District News Roundup

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A high school teacher in Chelsea, Mich., walked out of a staff meeting one day last month and returned with a semiautomatic gun, fatally shooting the superintendent and wounding the school's principal and another teacher, according to police.

Police said the shooting occurred after classes had ended for the day at a meeting between administration officials and staff members; police had not determined a motive for the attack as of last week.

Joseph Piasecki, 47, the superintendent of Chelsea schools, was shot four times in the chest and killed, police said.

Principal Ronald Mead and Phil Jones, an English teacher, were each shot once but not seriously injured.

Stephen Leith has been charged with murder and two counts of assault; a preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 20.

The school board has sent 60 mental-health counselors to district schools to help students and teachers cope.

Child-Abuse Panel: New York City officials have formed a 50-member commission to examine ways to prevent child sexual abuse.

In announcing the panel last month, Ramon C. Cortines, the chancellor of the city's schools, and Edward F. Stancik, the school system's special commissioner of investigation, said they hoped to develop ways to protect schoolchildren from sexual abuse and to determine how to swiftly and appropriately deal with people who abuse children.

The commission's members include representatives from the district, education unions, and child-advocacy groups, as well as parents and experts in the study of sexual abuse and medicine.

Admissions Changes: The Fairfax County, Va., school board has changed admissions procedures for its 21 gifted-and-talented centers in an effort to include more disadvantaged, minority, and other gifted students who are not currently being admitted.

The new process gives more consideration to teacher assessments and report cards and less importance to I.Q.-test results.

Previously, students had to score 140 on a group ability test before being administered the individual I.Q. test. But an overwhelming majority of the 2,700 3rd to 8th graders now at the centers took private tests to gain admission.

Although 29.4 percent of the students in Fairfax County are members of minorities, only 11 percent of the children at the county's gifted centers are minority students.

Gun Law Upheld: In a ruling that affirms the right of government to try to tackle gun-related violence in schools, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit last month upheld a federal law that makes it a crime to possess a gun within 1,000 feet of a school. The court unanimously held that the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 was constitutional.

That ruling, however, conflicts with a decision last spring in New Orleans by the Fifth Circuit Court that found the federal gun ban to be unconstitutional.

The Ninth Circuit Court case involved Ray Harold Edwards III, 19, who was found in a Sacramento, Calif., high school parking lot with a rifle and a sawed-off shotgun in the trunk of his car. Police had searched Edwards's car because they suspected him of gang activity. He was sentenced to several months in a halfway house, which he already has served. Laurence Smith, the teenager's lawyer, said he plans to appeal.

Religious Study: Students in Escambia County, Fla., will be allowed to leave school for one class period for religious instruction, the school board decided last month.

In a controversial 3-2 vote that had religious and community support on both sides, the board adopted the policy under state law that allows off-campus voluntary studies. Escambia officials followed the lead of school leaders in Brevard County, the first Florida district to opt for such a policy.

With parental permission, students would be allowed to use time set for study hall or non-academic activities to go to church classes. Principals could prohibit the off-campus time if they determined that it would interfere with a student's academic progress.

Vol. 13, Issue 16

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