District News Roundup
A federal judge has turned back an effort by Hispanic and Asian-American voters in Oakland, Calif., to require city officials to redraw local voting districts before this November's elections for school board and city council.
Population variances in the current districts, which were drawn on the basis of the 1980 census, have become more pronounced in recent years and should be corrected in light of the 1990 census before the city's next planned redistricting in 1993, according to backers of the lawsuit filed last November.
U.S. District Judge Fern Smith ruled last month, however, that while the city's reapportionment delay was "constitutionally suspect,'' it was justified by the city's efforts to base the new districts on revised census data.
Oakland voters have approved a ballot measure that would create a 10-year redistricting cycle that would begin in 1993.
Currently, the local school board has no Asian or Hispanic representatives. Together, the groups account for about 15 percent of the city's population.
Three former members of the Harlan County, Ky., school board have filed a lawsuit in county circuit court challenging the state education commissioner's constitutional authority to remove local school-board members.
The three men were ousted by the state school board after a weeklong hearing. A fourth board member and the district's superintendent resigned shortly after the state lodged its charges last year.
In their suit filed last month, the board's former chairman, Benny Dale Coleman, and the ex-board members, Ronnie Ball and David Lewis, charge that the education department exercised powers reserved for the state attorney general. The men claim they still hold office and are seeking a court order preventing their replacement.
The state had anticipated that the Harlan County decision would spark a challenge to the governance provisions of the 1990 Kentucky Education Reform Act.
In the lawsuit, the men contend their rights to a jury trial were violated and say they are considering a federal lawsuit alleging that they were denied their rights under the First and Fourth amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
The Baltimore Teachers Union has sued the city of Baltimore, charging that a salary-reduction plan there is unconstitutional.
The union, which filed suit last month in federal district court, objects to the city's decision to save money by not paying teachers for one week of work. That works out to a 2 percent pay cut.
The state board of education rejected an earlier proposal to furlough teachers and close Baltimore's schools for a week because students would have been in school for fewer than the state-mandated 180 days.
A second lawsuit, filed by the union in
state court at the same time, challenges an amendment passed last fall by the state legislature that allowed local jurisdictions to renegotiate existing contracts. Baltimore's teachers had negotiated a 6 percent pay raise, which was subsequently deferred because of Maryland's ongoing fiscal crisis.
The 8,500-member union has asked a judge to hear the federal case before the school year ends.
A circuit-court commissioner in Milwaukee has barred a 16-year-old from having any contact with the teacher he assaulted earlier this year.
The Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association won the court order for the teacher late last month. The order bars the youth, who was expelled after the incident, from contacting the teacher in person, on the telephone, or through third parties.
The teacher had been having problems with the student before the assault. While the teacher and the assistant principal were discussing the boy's disciplinary problems, the student threw a wastebasket at the teacher, but the teacher was not injured. As the teacher was walking back to his room, however, the student attacked him from behind, hitting him in the side of the head and knocking him to the ground. It took five stitches to close a cut in the teacher's ear.
After the assault, the teacher was subjected to repeated threats from the expelled student's friends.
The case marks the first time the Milwaukee teachers' association has had to seek a court order to protect a teacher, said Donald Ernest, the association's executive director.
"There seem to be more and more assaults against teachers,'' Mr. Ernest said. "We're going to make sure teachers are protected. If it requires us to go to court, we will do that.''
The school board in Hamilton, Ohio, has upheld a decision by school officials to suspend a 9th-grade student for five days for giving Tylenol to a classmate.
Jeff Sittason, the superintendent of schools, said the girl, Dana Merry, violated district policy against knowingly carrying and distributing a drug in school. Although the school's policy does not explicitly include over-the-counter drugs, Mr. Sittason said, students are told in yearly assemblies and in a student handbook that common, nonprescription drugs such as Tylenol are also covered by the policy.
He said the girl's family has indicated it will challenge the board's decision in Butler County Common Pleas Court, and that the girl will remain in school until the matter is resolved.
A group of 33 black and Hispanic parents has filed a lawsuit against the Alexandria, Va., school system, charging that the selection process for the district's kindergarten program is unconstitutional.
The parents filed the suit in federal district court late last month, charging that the process "artifically and unfairly limits'' the enrollment of minority children.
Candidates for the three-year-old kindergarten program--which takes place in six sites across the city, each hosting 22 students--are chosen by lottery. Under the system, 50 percent of the students are white and 50 percent are from minority groups. Any vacant spots are automatically filled by minority students.
Victor Glasberg, a lawyer representing the families, calls the selection process "inappropriate'' for a district with a 70 percent minority population. A random lottery would be more equitable, Mr. Glasberg said.
The parents are asking that, out of fairness to students who won slots in the January lottery, more minority students be added to the program to approximate the racial makeup of the general student population.
The school board's chairman, Melvin Miller, said that the quota system was meant to attract nonminority parents who had been sending their children to private schools for lack of an all-day public-kindergarten program and to ensure that minority students would have a good chance of placement.
The board will soon be discussing a random selection process, Mr.
Vol. 11, Issue 25