District News Roundup

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The Baltimore County, Md., school system has agreed to re-evaluate the placements of 580 students with disabilities as a result of an investigation by the U.S. Education Department's office for civil rights.

In a complaint filed with the O.C.R., a coalition of disability-advocacy groups in the area charged that, by segregating the disabled students, the district was violating Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, which requires that disabled students be educated with their nondisabled peers "to the maximum extent appropriate.''

The district operates six facilities that serve a variety of disabled primary and secondary students in the county.

In an agreement signed late last month, Superintendent of Schools Stuart Berger acknowledged that the district could not demonstrate that the educational needs of the students could not be met in regular classroom environments, possibly with the help of supplementary aides and services.

Mr. Berger also agreed that there is no evidence the students could not participate in extracurricular activities to a greater degree with their nondisabled peers.

Under the agreement, the district must re-evaluate each student's placement. If the student's needs can be met in a regular classroom, he or she must be moved there and provided necessary services.

The district must also explain to the federal office how students remaining in segregated facilities will participate in extracurricular activities with nondisabled students.

The district has until the 1995-96 school year to fully comply with the agreement.

Mark Mlawher, the executive director of the Maryland Coalition for Integrated Education, one of the groups that brought the suit, said the agreement confirms that the district has systematically segregated special-education students from their nondisabled peers.

A mock "slave auction'' held last month in a Chester County, Pa., elementary school has sparked a state investigation as well as demands from local civil-rights leaders that the teacher and the district superintendent resign.

The incident took place at Octorara Elementary School in Attlen, Pa., during class discussions of the life of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. As part of a class demonstration, Mary Horning, a 1st-grade teacher, chose two black children to portray slaves, who were then "sold'' for $10 and $15 each. A white child was chosen to act as an overseer on a slave boat.

Two weeks later, parents of the two black children, along with members of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, picketed the school and demanded the resignations of Ms. Horning and Superintendent Timothy Daniels.

Ms. Horning, who said she had conducted the demonstration in previous years, apologized to the parents, and district officials said they would take no steps against her. The state education association and the local teachers' union also issued statements supporting Ms. Horning.

Dissatisfied with the district's response, the parents filed a formal complaint with the state human-relations committee, whose report is expected within a month.

The parents took their complaints nationwide through an appearance on the "Donahue'' talk show.

Because of the "auction'' and earlier racial problems at the local high school, officials said they have formed a committee of teachers, administrators, students, and parents to study the district's racial climate.

Superintendent of Schools Franklin L. Smith of the District of Columbia last week released a list of 40 public schools that he will consider closing or consolidating in an effort to tighten the school district's budget.

Among those targeted is the city's model academic high school, two junior high schools participating in Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly's youth initiative, an elementary school with an innovative bilingual curriculum, and several schools that were spared in the city's last round of closings.

In an agreement struck last month, Mr. Smith promised to close at least 10 of the city's 174 schools by next fall if the Mayor agreed not to trim the schools' $513 million budget. School officials also pledged to cut nearly 900 school employees from the district's payroll to help close a projected budget deficit of $750 million for the city over the next two years. (See Education Week, Feb. 3, 1993)

Although the superintendent's list of possibilities includes clusters of schools in 14 areas of the district, most are on the city's eastern side, where the majority of school buildings are located. Mr. Smith said he could decide to close at least one school in each cluster.

The school board and superintendent are expected to appoint task forces in each of the city's eight wards to organize community meetings and submit recommendations to the board by April.

The California Supreme Court has struck down a unique tax on developers levied by the Chino Unified School District that went beyond the surcharges permissible under state law.

While officials said the 6-to-1 ruling this month will not affect any other districts, it does shut off a potential revenue source that analysts said would have quickly been copied had the Chino fee been allowed.

Under state law, school districts can charge developers for new dwellings as a way to offset the costs of opening new neighborhood schools. Beyond that fee, which is calculated according to the size of the project, Chino officials had charged a tax for each new dwelling.

Chino district officials said the high court's ruling will cost them $45 million in projected revenue over the next 18 years.

The board of the Mobile County, Ala., public schools voted late last month to buy out the contract of Superintendent Douglas Magann for nearly $250,000.

The decision--on a vote of 3 to 0 with two abstentions--brought to a close an acrimonious battle between Mr. Magann and the board in the state's largest district.

The board had suspended Mr. Magann, who began his tenure in July 1991, for 90 days beginning last Oct. 5, and it began a job-termination hearing in December.

The suspension had followed the defeat at the polls of a local school property-tax referendum. Mr. Magann had opposed the measure.

Board members had also charged the superintendent with the inappropriate use of funds, insubordination, and mismanagement.

The settlement agreement cleared Mr. Magann of all such charges.

The board bought out about 80 percent of the remaining 2 1/2 years on Mr. Magann's contract. Mr. Magann was paid $126,072 annually in salary and benefits, Gene Tysowsky, a district spokesman, said.

Mr. Magann's resignation took effect Feb. 1.

School officials in the Atlanta city school system have received orders to end the display of the state flag, which includes the Confederate battle emblem.

Taking its cue from the city council, which banned the flag from its chambers this month, the city school board directed Superintendent Lester W. Butts to issue an executive order that the city's 117 schools and other facilities stop flying the flag.

Before the board took action, the superintendent had earlier planned to issue a directive on his own authority giving schools the option of lowering the flag, a school spokeswoman said.

Gov. Zell Miller has been working with a reluctant legislature to remove the Confederate emblem from the state flag.

Vol. 12, Issue 22

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