District News Roundup

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A federal court has cleared the way for the Hillsborough County, Fla., school system, which includes Tampa, to dramatically change a school-desegregation plan the district adopted 20 years ago.

In a ruling issued last month, U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich approved a plan to create more than $150 million in new magnet and middle schools and to bus thousands of children from the suburbs into the inner city to desegregate schools in the 125,000-student district.

When the plan is fully implemented in five to seven years, the number of students being bused for desegregation purposes will decrease from 17,000 to 10,000, and black students will be less burdened by busing, district officials said.

The plan faces two legal challenges, however, from lawyers for parents in a Tampa neighborhood called Town'N'Country.

A lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court charges that the plan invades the privacy of the neighborhood's residents, while a petition filed with the Florida Department of Administration asserts that the plan is invalid because it was worked out behind closed doors by the district and local officials of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has upheld a lower-court ruling that allows the Austin Independent School District to end busing at the elementary-school level.

In 1987, the district moved to end elementary-school busing and to institute a neighborhood-school plan in an effort to relieve overcrowded classrooms and to create 16 priority schools with extra resources for disadvantaged students.

Civil-rights groups argued, however, that the changes instituted in 1987 would resegregate the district's schools.

Judge John Minor Wisdom of the appeals court held that the changes were constitutional because they did not intentionally segregate. He cautioned the district, however, to ensure that it equitably funds schools with large minority populations.

Responding to an increase in school violence, the Houston Independent School District has approved a $1'5'million security plan that will give campuses the options of using armed officers and instituting in-house suspension programs.

Under the plan, approved by the beard last month, schools may also begin using hand-held metal detectors, two-way radios, fencing and roof-mounted lights, identification cards for students in high schools and middle schools, and "panic button" security systems in selected classrooms.

"There has been an increase in violence in the community and the schools," said Les Burton, the district's security director. "We've had some vehicles drive by and discharge firearms, and over the last three years, there has been an increase in weapons."

Under the plan, officers of the newly named H.LS.D. Police Department will be authorized to wear guns and uniforms on high-school and middle-school campuses that request it.

Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, has acknowledged that the church "made mistakes" in its handling of cases involving priests accused of child sexual abuse.

In an open letter to church members late last month, Cardinal Bernardin said he was appointing an advisory commission on the issue of child sexual abuse. The panel's first task will be to determine whether any current clergy assignments "might put people at risk."

The cardinal responded following news reports in the Chicago media last month about a parish priest in suburban Berwyn who was accused of making sexual advances toward a 20-year-old man. The priest had been accused in 1982 of exposing himself to several altar boys during a picnic and was under orders not to be alone with anyone under 21 years of age. The Berwyn police are also investigating the allegations of a 14-year-old girl who claimed that the priest touched her improperly.

The priest left the church in July and is in a treatment center, said Joy Clough, a spokesman for the archdiocese.

A Garland, Tex., middle-school principal riled parents and advocacy groups last month when he banned the speaking of Spanish in the school to prevent Hispanic students from using the language to curse at teachers.

Joe Brown, principal of O'Banion Middle School, instituted a policy subjecting students to suspension or even expulsion if they were caught using Spanish outside of language classrooms.

Twenty percent of the school's 981 students are Hispanic, but only two teachers there speak Spanish. Officials of the Garland Independent School District said students were using Spanish to curse at their teachers.

Mr. Brown later lifted the ban after parents and advocacy groups pressured the district.

A Los Angeles-area high school has forfeited an important football game rather than play at its opponent's field where a drive-by shooting occurred early last month.

Officials said it apparently was the first time in recent memory that an area high school had forfeited a game due to fear of violence.

Despite beefed-up security and the change of game time from night to daylight hours, Banning High School in Wilmington last week notified Dorsey High School in Los Angeles that it would forfeit the Nov. 1 varsity game because of safety concerns, said Willard Love, Dorsey's assistant principal.

Banning also forfeited its B team's Oct. 31 game against Dorsey High, said Richard Browning, a division administrator for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The Banning and Dorsey varsity teams are ranked No. 1 and 2 in the city, respectively, Mr. Love said.

Both games would have been played at Jackie Robinson Stadium, adjacent to Dorsey High in Los Angeles's Crenshaw district-the scene last month of a gang-related drive-by shooting that injured a Dorsey student and another youth, Mr. Love said.

By forfeiting, Banning could face sanctions by the governing board of the Los Angeles City Section of the California Interscholastic Federation, Mr. Browning said.

A coalition of businesses in Des Moines last month announced that it would limit the work hours of high-school-aged workers to ensure that they have more time for study.

The Coalition of Student Employers agreed that its student employees generally will not work past 10 P.M. on school nights or more than 20 hours a week. Exceptions will be made for students supporting themselves or their families. Employers who allow students to work longer hours are being encouraged to talk with school officials and parents.

A study conducted last year by a Des Moines high-school principal found that 26 percent of the juniors and seniors at his high school worked at least one school night a week past 10 P.M. and that 3.5 percent worked 40-hour weeks.

Vol. 11, Issue 10, Pages 2-3

Published in Print: November 6, 1991, as District News Roundup
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