State Journal: Skewed statistics; Protest campaign

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Skewed Statistics

An effort to make political hay from voters' fear of school violence apparently did not help Barbara Barrett, who failed to wrest the Republican nomination from Gov. Fife Symington in last week's Arizona primary.

The effort might have been more successful if it had relied on more accurate statistics.

In advertisements that appeared in local newspapers, Ms. Barrett claimed that 5,600 students--a full 10 percent of the student body--had been expelled from schools in the Tucson Unified School District in 1993 for carrying guns or for violent offenses.

Officials for the district were quick to note that the 5,600 figure actually referred to the number of students suspended by the district for all causes. The number of expulsions was far smaller, they said, and the number of violence-related expulsions smaller yet.

Richard Lessner, Ms. Barrett's press secretary, employed a time-honored tactic: blaming the media.

"We relied on a published report that said 'expelled,'" he said, according to the Associated Press. "I usually assume figures that appear in a news story are accurate."

Protest Campaign

A West Virginia high school principal is taking on one of the state's most powerful politicians in a protest against a school-consolidation plan.

David E. Bell, the principal of Duval High School in Griffithsville, is running for an open State Senate seat against Lloyd Jackson 3rd, a former Senate president and two-time campaign manager for Gov. Gaston Caperton. Mr. Jackson is also considered a likely candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1996.

A Democrat, Mr. Bell changed his party affiliation and launched a write-in campaign in order to stage his protest.

In August, the Lincoln County school board narrowly approved a proposal to merge four high schools, including Duval High. Mr. Bell contends that Mr. Jackson engineered the plan, and says that he fears his rival has the clout to push it through the state board of education, which has already rejected it once.

Mr. Jackson supports consolidation, but has reportedly said he is not committed to retaining only one school for the entire county.

But Mr. Bell is counting on outrage over the consolidation plan--and Mr. Jackson's role in developing it--to propel him to victory.

"It's a rebellion here," he said.

--Peter West & Drew Lindsay

Vol. 14, Issue 03

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