District News Roundup

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Officials of the Phoenix Union High School District have accused locally based federal immigration officials of arresting and intimidating students in an effort to find illegal aliens.

Sylvia Long, the director of the district's migrant-education program, held a press conference late last month to accuse U.S. Border Patrol agents of rounding up and intimidating students in an effort to get them to reveal information about their citizenship status.

Two teenage girls participating in the press conference, who face deportation as illegal aliens even though their parents are in the United States legally, recounted being ordered by agents into an unmarked van and then taken to a downtown building where they were questioned about their parents' immigration status.

The Border Patrol's actions have led some families to be deported and have frightened some children away from school, district officials said.

But Ed Pyeatt, the assistant chief patrol agent for that area's sector of the Border Patrol, called the accusation that the
agents target students "ludicrous.'' Juveniles accounted for only 178 of 1,200 people picked up by his agents during the first three months of this calendar year, he said.

Mr. Pyeatt added, however, that documents related to the apprehension of the two girls have been sent to the inspector general's office in the U.S. Justice Department to ensure there had been no misconduct by the agents.

About one-fifth of the public schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District were closed late last week in response to rioting that followed the acquittal of four white police officers charged in the beating of a black motorist.

A spokesman for the district said concern over student safety prompted the closing last Thursday of 78 elementary schools, 14 junior high schools, and 13 senior high schools in south-central Los Angeles, where the disturbances were most intense.

By Friday, all schools in the district were closed as were many private schools. Colleges cancelled classes and closed their campuses.

In addition, students in that area who usually are bused to schools in other parts of the city were not being bused, and private schools reported a drop in attendance.

Last Wednesday, a jury of 12 in nearby Simi Valley acquitted three of the officers on all charges stemming from the the videotaped beating of Rodney King; they deadlocked on one charge against the fourth policeman in the nationally watched case.

The Rockford, Ill., school board cannot violate the seniority rights of teachers in its efforts to integrate its teaching staff, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has ruled.

A three-judge panel of the court ruled late last month that a consent agreement between the board and plaintiffs in the district's desegregation case should have no bearing on a separate contractual agreement between the board and its teachers.

The Rockford board entered into the consent decree without admitting or being found guilty of racial discrimination, and thus the courts never had an opportunity to issue a finding against the district that could have been used to justify the voiding of portions of other agreements such as teacher contracts, the appeals court ruled.

The appeals court directed a district court to vacate portions of the consent decree that relieved the board of its obligation to bargain with unions and that called for the board to override seniority provisions of collective-bargaining agreements that prevented it from re-assigning teachers.

A citizens' group in Clarksdale, Miss., urged black parents to keep their children home from school for two days last month in an effort to pressure the school board to hire a black superintendent.

The Clarksdale board last week was waiting to hear the recommendations of a biracial committee from the community before choosing from among the four finalists for the superintendency, only one of whom is black.

School officials and advocacy-group members disagreed sharply in their accounts of the level of involvement in the boycott by the district's 4,500 students, about three-quarters of whom are black.

A spokesman for the citizens' group said about 1,000 students stayed home the first day and 1,500 the second; district officials said only 600 and then 200 students were absent.

Darnell Felton, a lawyer for the advocacy group, said his organization wants Assistant Superintendent Donnell Harrell, the only black candidate, to succeed the district's retiring superintendent.

A New York City superintendent has said he will appeal the recommendation of a state education-department panel that he lose his credentials for failing to disclose a drug conviction from almost 20 years ago.

William E. Ubinas, the superintendent of Community School District 1 in New York since July 1990, recently admitted that he was convicted in 1974 on felony charges of selling cocaine and possessing marijuana as an 18-year-old student at Auburn University. Mr. Ubinas also acknowledged that he answered "no'' to a question on his application asking if he had ever been convicted of a felony.

Mr. Ubinas has argued that he thought his criminal records were sealed, and he did not intentionally deceive the state.

"It was a youthful mistake 18 or 20 years ago that's coming back to haunt me,'' said Mr. Ubinas, who has won praise for helping turn around the depressed Lower East Side district. "My record speaks for itself.''

Mr. Ubinas has 30 days to appeal the panel's recommendation--handed down late last month--to Commissioner of Education Thomas Sobol, who will decide whether to accept or reverse the recommendation.

An Arkansas high-school teacher accused of touching the breast of a 16-year-old female student found the charge against him dismissed when a state judge ruled the alleged action was not illegal.

Judge John Langston of the 4th Division Circuit Court of the 6th Judicial District ruled late last month that the girl's allegation against Carl A. Latting did not constitute first-degree sexual abuse because no force was used or threats made, said Stuart Vess, Mr. Latting's lawyer.

Mr. Latting, who has maintained that he did not touch the girl in that way, was "elated'' at the verdict, Mr. Vess said.

Arkansas laws do not cover a situation in which such touching occurs against a person's will, Mr. Vess said.

The student, whose name has not been released, alleged that Mr. Latting, a teacher and basketball coach at the East Campus of North Little Rock High School, called her out of an English class to return with him to his gym office. She testified that once in the office, Mr. Latting moved close to her, touched her left breast and moved his hand down toward her belt.

Mr. Latting, a 13-year veteran of the district, has been suspended with pay since his Nov. 1 arrest and would like to return to his job, Mr. Vess said.

The school board is expected to decide this month whether Mr. Latting may return to teaching, said Scharmel Burnett, a school-district spokesman.

Six families and Planned Parenthood of Northeast Florida have filed a suit against the Duval County school board in an attempt to block the use of a controversial sex-education program that espouses abstinence.

In the suit, filed last week in a state circuit court, the plaintiffs charge that the "Teen-Aid'' program violates Florida's "teen pregnancy'' statute, which stipulates that districts offer comprehensive education on the prevention of pregnancy, AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases.

The curriculum now is taught to 7th graders in the 115,000-student district.

Linda Lanier, the president of the Planned Parenthood chapter, called the curriculum incomplete, inaccurate, racially and sexually biased, and embodying a religious point of view.

"The Teen-Aid program is a 'just say no or die' curriculum,'' Ms. Lanier said. "It believes that death should be the appropriate punishment for the sexually curious.''

A legal adviser to the school board said that the curriculum adheres to state law and that the board has the authority to choose curricular material and will continue to use Teen-Aid unless otherwise ordered by the court.

More than 60 students from the Southeast Elementary School in Sycamore, Ill., were injured last week during a tour of the O'Hare International Airport outside Chicago when a driver lost control of his car and slammed into the children on a sidewalk.

A 9-year-old was killed in the collision, which left six people, including an aiport tour guide, in critical condition. Airport officials said 16 people were reported in serious condition and 44 were treated and released at area hospitals.

Chicago police were continuing to investigate the accident late last week. Officials said the children had finished a tour of the airport's exterior and had unloaded from buses for an inside tour when the crash occurred. An airport spokesman said that more than 600 youth groups tour O'Hare each year.

Vol. 11, Issue 33

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