District News Roundup

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The Washington state board of education has given the Seattle school district a one-year waiver from strict compliance with state guidelines for racial balance in schools.

The state board voted unanimously this month to approve a plan by the Seattle district to ease its racial-balance guidelines in order to reduce mandatory busing and give more parents greater choice over where their children attend school.

Seattle will be allowed to raise its cap on a given school's minority enrollment, now 77 percent, to 82 percent. In doing so, the district should reduce the number of children being bused for racial balance from 736 this school year to between 100 and 200 next fall.

The state waiver also allows the district to operate free of a requirement that no more than half of the enrollment of any one school consist of members of a single racial or ethnic group.

Various local officials and community activists have argued that Seattle's desegregation plan, adopted 16 years ago to comply with the state guidelines, has made neighborhoods less cohesive while doing little to improve schools. Advocates for limited-English-proficient children also have asserted that, in its efforts to comply with the guidelines, the district has adopted admissions policies that block some students from access to bilingual-education programs.

During the one-year waiver period, a state task force will hold public hearings on the question of whether the state's racial makeup has changed enough to warrant a permanent change in the racial-balance regulations.

In granting Seattle the waiver, the state board stipulated that the district must develop, implement, and provide progress reports on a plan to keep schools integrated through such voluntary means as magnet-school programs.

The Colorado attorney general's office has alleged in a lawsuit filed against the Cherry Creek school district that district officials violated state campaign laws last fall by publishing information advocating a position on two ballot measures.

Colorado has strict laws barring such political subdivisions as school districts from spending public funds to sway voters on election matters.

In a suit filed in state court in Denver on March 16, the attorney general's office said the Cherry Creek district violated those laws by publishing information in a board newsletter about two controversial ballot measures affecting education.

The Sept. 14 edition of the newsletter, A Minute with the Board, noted that the board had adopted resolutions opposing Amendment 1, a tax-limitation measure that ultimately passed, and Amendment 7, a voucher proposal that was defeated by voters last November.

The lawsuit alleges that the school board failed to present a balanced report on the two ballot measures in the newsletter. The suit demands that the board account for all public funds spent on that edition of the newsletter and that the funds be repaid to the district using private contributions.

A spokesman for the district said officials believe the newsletter was appropriate because it was merely reporting official board action to the public.

The founder of an alternative school for potential dropouts in New York City has resigned his post after pleading guilty to charges that he fondled two male students.

Michael Friedman, 49, was the founder and director of the Bridge School, a public school for at-risk students in upper Manhattan. In a plea-bargain agreement entered in Manhattan Criminal Court, Mr. Friedman this month agreed to resign from his post, relinquish his city and state teaching credentials, and enter psychotherapy for an indefinite amount of time.

Mr. Friedman faces one year in jail if he fails to heed all the terms of the agreement.

According to a district spokesman, a relative of one of the boys involved called a state sex-abuse hot line last May. The other student taped a confrontation between himself and Mr. Friedman last spring. Mr. Friedman was arrested in December.

After the investigation began, eight other former students, including a woman who attended the Bridge School 15 years ago, came forward to accuse Mr. Friedman of sexual molestation. None of the former students pressed charges.

Mr. Friedman, a 27-year teaching veteran, was the principal of Public School 101 when he created the Bridge School in the mid-1970's.

Nine Los Angeles-area teenagers were arrested and charged this month with a variety of sexual-misconduct counts, including rape, in connection with a "points for sex'' game, police said last week.

The suspects, who range in age from 14 to 18, were charged on a total of 20 different counts, including statutory rape, child molestation, rape by intimidation, rape by force, and oral copulation by force, said Lieut. Joseph Surgent of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's juvenile-investigations bureau.

The suspects, all current or former students at suburban Lakewood High School, were alleged to have committed the acts between August and December of last year, Lieutenant Surgent said.

More than five girls ages 11 to 15 made the allegations, he said.

Last week, however, the Los Angeles district attorney's office declined to press charges against all but one of the male students charged. One juvenile was charged with lewd and lascivious conduct, a felony. The suspect entered a plea of not guilty.

The charges against four of the suspects were dropped entirely. The cases of another four will not be prosecuted pending further investigation by the sheriff's department, according to the district attorney's office.

Lieutenant Surgent said the group was a "loose knit'' gang known as the Spurs Posse, which had been under investigation for alleged crimes, including theft, assault, burglary, and forgery.

The members "kept score'' of their sexual conquests and each conquest earned a point, he said.

None of the alleged acts of sexual misconduct took place at school, Lieutenant Surgent said.

The Rochester, N.Y., board of education has rejected a tentative agreement that would have extended the contract the city's teachers are working under through the end of June.

The agreement would have given teachers a 4.6 percent raise, retroactive to the beginning of the school year. In voting 6 to 1 on March 12 not to approve the settlement, board members cited its cost and complained it did not include enough measures to hold teachers accountable.

In response, the Rochester Teachers Association has filed a charge of improper labor practice against the district. The union also has asked the state public employment relations board to conduct fact-finding on the contract, and has suspended further negotiations until the labor board can get involved in the contract talks.

An arbitrator in Milwaukee has ruled that the number of black teachers in the city's two African-American immersion schools must reflect the percentage of African-Americans teaching throughout the school system.

The decision was handed down this month after the teachers' union filed a grievance charging that the school district violated a staffing provision in the teachers' contract by hiring too many minority teachers for the immersion schools.

About 35 percent of the teachers in the two schools, which teach mostly black students about African-American heritage, are black; 23 percent of the school system's teaching force is black.

Under its contract with the teachers, the district agrees that the racial makeup of the teaching staff at each school must approximate the racial composition of Milwaukee's teaching pool.

Superintendent Howard L. Fuller, who expressed dissatisfaction with the arbitrator's decision, is likely to ask union officials to agree to a compromise, said Deborah Ford, the district's acting director of labor relations.

Vol. 12, Issue 27

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