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A federal district judge gave the Indianapolis school system permission last week to proceed with a controversial "controlled choice'' school-desegregation plan. (See Education Week, Jan. 27, 1993.)

Superintendent Shirl E. Gilbert 2nd, who had come under fire for moving forward with the district's proposed "Select Schools'' plan before it had won court approval, last week called U.S. District Judge S. Hugh Dillin's decision a "victory for the children of the community.''

Lawyers for black plaintiffs who had intervened in the case and the Indiana State Teachers Association had opposed the district's request for permission to implement the new student-assignment plan.

Donald Payton, a board member, had called for Mr. Gilbert's dismissal if the court rejected the plan, which the district had spent $1.5 million promoting before it received court approval.

Judge Dillin denied an assertion by the black plaintiffs that a desegregation plan the district adopted in 1986 was working well and, therefore, should not be changed. Noting that one-third of the district's schools currently are outside the racial-balance guidelines contained in the 1986 plan, the judge concluded that the new plan would improve integration.

In response to an assertion by the state teachers' union that the new student-assignment plan would impose a hardship on the members of its local affiliate, the Indianapolis Education Association, Judge Dillin declined to pass judgment on portions of the plan that involve labor matters unrelated to desegregation.

District officials said they plan to proceed with implementing the program for next school year. More than 28,000 parents have already submitted applications indicating their choices under the plan, which allows them to select their children's schools so long as space is available and no racial imbalances will result.

A Virginia judge has temporarily blocked Richmond school officials from reassigning students who had been grouped together in an elementary school on the basis of their race.

Judge T.J. Markow of the Richmond circuit court said last week that the city school board had not held a required public hearing before ordering the principal of Bellevue Model Elementary School to move 74 of her school's 452 students to new classes. The judge delayed implementation of the board's plan to reassign the students until after a hearing.

The school's principal, who is black, had said she grouped her white students in the same classrooms for "social and emotional reasons.'' The parents who brought the practice to the board's attention complained, however, that the "clustering'' of students of the same race amounted to segregation. (See Education Week, Jan. 13, 1993.)

Robert Godfrey, a lawyer representing parents who had gone to court to keep the students from being reassigned to different classrooms this year, said his clients had feared that the education of their children would be disrupted if the youngsters were moved to different rooms this year.

The judge's decision, while delaying the reassignment of the students, still leaves open the possibility that the children could be moved before the school year ends.

A second school that the board had found practices "clustering,'' but which was not involved in the court case, is expected to begin moving about 70 students to different classrooms next week.

The Georgia state board of education last week voted unanimously to place more emphasis on the teaching of abstinence in sex-education classes, but rejected a controversial proposal to begin AIDS education in the 4th grade. (See Education Week, Jan. 27, 1993.)

Instead, the board voted to begin AIDS instruction in the 6th grade and to establish advisory panels made up of parents to guide implementation of the curriculum.

"We have to be sensitive to community standards,'' said Wagers Chenault, a spokesman for the Georgia Department of Education. "We want to give the community as much flexibility as possible about what is appropriate for students.''

A vote on a supplemental teaching guide that expands the definition of family to include homosexual or bisexual couples and includes a "neutral'' discussion of homosexuality was postponed for a later date.

Last week's special meeting was called to avert possible action by the legislature that would have restricted any curriculum "that violates Georgia law,'' which allows no discussion of contraception or AIDS in the schools.

Gov. Zell Miller, who vetoed similar legislation last year, said he "wholeheartedly endorsed'' the board's decision.

Written comment will be accepted for public review for 30 days, and final formal approval is expected when the board reconvenes on March 11.

Vol. 12, Issue 21

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