District News Roundup

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Schoolchildren in Boston are going without needed medical services as a result of drastic cutbacks in the number of school nurses employed by the school system, according to a report by a court monitor.

Richard Cohen, who was appointed by a state court to monitor special-education services in Boston schools, warns in his report, issued last month, that the lack of adequate school nursing services may be violating the state's special-education law as well as other state health and safety regulations.

This year, the number of nurses serving the 60,000 students in the system was reduced from 86 to 53 due to budgetary cutbacks. As a result, the report says, some children, such as those with attention-deficit disorder, are not getting the medication they need to control their behavior. Some severely disabled children, who need the services of a full-time nurse in school, have been unable to attend school all year.

Moreover, according to Mr. Cohen, "things like screening for scoliosis, vision and hearing problems, and head-lice inspections, which are normally done in the fall, haven't been done.''

He called on state health and education officials to conduct a full investigation of the matter. A state court is expected to rule later this year on alleged violations of special-education law cited in the report.

The comptroller of New York City has charged that the board of education's methods of keeping track of high school textbooks is inadequate, leaving some students with books that are more than 19 years old.

In an audit released this month, Comptroller Elizabeth Holtzman reported that a random sample of 266 of the 700 textbooks found in 30 city high schools showed that almost 30 percent were outdated.

However, due to the board's inadequate inventory methods, it is impossible to know how many students are actually using old textbooks, Ms. Holtzman said.

One estimate is that at least 34,000 of the city's 255,000 high school students are using outmoded books in at least one class.

A history book published in 1967, for example, contains a map that depicts East Pakistan and West Pakistan, neither of which exists under those names any longer.

The comptroller also said that school officials often buy new books that they already have in sufficient supply. The auditors found more than 20,000 new textbooks that were not needed at the 30 high schools sampled, according to Ms. Holtzman.

As much as $1.5 million of the $7 million the city spends on textbooks each year is wasted, Ms. Holtzman charged.

Schools Chancellor Joseph A. Fernandez agreed with Ms. Holtzman's recommendation that the schools revamp their inventory methods.

The Kalkaska, Mich., district has announced that it will close its schools and graduate its seniors this week because it lacks funding to stay open until June.

District officials announced their decision Monday after voters there overwhelmingly voted down a 28 percent property tax increase advocated as necessary to overcome a budget shortfall.

"It is clear that property owners and taxpayers are unwilling to bear the total burden of funding education through property tax,'' said a statement issued jointly after the vote by officials of the district and its unions for teachers and support personnel.

The proposed property-tax increase, rejected by a vote of 2,367 to 1,150, was needed to help the 2,300-student district overcome a $1.5 million shortfall in its current $10.3 million budget, according to Superintendent Doyle A. Disbrow.

A spokesman for State Superintendent of Public Instruction Robert E. Schiller last week said state education-department officials were awaiting advice from a gubernatorlal panel that is investigating how to deal with the district's financial problems.

Superintendent Lois Harrison-Jones of Boston has endorsed an AIDS-prevention curriculum that would stress abstinence, and the city health department has proposed providing health counseling and condoms in a new system of school-based health clinics.

The joint proposal represents the first time that school officials in the city have sanctioned a condom-distribution plan for the schools.

"There is a need to have access to young people during this [AIDS] epidemic, and the most appropriate place would be the school setting itself,'' said Larry Faison, a district spokesman. "We need to address the health and the educational needs of the students and deal with the epidemics [of AIDS and pregnancy] in a comprehensive way.''

Ms. Harrison-Jones recommended that the school board adopt an "enhanced abstinence-based curriculum'' that is age-appropriate in each of the city's schools "to prevent pregnancy, H.I.V. [infection], and other sexually transmitted diseases.''

The city's health department would administer the clinical services, including the condom distribution, which would be available to students before or after school.

Two health centers in Boston high schools now provide general health services to students, but are operated by private organizations.

A 17-year-old soccer player from a leading private school in the Los Angeles area has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly kicking an opponent during a match.

Los Angeles police said the case marks the first time that the department has recommended that charges be filed against a high school player for actions during an athletic event.

Police decided to seek charges against the youth from the Harvard-Westlake School after watching a videotape of the match, which took place Feb. 3.

The videotape showed that a player from an opposing team was kicked in the head, rendering him unconscious, authorities said.

Authorities have not released the name of the accused.

The Minnesota Civil Liberties Union has filed suit against the state and the St. Paul school district for enacting a plan that would allow potential dropouts to attend a parochial school.

The suit, filed in Ramsey County District Court, contends that the plan violates the state's constitution by providing public financing of a religious institution.

Two years ago, the district contracted with St. Bernard's High School to teach up to four students who were about to quit school. The students would be able to take only nonreligious courses.

The civil-liberties union charges in its suit that the educational and religious missions of the school cannot be separated.

No public school students have yet been accepted by the Roman Catholic school.

A 1991 state law allows public schools to contract with private and parochial schools. State and federal courts have upheld a similar state program under which public high school students take courses at religiously affiliated colleges at public expense.

Three high school students in an affluent Detroit suburb have been charged with purchasing as much as $200,000 worth of goods using stolen credit cards.

Officials said at least a dozen students from Andover High School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., may be involved in the scam, which began in early December. That month, three students were arrested at a shopping mall in the neighboring town of Novi when they allegedly attempted to buy designer watches using stolen credit cards.

Police charge that, over all, the students stole more than 40 credit cards from parked cars, school lockers, and, in some cases, their own parents, and gave them to the group's ringleaders to buy expensive shoes and stereo equipment.

Officer Vere Wirwille of the Novi police department said that two 18-year-old students have been charged as adults on several counts of credit-card fraud; if convicted, each faces four years in prison and a $2,000 fine on each count of fraud. Another student, who will be arraigned in juvenile court, was also charged with possession of a pipe bomb. All three have been released on bail.

"It's not a school matter,'' said Principal John Toma of Andover High School, who added that no disciplinary actions have been taken against the students.

Vol. 12, Issue 26

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