District News Roundup
Violent and other serious crimes increased 29 percent in New York City public schools in the 1991-92 school year over the previous year, district officials reported this month.
The sharp increase, reflecting a trend found in many large cities, is the largest in the 30 years authorities in the city have been keeping such records. The increase reflected higher numbers of incidents of weapons possession, assaults, robberies, sex offenses, and possession of drugs.
In response, Chancellor Joseph A. Fernandez said the district would expand its use of metal detectors in the city's high schools. Mr. Fernandez said that 40 high schools will begin using the detectors every day; in the past, 21 schools used them once a week. The chancellor also announced that 20 security coordinators will be assigned to schools to handle all issues relating to school security.
Mr. Fernandez also proposed implementing additional security measures, such as X-ray machines, new police patrols at sevral schools, and electromagnetic door locks.
Eliot Wigginton, the founder of the Foxfire language-arts program, was indicted on a child-molestation charge last week in Rabun County (Ga.) Superior Court.
A 4th-grade boy from the Athens, Ga., public schools charged that on an overnight trip to a Foxfire event in May, Mr. Wigginton had undressed him and fondled him.
Mr. Wigginton denied the charge in a statement he issued on Sept. 15.
The nationally known educator and author has been suspended from his teaching duties at the University of Georgia in Athens, where he has been serving as a visiting lecturer in the education department under a three-year contract.
After learning of "allegations of improper behavior'' last May, university officials allowed Mr. Wigginton to continue teaching college students during the summer, said Holly Ponder, a university spokeswoman, but barred him from working with K-12 students in the Clarke County district, where he served as a consultant.
In the wake of the initial allegations, the board of the Foxfire Fund, the nonprofit corporation that administers Foxfire's educational and publishing activities, instituted a policy stipulating that two adults must accompany students working on projects outside the classroom. It also commissioned an independent review of its guidelines for the supervision of students participating in Foxfire activities.
In a statement, the fund also noted that Mr. Wigginton had voluntarily taken and passed a polygraph test regarding the allegations.
The Foxfire program grew out of a literary magazine, emphasizing local folklore, that Mr. Wigginton and his high school English students in Rabun Gap first published in 1967.
A high-school student in Amarillo, Tex., has been charged with five counts of aggravated assault, one count of attempted murder, and one count of unlawful possession of a weapon in connection with a shooting in his school this month, according to police officials.
During the incident at Palo Duro High School on Sept. 11, the 17-year-old allegedly opened fire on students returning from a pep rally.
The student, whose named was withheld, allegedly pulled out a .38 revolver during a fistfight with another student, and then ran down the hallway firing the gun to clear his way. Six students were shot.
Last week, one of the six remained in the hospital, while the others were released, hospital officials said.
The student, along with another who was also carrying a gun, were arrested after a brief chase by police. The second student has not been charged, police officials said.
Classes resumed last week with at least 85 percent of the students in attendance, school officials said.
Fearing voter resistance, the Cleveland school board has backed away from plans to ask for a tax increase in November.
Without a tax increase, the district is expected to run out of operating funds by the end of November and may need a $30 million to $40 million state loan that would put it under state receivership, a district spokeswoman said last week.
The board voted last month to rescind a June 11 vote to put on the ballot a 9.8-mill levy that would have raised an estimated $49 million annually.
Board members concluded that voters were unlikely to approve the measure, especially since there has been little visible progress in improving the city's schools under new board members elected last year on promises of school reform.
The board members also said they wanted to give Sammie Campbell Parrish, the district's new superintendent, a chance to cut costs by reorganizing the district's administration.
The Knox County, Tenn., school board has accused the county commission of violating the civil rights of students and usurping the board's authority by refusing to fund the district's school-desegregation plan.
In a class action filed in federal court this month, the board members said the commission has violated the civil rights of all of the district's students by refusing to fund plans for desegregation approved by the board in April 1991.
The dispute centers on the commission's unwillingness to provide $25 million for a new inner-city magnet high school in Knoxville.
By using its fiscal control for such purposes, the commission is attempting to dictate school board policy, the suit charges.
A federal judge in Norfolk, Va., has rejected a free-speech claim made by a middle school student who was suspended after refusing to change out of a T-shirt bearing the slogan "Drugs Suck.''
The parents of Kimberly Ann Broussard brought suit against the Norfolk school district after their daughter's suspension from Blair Middle School.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Robert G. Doumar wrote that "a reasonable middle school administrator could find that the word 'suck' even as used on the T-shirt, may be interpreted to have sexual connotation.''
The judge also said that regardless of any sexual connotation, the word could be considered offensive, vulgar, and disruptive when used in a school setting.
School officials said they were satisfied with the judge's ruling because it gives them the authority to regulate language displayed on clothing that they regard as inappropriate and offensive.
Officials of the American Civil Liberties Union said last week they were disappointed with the judge's decision, but they had not decided whether they would appeal the decision.
A Vermont judge has upheld the constitutionality of a reduction in state education aid that will cost the Burlington school district one-quarter of its expected state funding.
Superior Court Judge Alden Bryan ruled this month that the state's July 8 decision to cut $2.1 million in state aid to local districts on a sliding-scale basis was legal. Under the plan, the biggest cuts will be applied to school districts in affluent communities.
Burlington officials considered the sliding-scale measure adopted by state administrators unfair, and argued that a fixed percentage should have been cut from every district's allocation.
Judge Bryan, however, ruled that an equal distribution of cuts would have been unfair to poorer districts.
"We hold that it is simply not possible to apply a 1.5 percent rescission to the aid appropriated for each district without violating the basic legislative policy that drives state aid to education,'' he wrote.
Under the court order, the Burlington district will lose about $113,000. The cut means that the district will fall below the minimum state-aid requirement of $100 per student set by the legislature.
Lawyers for the city said they do not plan to appeal the decision.
The parents of an Albany, N.Y., kindergarten student have petitioned the state's education commissioner to order changes in the city's busing policies after learning that their daughter would have to commute 2 miles to school on two city buses.
James and Gretchen Bruner also removed their daughter from the public schools and are educating her at home.
While state law does not require small city districts to provide transportation, Albany offers busing for students enrolled in the district's desegregation program. Students who do not participate in the program are given passes to ride city buses.
"I'm all for integration, but I'm not sure my daughter is ready to participate in the racial balancing act,'' said Mr. Bruner.
Stephen Herrick, a lawyer for the district, said that Commissioner Thomas Sobol is more likely to consider the appeal on the issue of reverse discrimination rather than safety.
Mr. Bruner, he said, "is betting that the commissioner will order
Albany to fund additional transportation, rather than eliminate all
busing for students.''
Vol. 12, Issue 03