District News Roundup

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A Philadelphia public high-school choir has filed suit in federal court against the city school district over its efforts to monitor the choir's personnel and repertoire.

In December the Philadelphia district issued regulations to implement the Federal Equal Access Act. Under the regulations, religious and political groups may use school grounds for meetings after hours as long as the group has no affiliation with the school or its faculty.

A spokesman for the district said that the Central High School Gospel Choir violates the regulations because its director is also a secretary at the school. District officials said that the choir may not rehearse religious music on school grounds while supervised by a staff member. If the group practices only secular music on campus, the choir director may participate.

J. Michael Considine, the lawyer representing the choir, said that the district is censoring the group, violating members' rights under both the First and 14th Amendements. The choir's gospel songs, he said, have a secular element in that they reflect the African-American cultural heritage. The district's action, he said, is "part of a frightening nationwide trend towards silencing religious expression."

The lawsuit also aims to protect the right of the director to continue working with the choir, an independent student group begun in 1987.

Mr. Considine said a settlement with the district may be forthcoming.

Federal civil-rights officials are investigating an eastern Kentucky school district after a parent complained that school officials were mistreating her 5-year-old son, who has a seizure disorder.

The U.S. Education Department began its investigation of the Pike County school district last month, according to a department spokesman, who said the complaint alleges violations of the federal law barring discrimination against the handicapped.

Reports allege that a teacher bound, gagged, and choked the 5-year-old student. The boy's mother has also complained that the county has failed to evaluate students' special-education needs.

The investigation, which will evaluate services for handicapped students as well as disciplinary procedures, follows a recent mistrial in the case of a special-education teacher in the district who was charged with criminal abuse for taping a student's hands and feet.

Officials at the Greasy Creek Elementary School have said that the most recent incident never occurred. Officials in Washington said they are not certain when the investigation will be completed.

A Florida school district is being sued by adult students who say that an investment class held at a public school led them to lose up to $200,000.

The case is one of several nationwide against Prudential Securities for its methods of selling limited partnerships over the past decade. It is the first such lawsuit to name a school district.

Six investors are suing the Dade County school board, which hired the broker to teach the adult-education class, as well as the broker and his company. The lawsuit charges that the instructor used the class to capitalize on the adults' financial inexperience to urge them to make risky investments.

Lee Schillinger, lawyer for the students, said the school board is a target because its involvement led investors to believe the course would be objective and closely supervised. A lack of oversight, however, allowed the broker to recruit students as new clients, Mr. Schillinger said, and invest their retirement savings in risky limited partnerships, bond funds, and real-estate investment trusts that went sour.

After the recent complaints, district officials fired the instructor--who had taught the course for seven years--for using the class for personal gain.

A federal judge has ruled that a Texas school district discriminated against a black principal by passing him over for advancement while hiring a less-qualified white applicant.

U.S. District Judge Howell Cobb this month ordered the Beaumont Independent School District to pay $50,000 in damages to Edward Senigaur, to compensate him for its decision to hire a white administrator with lesser credentials as a curriculum director.

Judge Cobb found that the district had "intentionally discriminated'' against Mr. Senigaur on the basis of race when it did not hire him for the post.

He also ruled, however, that Mr. Senigaur did not prove that the district was racially biased in two other instances when it passed him over for promotion.

Joe Austin, the district's superintendent, said that officials have not yet decided whether to appeal the decision.

A Conway, S.C., teacher who led a boycott by black athletes against the high-school football team was improperly fired for his actions, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Clyde Hamilton held this month that the Rev. H.H. Singleton was acting in his role as president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, not as a school employee, when he supported the boycott in 1989.

The boycott began when a black quarterback was replaced by a younger, white player before the 1989 season. Mr. Singleton, among others, charged that the switch was racially motivated, and soon became a spokesman for the protesters. White parents then threatened to withdraw their children from his science classes at the local middle school.

The school board fired Mr. Singleton, saying he was disrupting education, and the 28-year veteran of the system then filed suit, charging that his First Amendment right to freedom of speech had been violated.

Judge Hamilton held that since Mr. Singleton did not discuss the issue in his classes, he did not disrupt education.

A magistrate will decide on damages in the case. The district is weighing an appeal.

After two decades of decline or sluggish growth in enrollment, the New York City public schools are experiencing an unexpected influx of nearly 18,000 students.

The increase--nearly twice what school planners had predicted for this school year--was documented in figures released by the board of education last month.

The nearly 2 percent boost in enrollment was attributed to a new wave of immigration that planners now predict will intensify in coming years, possibly bringing the city's school enrollment to more than a million students by the year 2000.

Enrollment has been below that watermark since 1977. In recent years, growth has rarely exceeded one-half a percentage point.

The influx has raised concerns that class sizes will be pushed beyond their mandated 25-pupil maximum. Teachers already have been hired for or reshuffled to the hardest hit areas, but with the board preparing for large budget cuts, officials noted, new teachers will be hard to come by.

Moreover, the $4.3 billion in capital expenses slated through the 1993-94 school year is based on projections completed years ago, officials said, before the latest enrollment surge.

Two incumbents on the Los Angeles Board of Education have won re-election, while two other candidates face a runoff election June 4.

The two incumbents, Leticia Quezada and Warren Furutani, retained their board seats in the April 9 primary. Jeff Horton, a teacher and a former field representative for Jackie Goldberg, an outgoing board member, was elected to the board to replace Ms. Goldberg.

United Teachers of Los Angeles supported all of the winning candidates.

In the race to replace Rita Walters, who is in a runoff for a seat on the city council, Sterling Delone and Barbara Boudreaux will compete in a runoff election June 4.

Mr. Delone is a teacher and Ms. Goldberg's current field representative. Ms. Boudreaux is a principal in Los Angeles.

Another board member, Julie Korenstein, also is in a runoff for a city-council seat, which could create another opening on the school board.

Vol. 10, Issue 30

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