District News Roundup

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Terrence Murray, a 13-year-old student at J.T. Moore Middle School in Nashville, was shot in the head last month while he and other students in his music class watched a video of "Beauty and the Beast.'' He was taken to a local hospital, where he died about an hour after the shooting.

A 14-year-old student, who was seated behind Terrence and apparently was a friend of the dead student, has been charged with criminally negligent homicide in the shooting, as well as weapons possession.

After the gunshot, students rushed from the darkened room, school officials said.

"The community is obviously very shocked by this,'' said Gary McGuire, the spokesman for the Nashville public schools. Mr. McGuire said the shooting was the first time a student had been shot in or near a school in Nashville.

Mr. McGuire, who called the incident a "terrible accident,'' said the assailant and victim were friends. He said a third student brought the small-caliber handgun to school and passed it to the 14-year-old student, who was handling it during class when the weapon accidentally discharged.

School officials said they are developing plans to bolster security at the school.

Last-Minute Expense: Cleveland school officials failed to give timely notice, and thus must grant a reprieve, to seven of 22 administrators whose jobs were on the chopping block.

The seven administrators were not at their homes when school security officers, dispatched by the district, arrived to hand them last-minute notices that their contracts were not being renewed in preparation for possible budget cuts.

Because the administrators were not notified before a deadline set by state law, the district likely will have to renew their contracts, paying them a total of $689,000 in wages and benefits over the next two years.

Board members last month alleged that the district administration put the security officers in a compromising position by using them, instead of a professional delivery service, to distribute the notices.

District administrators faulted the board for failing to decide on administration cuts until hours before the notification deadline.

Superintendent Sammie Campbell Parrish said she had objected to the board's decision to seek additional cuts in the district's administration, which she described as already substantially downsized.

'Downright Malicious'?: A Danville, Va., special-education teacher was fired last month after two prosecutors placed an advertisement in a local newspaper publicizing the teacher's prior criminal record after he was acquitted of a misdemeanor assault and battery charge.

William H. Fuller, the Danville commonwealth's attorney, and James C. Martin, the assistant commonwealth's attorney who prosecuted the recent case, placed the advertisement after losing the case against the teacher, Thomas Wayne Motley. Mr. Motley had been accused of striking an 11-year-old student with a ruler.

Mr. Motley has denounced the placement of the ad as "downright malicious.''

Kent Willis, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, said that while the prosecutors' action did not constitute libel, "it falls in the category of questionable ethics.''

"It's a simple abuse of power to carry out what appears to be a personal vendetta,'' Mr. Willis said. "They lost the case, and now they are trying to accomplish the same goal through another route.''

Mr. Fuller, however, said: "I have no problem with the jury's verdict. I would have reached the same one.''

Mr. Fuller said he placed the ad to correct what he said were inaccuracies about the teacher's criminal record that were reported in a local newspaper.

A school board spokesman said Mr. Motley was fired after the ad appeared because the teacher had not disclosed his criminal record, including a 13-year-old drug-possession conviction.

Community 'Clusters': The Philadelphia school board has approved a task-force proposal to create six "community schools''--one in each of the district's six regions--and to form "clusters'' of elementary, middle, and senior high schools within each region.

The new community schools will be open for extended hours and will provide such services as education, health, and recreation to students and their families.

Pilot clusters of schools in each region are being created in an effort to provide greater continuity of education and services for students as they advance through the schools.

A task force of approximately 100 parents, teachers, principals, students, and community members developed the proposal.

Minority Cap Increased: In response to appeals by Seattle school officials to help the district cut down on mandatory busing, the state board of education has agreed to raise the cap slightly on the maximum minority enrollment in individual schools.

The board last month approved a compromise with the district that would raise to 82 percent from 77 percent the ceiling on a school's enrollment of nonwhite students.

State officials had rejected the district's proposal to permit a school's student body to be made up of 50 percent or more of a single minority group. The overall minority enrollment in the Seattle public schools is about 60 percent.

The changes, slated to take effect in 1995, must be approved by the state Human Rights Commission and Superintendent of Public Instruction Judith Billings.

Shaken by Attention: A school-athletic league in southern California that banned postgame handshakes because of concern that the gesture might lead to fighting has dropped the ban after becoming the target of unwanted media attention.

The Marmonte League, which includes eight high schools in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, will now allow, but not require, handshakes after games. Schools that participate in the league hope the decision will end a deluge of telephone calls from reporters.

The media attention, combined with the fact that many students ignored the policy, led to a phone poll of high school principals last month after which the ban was dropped. School officials explained that the latest move is in keeping with what has been their policy all along: to try to avoid needless scuffles.

Vol. 13, Issue 32

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