District News Roundup

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In what is apparently the first ruling against the Boy Scouts of America in a religious-discrimination case, a California judge has found that the youth group violated the civil rights of twin Cub Scouts by refusing to advance them in rank because they would not "swear a duty to God.''

Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard O. Frazee made the "tentative decision'' earlier this month, saying that he intends to order a permanent injunction against the Orange County Council of the Boy Scouts to prevent it from penalizing the 10-year-old brothers, Michael and William Randall, because of their religious beliefs.

Judge Frazee found that the Boy Scouts qualified as a "business establishment'' under state civil-rights law and, therefore, could not discriminate against its patrons. The judge also rejected the Scouts' claim to the constitutionally guaranteed rights of free association.

At a January 1991 den meeting, the boys said they did "not know what God was'' and would not pledge a duty to God in order to earn a badge and advance in their Cub Scout group.

"I'm pleased by [the decision],'' said James G. Randall, the boys' father, a lawyer who represented them in the case. "It's a vindication for us.''

The Boy Scouts intend to appeal, a lawyer for the group, George A. Davidson, said.

A federal judge has rejected an Oregon student's challenge to his school's mandatory drug-testing policy for athletes.

James Acton, a student at the Washington Grade School in Vernonia, refused to participate in the district's drug-testing program, required for all student athletes. The 12-year-old's parents charged that the policy violates their son's state and federal constitutional right not to undergo unlawful search.

The district's three-year-old policy is unique in the state and one of a handful nationwide. It requires an annual urinalysis of all athletes in grades 7 through 12, followed by random weekly tests throughout the year. Students with positive results are permitted to continue playing sports if they agree to undergo counseling and weekly drug testing. James, who had been eligible for the football program, sat out this season.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Malcolm March said that the 685-student district's policy is not overly intrusive, and that the need for a drug-free athletic program outweighs the student's rights.

"It's a further erosion of the right of privacy,'' said Tom Christ, a lawyer representing the Actons. He noted that, while the district acknowledges that James does not take drugs, he is nevertheless compelled to submit to random testing.

Mr. Christ added that an appeal is possible.

An empty school bus was shot full of holes as bus drivers and other classified workers in Knott County, Ky., continued to strike last week.

Attendance among the county's 3,500 students was up to 70 percent last week after falling to as low as 40 percent during the first days of the strike earlier this month, school officials said.

Almost half of the district's classified workers, including a vast majority of the bus drivers, have walked off the job in an effort to force the district to recognize a local of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters as their bargaining unit.

In the shooting incident, a nonstriking bus driver said two striking colleagues first asked him not to make his runs, then threatened him. He discovered the bullet holes and shattered windows in the bus the next morning. No one was injured in the incident.

Late last week, a Knott County Circuit Court was set to consider the district's request that the strikers be ordered to return to work.

New York State school officials have ordered schools in the suburban Long Island community of Huntington to take steps to correct procedures that may be leading to an overrepresentation of minority students in the special-education programs there.

Black students, for example, represent 9.5 percent of students in the Huntington Union Free School District, but account for more than 29 percent of students in special-education programs. And one-fifth of all disabled students--but only one-tenth of the total school-district population--are Hispanic.

In its report, the state department of education said some minority students may be improperly placed in those programs because the district did not provide tests in their native languages or had failed to comply with other state special-education rules for identifying students in need of special help.

The report also recommended that the district reverse its policy barring bilingual education for non-English-speaking students. The district now offers only additional English instruction for students who do not speak English.

Richard B. Stock, the local superintendent of schools, said the district was taking steps to address the problems outlined in the report.

Kentucky education officials have suspended the interim superintendent of the troubled Harlan County school district after a local grand jury indicted her on theft and forgery charges.

The state school board appointed Martin L. Carr, a former superintendent, as the acting head of the school district, where earlier action by the state led to the resignation of its superintendent and one school-board member and the ouster of three other board members.

Grace Ann Tolliver, who succeeded the district's former superintendent, Robert Shepherd, earlier this school year, was charged along with Garry Henson, a former board member, with falsifying invoices allegedly to disguise $2,289 in payments from the school district to Mr. Henson's flower shop.

Both are scheduled for arraignment in Harlan County on May 22.

In the meantime, the state continues to run the 6,400-student district. A lawsuit by the ousted board members has kept their successors from being sworn in and halted the search for a new superintendent.

At its meeting earlier this month, the state board also suspended Danny Scalf, the superintendent in Jackson County, on misconduct charges. A hearing has been set for June 8.

A community school board in New York City has rejected a curriculum guide designed to teach 1st graders respect for homosexuals.

The board of Community School District 24, which serves 27,000 students in Queens, voted recently to ban the use of "Children of the Rainbow,'' a 432-page guide that includes a two-page section urging teachers to be aware of the growing number of children raised by homosexual couples.

The curriculum was created by the city's board of education as part of its 1989 mandate to promote a curriculum that reflects diversity on the basis of race, sex, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.

Frank Sobrino, a spokesman for the central board, upheld the district's board's right to reject any curriculum guide "as long as it sticks to the multicultural-education policy.''

Andy Humm, a representative of a local gay social-services agency and a member of the city's multicultural advisory board, said that several of the city's 35 community school districts have quietly rejected the guide, but that District 24 was the first to do so openly.

Mr. Humm said the incident eventually will force the citywide school board to clarify its mandate. "The board never explained to districts how they should include gay issues in the curriculum,'' he said.

A California judge has ordered five Fresno school districts to schedule new school-board elections in the wake of tampering with absentee ballots in last November's elections.

A superior-court judge last month overturned the election of 12 candidates who ran with the support of the Black-American Political Association of California in the Washington Union High School District as well as four elementary-school districts.

Judge Donald Franson found that the association improperly distributed absentee ballots and encouraged voters to complete the ballot in the presence of its campaign workers. Officials expect the elections to be rescheduled for this November.

Vol. 11, Issue 35, Page 2

Published in Print: May 20, 1992, as District News Roundup
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