District News Roundup

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A private school in Hawaii may not require all of its teachers to be Protestants, despite such a stipulation in the will of its 19th-century founder, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled last month that the Kamehameha Schools are "primarily secular'' rather than religious and thus are not exempt from federal civil-rights laws.

The school was created by a trust under the will of Bernice Pauahi Bishop, once Hawaii's largest landowner, who died in 1884. She decreed that separate schools for boys and girls be created--the schools have since been combined--and that the teachers "forever be persons of the Protestant religion.''

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the school on behalf of Carole Edgerton, a non-Protestant who was denied a job as a substitute French teacher because of the religious requirement. The commission contended that the school's policy violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employment discrimination based on religion and other factors.

A federal district judge ruled that the school could maintain the discriminatory policy because it met three exemptions for religious institutions contained in Title VII.

However, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit reversed that decision on March 31, concluding that although the school teaches religion and requires daily prayers of its students, it fails to qualify for any religious exemption because it is not owned or controlled by a church.

The panel also agreed that the Protestant-only requirement has no relationship to a teacher's ability to teach such secular subjects as French.

"We conclude the schools are an essentially secular institution operating within an historical tradition that includes Protestantism,'' the panel said in E.E.O.C. v. Kamehameha Schools.

The teachers' union in Columbus, Ohio, has charged in a lawsuit that the district school board violated state law when it hired a district superintendent who lacks credentials for the job.

The suit, filed on March 30 in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, also questions the authority of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ted Sanders to grant a four-year "provisional certificate with deficiencies'' to Larry Mixon, the superintendent of the Columbus district.

The district board appointed Mr. Mixon to the position last year even though it was aware that he could not earn the necessary credentials for the job until after completing some required coursework, the union charges.

Robert L. Moore, the state assistant superintendent of public instruction, said the district board and the state schools chief "acted in accordance with what we've been doing for the past three superintendents'' that managed the city's schools.

The Columbus Education Association, joined by a group of parents, teachers, and students, is pursuing the case because "Mr. Mixon did not meet all of the criteria to get a superintendent's certificate--even a provisional one,'' said Walter J. Gerhardstein, the lawyer for the teachers' union.

"I think there is a clear legal duty'' that the board and school officers have bypassed, Mr. Gerhardstein added.

Black residents of Jonesboro, Ark., have charged in a suit that the at-large system of electing the local school board disenfranchises black voters.

The federal suit, filed late last month against the all-white, seven-member Jonesboro school board and the district's superintendent, alleges that the system for electing the school board violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

That law, the suit asserts, requires that majority-black wards be established for school board members whenever possible.

Michael D. Booker, a lawyer from Little Rock who filed the suit, said in an interview that no black person has ever served on the Jonesboro board and that the only black candidate to run for a seat was defeated by an "overwhelming negative vote from the white community.''

The student population of the Jonesboro district is about 81 percent white and nearly 18 percent black, according to district figures.

A federal appeals court has held that the practice of praying at mid-court after basketball games in a Duncanville, Tex., public school violates the Constitution's ban on the establishment of religion.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit late last month upheld the decision of a federal district judge who in 1991 ordered an end to the prayers pending further hearings.

A student-athlete at Reed Junior High School, known in court papers as Jane Doe, and her father, John Doe, filed suit against the district complaining that the girl was ridiculed by teachers, students, and fans for not joining her teammates in the prayers.

U.S. District Judge Robert B. Maloney ruled that the school's actions violated all three standards set by federal courts in determining if a policy violates the prohibition against the establishment of religion. He issued an injunction banning the prayers and other religious practices at the school.

U.S. Circuit Judge Jerry E. Smith, in his opinion for the three-judge panel that heard the case, noted that the school also included prayer at other school events.

The appellate court also denied the Rutherford Institute of Texas Foundation, a conservative advocacy group, the right to intervene in the case, saying it had filed its petition too late. The group wanted to intervene on behalf of 60 students and parents who sought to overturn the injunction banning after-game prayers.

A federal judge has upheld a one-year suspension for a Clifton Park, N.Y., student who allegedly set off three bombs in empty school lockers in January.

U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Scullin denied a bid by Scott M. Campbell, 16, to return to Shenedehowa High School.

Mr. Campbell was suspended on Jan. 22 after he and three other students were arrested and charged with planting explosives in the lockers. No one was injured in the incidents.

Mr. Campbell recently returned to school under a temporary federal court order and was seeking an extension.

The student has also sued the school district for $250,000, claiming that Superintendent John Yagielski of the Shenendehowa school district violated his right to due process and caused him emotional distress by suspending him.

Although Judge Scullin ruled that Mr. Campbell was being harmed by not being allowed to attend school, there was not enough evidence to prove that Mr. Yagielski was biased in the case, according to the student's lawyer.

A district superintendent in Illinois has been suspended over charges that he improperly billed the district for personal costs and diverted school funds to finance a former school board member's college tuition.

Superintendent Allen J. Klingenberg of the J. Sterling Morton High School District 201 was placed on administrative leave late last month following school board allegations that he billed the district $3,510 for personal moving expenses and that he spent excessive amounts of school funds on entertainment, travel, and public relations.

The 5,000-student high school district, which serves both Cicero and Berwyn, is facing a $9 million budget deficit.

The board also alleges that Mr. Klingenberg authorized an anonymous donation of $4,500 in school funds to Trinity Christian College, where Steven Kozlowski, a former school board member, is seeking a teaching degree. The board is investigating whether the donation was used to subsidize Mr. Kozlowski's tuition.

According to Ron Wade, the business manager of Morton High School, Mr. Kozlowski resigned from the board the day Mr. Klingenberg was placed on administrative leave.

Mr. Klingenberg has not commented on the charges.

The Cook County attorney's office has just begun its own investigation, Mr. Wade added.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled last month that a school district policy barring married employees from being covered by two similar health plans violates the state's fair-employment laws.

The court upheld two lower-court decisions and found March 16 that the Maple school district's policy violates a statute that prohibits discrimination based on marital status.

The teachers who filed the suit claimed that the policy limited families' health benefits by forcing married school workers, but not single employees, to choose between the district's health plan and the plan offered by a spouse's employer.

School officials defended the policy, saying that it saved the district thousands of dollars a year in insurance premiums.

Vol. 12, Issue 29

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