Schools Not a Target of Labor Probe, Officials Say

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Labor Department officials said last week that school-based work programs were not the primary target of a recent strike-force sweep that disclosed widespread abuses of child-labor laws nationwide.

School officials in San Diego County, Calif. and Churchill County, Nev., have complained that investigating alleged abuses of child-labor and farm-labor laws. But a spokesman for the department's wage-and-hour division said last week that the instances were not part of a deliberate probe of school programs.

Spokesmen for several vocational-education organizations said last week that they have not received complaints about Labor Department investigators apart from those from the two districts.

Labor Department investigators in California recently launched a probe of the "Bridges" program in the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District near San Diego. The program pairs at-risk students with local businesses and encourages students to work up to four hours a week from the $3.85 hourly training wage.

Department officials in Washington are reviewing the local inquiry, which focused on the participation of 13-year-old students, which is permitted by state law but prohibited under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

In the western Nevada school district, administrators are awaiting the results of an inquiry into an annual hay collection and sales program organized by the Churchill County High School's Future Farmers of America chapter. Labor Department officials in the state said an inspector began to examine the program after a complaint from a local farmer.

Department officials in Washington said last week that while schools were not being targeted for investigations, abuses of child-labor statutes continue to be a significant concern.

In strike-force operation this spring, investigators nationwide found 5,000 minors working in violation of federal laws in about 1,300 of the 4,700 businesses investigated. Federal officials said the sweep focused on retail stores, restaurants, recreational facilities, garment contractors, and construction companies.

Officials estimate that the operation will lead to $3.2 million in civil fines.

"Work can be an important element of learning for today's youth," said Secretary of Labor Lynn Martin in releasing the strike-force results. "But equally important is reaching a balance that encourages work experience while allowing ample time for education."

Vol. 11, Issue 39, Page 32

Published in Print: June 17, 1992, as Schools Not a Target of Labor Probe, Officials Say
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