District News Roundup

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The Granite, Utah, school district may opt to provide home tutoring for severely disabled children who need constant nursing care, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge David Sam said last month that the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act does not require the district to provide in-school nursing care for severely disabled students.

The parents of a student identified as Shannon M., a 7-year-old with muscular dystrophy who must use a feeding tube and a respirator, had sued the district when officials refused to provide the nursing care in schools. The care for Shannon would have cost the district an estimated $30,000 a year.

Judge Sam said the district's seven nurses, who must serve 75,000 students in 90 schools, could not be expected to care full time for one student.

"The expense of providing Shannon's requested care would undoubtedly take money away from other programs,'' Judge Sam said in his opinion.

While Shannon would receive more educational benefit from being in school, Judge Sam held, the district met the federal law's provisions by providing her with sufficient home instruction.

At least eight other children in the district were awaiting the ruling, school officials said; in-school care for those children has been estimated at $270,000 a year.

School officials expect the ruling to affect as many as 50 other severely disabled children in the state.

Four former Clarke County, Ga., district officials have been arrested on charges of diverting more than $330,000 in school funds for personal use.

Carol Purvis, the former superintendent; Bernie Stills, the former personnel chief; John M. Benton, the former director of district services; and Chester Strader, a former consultant for the 11,000-student school system, have been charged with violating the state's racketeering, influence, and corrupt-organization statute.

The investigation began in September 1991, when a local computer vendor notified the district attorney that the school officials failed to deliver $91,000 worth of school computers the company had purchased.

The officials are charged with selling district-owned computer equipment, and illegally appropriating county tuition funds and funds from a parent-teacher group, said Scott Berry, an investigator for the district. The alleged diversions go back as far as 1985, he added.

Mr. Purvis, who had headed the school system for the past 10 years, retired on Dec. 31. The other officials also resigned before last month's indictment.

If convicted, the former officials face up to 20 years imprisonment each.

An appeals court in Wisconsin has ruled that the Maple School District illegally discriminates against married teachers by preventing them from carrying duplicate health insurance if their spouses are also insured.

The case stems from a contract the district negotiated with teachers in the 1986-87 school year that required married teachers whose spouses were covered by comparable health insurance to select either the school's policy or their spouse's policy.

Five married teachers sued the district, but the state's Labor and Industry Review Commission ruled against the teachers. A circuit court judge, however, overturned the commission's ruling, and a three-judge district court of appeals panel agreed last month that the policy was discriminatory because it did not treat all employees the same.

A Maple School District official estimated that the policy had saved the 1,300-student district more than $100,000 over the past six years.

Because other employers in Wisconsin, including school districts, have similar policies, the decision could have broad implications.

Four Philadelphia students have been arrested in connection with a series of 11 fires at a middle school over the past two weeks.

The fires, at Roberto Clemente Middle School, have led the school's principal to declare a "state of emergency'' and impose new security measures.

The names of the students, who are minors, were not released.

The fires began March 16 at the eight-story school, formerly an old factory that was converted in 1968 to accommodate 1,200 students. The fires, which did only minimal damage to the building, stirred a protest by more than 60 parents who charged that the school was unsafe, according to Anibal Soler, the school's principal.

Discussions of possible new sites for the school have begun, and administrators have encouraged parents to become more involved in safety measures.

The school has formed a crisis-prevention task force that has sponsored assembly programs, counseling for students who were disturbed by the fires, and a talk from the fire marshal's office about fire prevention.

Students may no longer walks the halls without permission and without a student escort, and parents have begun working as hall monitors, Mr. Solar said.

The chairman of the Boston School Committee has proposed creating a residential treatment and education center for students caught carrying a weapon on campus or within 1,000 feet of a school.

In a March 18 memorandum to Superintendent of Schools Lois Harrison-Jones, Paul Parks asked that her legal staff draft legislation to create "an alternative therapeutic, rehabilitative and educational program outside of the public school system.''

The memo was drafted the same day a Boston high-school student was stabbed by another student as he waited for a morning tardy pass outside school.

The program would represent a collaboration among several school districts and offer a minimum of six months of residential treatment followed by six months of day treatment before the student could return to school, according to Mr. Parks' memo.

A similar treatment program already exists for students who are caught on school property carrying weapons other than guns, officials said.

Larry W. Faison, a spokesman for the superintendent, said Ms. Harrison-Jones did not have a specific response to Mr. Parks's proposal but would "take that under advisement'' along with an upcoming report from a youth-safety task force.

The New Ipswich, N.H., school board has decided to back officials who had secretly installed a video camera in a boys' rest room to film alleged drug deals and vandalism.

Approximately 500 local residents attended a recent board meeting to support the two officials' action.

Robin Pierce, the principal of Mascenic High School, and Raymond Brodley, the chief of police, installed the camera as part of a police investigation after traditional methods to curb the drug dealing and vandalism had failed. The school board and superintendent were not consulted.

"I preferred that I was out on the limb alone,'' Ms. Pierce said of her decision not to inform her superintendent.

So far, the camera, which was in place for two weeks, has helped police bring juvenile-delinquency charges against one student.

Since no policy on police investigations existed, school-board officials are now developing a policy regarding issues of search and seizure, cooperation with police officials, and police investigations.

Federal authorities acted in bad faith when they denied a pregnant student at an American Indian school admission to the National Honor Society, a federal appeals court has ruled.

Judge Charles Wiggins of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held last month that the Tohono O'Odham high school, located on the O'Odham Indian reservation in southern Arizona, acted in bad faith when it denied Elisa Cazares, a top student and class officer, admission to the local chapter of the honor society in 1989 because she was pregnant and without a boyfriend.

The appeals court affirmed a district-court ruling that school officials had an "arrogant and calloused attitude ... from the beginning.''

The government had argued that the N.H.S. induction ceremony should be held without Ms. Cazares. After the district court ordered that the ceremony not take place without Ms. Cazares, school officials canceled the ceremony altogether. School officials said they did so in order to preserve their appeal, which they later dropped, a step Judge Wiggins described as "frivolous.''

John Harris, who represented Ms. Cazares, was ambivalent about the appellate ruling.

"They found that the U.S. government acted in bad faith at every step, but none of this does anything for her, or the other kids--none of them got into the National Honor Society,'' Mr. Harris said.

He noted that Ms. Cazares transferred from O'Odham during the trial, was retroactively admitted to the honor society, and has since returned to the school.

Vol. 11, Issue 28

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