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The U.S. Supreme Court last week declined to hear the appeal of an Illinois father and son who sought to bar a school district from allowing the Boy Scouts of America to meet in a public school because of the Scouts' requirement that participants believe in God.

Robert I. Sherman and his son, Richard, sued Community Consolidated School District #21 in Wheeling Township, Ill., seeking to keep the Scouts from using the schools. The Shermans, who are avowed atheists, alleged that the district was violating the U.S. Constitution's ban on government establishment of religion by permitting an organization with a "religiously discriminatory membership policy'' to use school facilities.

Both a federal district judge and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled in favor of the district. The appeals court held that there was no establishment-clause violation because the district was only indirectly involved in the Boy Scouts' discriminatory conduct.

The Supreme Court declined without comment to hear the appeal of Sherman v. Community Consolidated School District 21 (Case No. 93-8474).

In separate action last week, the High Court:

  • Rejected an appeal, in Doe v. Board of Education of Tullahoma City Schools (No. 93-1641), by Tennessee parents seeking reimbursement from the district for the private school placement of their learning-disabled son.
  • Ruled that professional employees who supervise lower-level workers are not protected from dismissal by the National Labor Relations Act. The ruling in National Labor Relations Board v. Health Care & Retirement Corporation of America (No. 92-1964), which dealt with nurses in a private health-care facility, could apply to educators in private schools.

Direct Lending: The Education Department has announced that 983 colleges and universities will participate in the second year of the direct-lending program, under which the government makes education loans to college students through their institutions rather than by backing commercial loans.

Last fall, the department accepted 105 schools for the first phase of the program; one has since dropped out. Direct loans must constitute at least 60 percent of new student-loan volume by 1998-99.

Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley called the participation rate "a vote of confidence.''

The response "should not be misinterpreted as a significant show of interest,'' retorted Daniel S. Cheever, the president of American Student Assistance, a Boston-based student-loan-guarantee agency. "Thousands of schools are waiting to see if this new, untested program ... works.''

Flexibility: Waivers from state and federal regulations have helped some schools and districts try new ideas, a report by the General Accounting Office has concluded. But the G.A.O. was unable to determine whether the policy tool actually resulted in improvements.

"States' experiences suggest that flexibility efforts--removing regulatory barriers--may prompt some schools to attempt improvement, but more widespread attempts may require other federal and state government efforts: for example, support for good planning, technical assistance, and incentives to attempt improvement,'' the report says.

The report focuses on case studies of three states that have provided various forms of regulatory flexibility--California, Kentucky, and South Carolina--and interviews with local, state, and federal officials.

Single copies of "Regulatory Flexibility in Schools: What Happens When Schools Are Allowed To Change the Rules?'' are available without charge from the G.A.O., P.O. Box 6015, Gaithersburg, Md. 20884-6015; (202) 512-6000.

Nominee: President Clinton has announced that he plans to nominate Gilberto M. Moreno as the Education Department's assistant secretary for intergovernmental and interagency affairs.

Mr. Moreno will oversee an office charged with managing liaison efforts with other federal agencies and lobbying groups.

He has served as Washington-regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund since 1985.

Vol. 13, Issue 36

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