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A superior-court judge in the District of Columbia has held the city in contempt and given officials until February 1992 to provide at least 20 hours of nursing services per week in every public school.

Judge Ronald P. Wertheim last week ordered city officials to hire 29 more school nurses by the beginning of next semester. He set a three-week deadline for them to file a plan about how they intend to comply with that order.

The contempt citation stems from a 1989 lawsuit filed by the advocacy group Parents United for the D.C. Schools. The suit alleged that the city was not complying with the terms of a 1987 city law requiring nursing services in all public schools. A 1990 court order gave the city until the start of this school year to hire enough nurses.

But Judge Wertheim noted that a nurse is on duty fewer than the required 20 hours per week in 45 percent of secondary schools and 82 percent of elementary schools.

"We believe this is a very serious need of children," said Rod Boggs, a lawyer for Parents United. "Thousands of children become ill or injured every year on school grounds, and they have no immediate medical attention except from untrained teachers and administrators. There's no excuse for this."

Officials of the city's human-services department argued that a nationwide shortage of nurses and the relatively low salary offered to entry-level school nurses has made it difficult to fill all the necessary positions.

A spokesman said the department is "committed to full compliance with the court order."

Counselors were working to ease racial tensions in Dubuque, Iowa, schools last week after fights erupted between black and white high-school students. School officials attributed the fights to community resentment over a city council plan to further integrate the overwhelmingly white community.

The plan, which calls for 100 new minority families to be attracted to the city by 1995 through public and private recruitment efforts, was drawn up in response to a cross burning at the home of a local black family in 1989. Since the plan was adopted last May, however, there have been several additional cross-burning incidents in the city, and racial epithets have been spray-painted on public and parochial schools, said Howard D. Pigg, superintendent of the Dubuque Community School District.

Late last month, police were called in to maintain order after fights erupted between black and white students in Dubuque Senior High School, which has 1,450 white students and 12 black students, Mr. Pigg said.

Prompted in part by a recent rise in juvenile crime, the Houston City Council has approved both daytime and nighttime curfews for children ages 17 and under.

The curfews, which were to begin Nov. 9, run from midnight to 6 A.M. seven days a week and 9 A.M. to 2:30 P.M. on school days, said Eddie Reeves, a spokesman for Mayor Kathryn Whitmire.

The night curfew passed late last month on a vote of 13 to 1; the day curfew, however, passed only by 8 to 6, Mr. Reeves said.

Some private schools may have school calendars that are different from the public schools, Mr. Reeves said, and "that's probably something that's going to have to be worked on if it becomes a problem."

One proposal before the council had the nighttime curfew affecting children 16 and under, but the council decided to include 17 year-olds in both regulations, Mr. Reeves said.

High-school graduates are exempt from the curfew, as are children accompanied by a parent; those going to or from school, work, or a religious activity; and those on the sidewalk in front of their homes.

Children and parents can be fined up to $200 for breaking the curfew, but first or second offenses are not likely to bring such a penalty, Mr. Reeves said.

Less than three weeks after two Philadelphia teenagers were murdered during attempted robberies of gold jewelry they were wearing, city officials there have issued a health advisory warning youths not to wear expensive jewelry and leather jackets in public.

The advisory, issued by the city's health and police departments and a local anti-violence organization, was prompted by the growing number of reports of teenagers killed or injured during attempted robberies of their valuable clothing and jewelry. But the Philadelphia advisory differs from similar advice given to youths in other cities because it treats urban violence as a public-health problem.

"Like some communicable diseases, violence is occurring at epidemic levels in many neighborhoods," said Robert K. Ross, Philadelphia's deputy health director. "It is clear that teenagers who don't flaunt valuables may literally save their lives."

The Philadelphia Board of Education has voted to modify its policy on sexuality to encourage students to refrain from sexual intercourse until they are "ready to enter marriage or some other mutually monogamous relationship." The policy previously spoke only of "a mutually monogamous relationship" and made no mention of marriage.

The change, adopted by a 6-to-1 vote late last month, was in a policy adopted by the board in June, when it voted to make condoms available to high-school students. The original wording was intended to recognize heterosexual and homosexual relationships outside of traditional marriage.

But a number of groups, including the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, had argued that only the term "marriage" should be used in the policy. Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, Philadelphia's archbishop, issued a statement before the vote calling on parents to lobby the board on the issue.

"A resolution... which fails to recognize the difference between the institution of marriage and a mere mutually monogamous relationship will bring tragedy upon the youth of our schools," Cardinal Bevilacqua wrote.

As of last week, the cardinal had issued no statement on the result of the school-board vote, a spokesman for the archdiocese said.

An offer by a national health-club company to donate more than $60,000 to offset the need for a new user's fee for extracurricular sports has been rejected by the Dallas Independent School District.

Because of state funding cuts, which resulted in an $800,000 loss to the athletic budget for the city's schools, the district is in the process of implementing a $10-per-sport user's fee for all extracurricular sports in junior and senior high schools. The user's fee would raise an estimated $50,000. The unnamed health club firm had offered the district's athletic department a percentage of its profits from a telephone marketing service it was offering its members.

John Kincaide, the district's athletic director, applauded the firm's intentions, but noted that "our legal department perceived the offer to be a promotional deal rather than a gift."

Mr. Kincaide, who has been vocal in his belief that sports programs enhance daily attendance rates, added that other companies are interested in making financial contributions to the athletic department.

The parents of a disabled 13-year-old who charge that their son died because of a forced run at school may sue the Edwardsburg, Mich., school district under a federal civil-rights law, a judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Benjamin Gibson held that Gloria and Joseph Waechter may hold school officials liable for the December 1988 death of their son, Michael.

Michael, who had a congenital heart defect and wore an orthopedic leg brace, allegedly was ordered by a teacher to run a 350-yard sprint in two minutes as punishment for talking in line with another classmate during recess. He died of cardiac arythmia during the run.

While Judge Gibson dismissed some of the charges, he upheld the parents' claim that the school may have violated the boy's right to due process under the 14th Amendment.

The plaintiffs' claim is premised on Section 1983, a law prohibiting government officials from depriving U.S. citizens of constitutional rights. Judge Gibson found reason to believe that the recess teacher, as a representative of the state, had a "custodial relationship" with the plaintiffs' son, and was potentially liable under Section 1983.

Charles Behler, a lawyer representing the school board, said it would not appeal the court's decision. .

Vol. 11, Issue 11, Pages 2-3

Published in Print: November 13, 1991, as District News Roundup
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