer in an attempt to make up work, the strike days deprived students of a quality education, said Frank L. Caiola, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

Four sets of parents had filed suit in Montgomery County, seeking to overturn the 1970 law that grants striking privileges to public employees on the grounds that it conflicted with the "thorough and efficient" constitutional mandate.

Another suit challenging the right-to-strike law was argued before the state supreme court last month. "It will [likely] make the issue in North Penn moot," said George Badner, assistant director of communications for the Pennsylvania State Education Association.

A handicapped California youth who could not attend his high-school prom because it was held in a shopping mall with no access for the disabled has been awarded $25,000 in a settlement approved this month by a federal court.

Scott Brammeier, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, had sought $3 million in damages in his lawsuit against the Mount Diablo Unified School District, the state department of education, and the Crocker Galleria, the downtown San Francisco mall where the prom was held in 1988.

As part of the settlement, state education officials are also required to advise public schools across the state of their obligation to uphold state and federal laws guaranteeing access for the disabled for school events taking place both on and off their campuses.

A federal appeals court has found that a school district in rural Virginia discriminated against black applicants as a result of hiring practices based on nepotism and favoritism.

In a decision handed down this month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld a lower-court finding that the Washington County school district had not intentionally discriminated against a black job applicant. Citing obstacles to black employment, the panel, however, ordered the district to institute a selection process that includes widely advertising jobs and prohibits giving preference to employees' relatives.

Patricia Thomas, a Washington County native who graduated cum laude from Emory and Henry College, sued her former school district on the grounds that she was denied teaching posts because she was black. Ms. Thomas had been bypassed for social-studies positions in part, the district argued, because she had failed to check a box on her application indicating she was certified. The information was, however, in her cover letter and resume.

The district, which has hired one black teacher since it was desegregated in 1963, hired 46 employees' relatives during the past three years, according to Bernard Via, the plaintiff's lawyer.

Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn last week became the first public high school in New York City to have a dress code as its 12th-grade boys began wearing dress shirts and ties to class.

Senior boys will wear such garb each Friday to set an example, and by February all male students will wear light-colored shirts and ties under the new code devised by the school's principal, Frank Mickens.

Because it is a public school, the code must be voluntary, but Mr. Mickens said he was confident all students would comply because of already-overwhelming parental and peer support.

A dress code for girls is under consideration, Mr. Mickens said. The principal has in the past banned excessive jewelry and expensive shearling and leather coats among the school's 3,800 students.

Donations of shirts and ties for students who cannot afford them have been pouring in from companies and individuals, many of whom have no connection to the school, Mr. Mickens said.

While he does not expect the code necessarily to improve the academic performance of the largely disadvantaged minority youngsters, Mr. Mickens said, he does believe it will foster self-esteem.

The parents of two students in the Lubbock, Tex., schools have obtained a temporary restraining order forbidding the district to enforce its dress code because they say it discriminates against their sons.

Michael Buckberry, an 11-year-old 5th grader who wears his hair in a "rat tail" style, and Yacatico Kelley, a 15-year-old Native American whose hair hangs below his shoulders, had been kept from regular classes for several weeks because their hair styles violated a newly revised dress code, said their lawyer, J. Edwin Price.

The boys returned to school Oct. 18 after a state judge issued the restraining order preventing the district from enforcing the code, Mr. Price said.

The boys' parents have filed suit in the same court against the district, claiming that the dress code violates the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment to the Texas constitution by inflicting sex-based discrimination on boys.

The judge in the case is scheduled to decide at a Nov. 8 hearing whether to make the injunction permanent, according to Mr. Price.

Six varsity football players are among 10 high-school students in Charlotte, Mich., charged in a string of break-ins that netted $10,000 in property and cash, according to local police.

The suspects range from sophomores to seniors at Charlotte High School, said Lieut. Kent Ruesch of the Eaton County sheriff's department. A former student at the school has also been charged.

Two of the players charged have already been suspended from the team, which is enjoying its best season in 30 years, and the remaining four are awaiting school action, Lieutenant Ruesch said.

The 11 youths have each been charged with between one and five counts of breaking and entering, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison, Lieutenant Ruesch said. They are accused of taking stereos, videocassette recorders, guns, cash, and jewelry in eight home and business break-ins over the last 10 months in the county of 90,000 near Lansing, according to the officer.

One of the current Charlotte students was the ringleader, who was able to recruit the rest because "they didn't want to look like wimps," the officer said.

Vol. 10, Issue 9

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