District News Roundup

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The Denver school board has rejected a plan submitted by black and Hispanic plaintiffs for ending federal court jurisdiction over its desegregation case.

Dorothy A. Gotlieb, the board president, this month sent lawyers for the plaintiffs a letter notifying them of the board's decision and citing "huge additional costs'' as one reason for it.

The proposal, if fully implemented as submitted in March, would likely result in the expenditure of more than $50 million for program enhancements and facilities, district officials said.

In her letter, Ms. Gotlieb also said board members were struck after reading the plan by the lack of consensus within the black and Hispanic communities.

District officials also asserted that the plan would effectively impose a whole new set of judicially enforceable requirements on the district, and would delay until at least 2003 the court's consideration of whether to end jurisdiction.

In January 1992, the district asked a federal court to end jurisdiction, but the court postponed a decision in order to give the two sides an opportunity to negotiate.

Students at a Seattle-area high school last week voted down an amendment to the high school constitution banning homosexuals from serving in the student government.

The school administration endorsed the vote.

Introduced by a group of religious conservative students at Bremerton High School, the amendment sought to bar from office any student found to be practicing such "immoral activities'' as indecent exposure, sexual harassment, or homosexuality.

According to the proposal, the amendment aimed to "preserve the integrity and high moral standards that Bremerton High School is built upon.''

After being approved by the student council by a vote of 49 to 47, the proposal was brought before each homeroom. Two-thirds of the 54 homerooms rejected the measure, so the proposal was brought before the entire 1,350-member student body.

Principal Marilee Hansen said amendments to the school's constitution usually deal with disciplinary appeals or impeachment proceedings. She noted that school administrators usually deny one or two of the students' constitutional measures each year.

Two students at Princeton (W.Va.) High School last week smuggled guns and military rations into class, took two dozen classmates hostage, and shot at the principal before being tackled and disarmed by another student.

An 18-year-old, Kevin LaRose, and an unidentified 15-year-old were being held in connection with the incident last week.

School officials said the pair brought a shotgun and several handguns into the school May 16, took a biology class and its teacher hostage, and demanded several million dollars and additional weapons. The 15-year-old allegedly shot at the school's principal after a negotiating session.

The standoff ended when another student tackled the 15-year-old and Mr. LaRose fled.

Officials said they knew of no motive for the assault.

Commissioner of Education Peter McWalters of Rhode Island has ordered the Pawtucket school board to devise a plan for integrating its schools.

Mr. McWalters this month notified the Pawtucket board that he had found racial imbalances in nine of its 15 schools and gave it 90 days to present state officials with a plan to correct the situation.

The board's plan should address not only school enrollments, but also "issues of student access, treatment, services, and achievement,'' Mr. McWalters said.

A policy established by the Rhode Island board of regents in 1970 defines a school as racially imbalanced or segregated if its percentage of racial minority students deviates by more than 10 percentage points from the percentage for the district as whole.

As of last fall, racial minorities accounted for 25.4 percent of the 8,950-student enrollment of the Pawtucket schools. Five elementary schools, two of three junior highs, and both of the district's high schools reportedly have minority enrollments of less than 15.4 percent or more than 35.4 percent, thereby putting them out of compliance with the state guidelines.

The progress a disabled child makes in school may be irrelevant in determining whether a special-education placement was appropriate, a federal appellate court ruled this month in a split decision.

The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upholds a lower-court ruling in a New Jersey case involving Garrett Fuhrmann, a disabled elementary school student whose parents placed him in a private program because they were dissatisfied with his progress in the public school program in East Hanover.

In the public school program, the boy had made minimal progress, achieving only one of the 41 goals outlined for him in his individualized education plan for that year. Garrett fared much better, however, in a local private school where, at the end of the year, he had achieved all 50 of his objectives.

In seeking reimbursement for the private school tuition, the boy's parents contended that the federal district court had failed to adequately consider Garrett's later progress.

The appellate court maintained, however, that such information was merely hindsight, provided school officials had "reasonably calculated'' an education plan that would benefit the boy.

In a dissent, however, Judge William Hutchison, said "evidence of how things turn out ... sheds light on the capabilities of the child and unveils the potential that once hid in the future.''

Superintendent Howard L. Fuller of the Milwaukee public schools has proposed shortening the district's coming school year by an undetermined number of days as one means of bringing its budget into line.

Mr. Fuller told board members at a recent meeting that the district could meet an anticipated $15 million budget shortfall by asking the state's permission to cut back on a combination of instructional and noninstructional days.

Such a move, Mr. Fuller argued, would be less severe than the two other options before them: cutting programs or laying off additional employees.

The shortfall in the district's estimated $689 million budget for the 1993-94 school year actually has been placed at $66 million, but Mr. Fuller had already proposed $47 million in cuts, mostly through layoffs.

The board is expected to set the budget on June 30.

A Michigan judge has rejected a call from the parents of a blind student in Kalkaska to order the reopening of the district's schools, which closed 10 weeks early because of a budget shortfall.

Ruling in a suit brought by the parents of Robbie Burghardt, Circuit Court Judge William Porter this month said he would not order the schools reopened to provide classroom instruction for the boy.

The youth's parents filed suit last month, charging that the district was violating state and federal law in failing to provide special-education services for their son and other students with disabilities.

After the suit was filed, the district resumed the special individual rehabilitative services that the 4th grader requires, but refused to resume classroom instruction.

The district closed its schools March 24 after taxpayers refused to approve a property-tax increase for schools.

Judge Porter said a formal opinion on the case would follow.

A pact ending a three-year boycott of Miami tourism includes several provisions regarding education and worker training, according to city officials.

The boycott began after officials in Dade County, Fla., snubbed the South African anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela during a 1990 visit. Several black community leaders demanded an apology and, when none was forthcoming, called for tourists to boycott the city. The resulting boycott drew national attention and cost the city an estimated $25 million to $50 million.

The agreement signed this month includes provisions calling for 125 management-training scholarships in the hospitality industry for blacks over the next five years and 20 or more internships beginning this summer that will include college tuition, summer jobs, and the offer of a job after graduation.

In addition, the city pledged to locate the 200 most outstanding black high school and college graduates who have left Dade County and make efforts to entice them to return to the county to live and work.

Vol. 12, Issue 35

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