District News Update

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Federal officials have determined that the Garfield Heights, Ohio, school district did not engage in racial discrimination when it refused to take in a mostly black neighborhood trying to secede from the adjoining Cleveland district.

Parents of children in the neighborhood, known as Cranwood, had filed a complaint with federal officials charging that the Garfield Heights school board was racially motivated in rejecting their bid to transfer into that district.

The board had maintained that the district simply did not have room for the new students.

The U.S. Education Department's office for civil rights told Garfield Heights officials this month that investigators had failed to substantiate the allegations of bias and that the case was being closed.

School-College Partnership

The Houston school district and the city's housing authority have teamed up with Texas Southern University to open a laboratory school in a public-housing project next fall.

Eight apartments in two buildings will be renovated to house the public elementary school, which will enroll about 130 students. The Cuney Homes project is located near Texas Southern, a historically black university in Houston.

The school will be staffed with district teachers, and education majors from the university will serve as student-teachers.

Damages Awarded

A state district court judge has awarded more than $650,000 in damages to the parents of a Japanese exchange student who was shot and killed by a neighbor near Baton Rouge, La.

Yoshihiro Hattori, 16, was a senior attending McKinley High School in Baton Rouge when he was killed in 1992. He was looking for a classmate's Halloween party with a friend when they approached the wrong house.

The woman who answered called her husband, Rodney Peairs. Gun in hand, Mr. Peairs told the costumed boys to "freeze." Mr. Hattori apparently did not understand the term and moved toward Mr. Peairs, who then shot him.

In 1993, a 12-member jury acquitted Mr. Peairs of manslaughter charges. The case was widely reported in Japan as an example of the violence many Japanese believe is embedded in American society.

"We are satisfied to finally find out with whom the responsibility belongs," Mr. Hattori's parents said in a statement following the judge's decision.

Lawyers for Mr. Peairs said they would appeal the ruling.

All in a Name

Philadelphia's school security guards got a promotion of sorts this month when their job titles, uniforms, and insignia were changed to mark them as "school district police officers."

While guards will not carry guns, the change should end any question in students' minds about the guards' authority on school grounds, said John J. McLees, the executive director of the district's office for school safety.

Officials also believe that renaming the security force will increase its chances of receiving federal funds available through the anti-crime bill President Clinton signed into law this month.

Teacher Evaluation Criticized

The Baltimore school system neglects the welfare of its students by failing to critically evaluate its teachers and provide for adequate staff development, a new report says.

According to Students First, a program of the Baltimore-based watchdog group Advocates for Children and Youth, far too many teachers are given ratings of satisfactory or better, even though student achievement in the district lags.

The report says 98 percent of teachers evaluated over a recent five-year period received satisfactory, good, or outstanding marks.

From 1988 to 1993, at least 80 percent of teachers received a rating of good or outstanding, while no more than 0.52 percent were found to be unsatisfactory. Nearly 10 percent were not evaluated at all.

Meanwhile, the report maintains, Baltimore students consistently score lower on tests and have higher dropout rates than any other Maryland district.

Teachers--not privatization and decentralization initiatives--have the most significant impact on students' academic performance, the report says. It calls for immediate improvements in evaluations, teacher-discharge and tenure-granting policies, and staff development.

District officials have acknowledged the shortcomings and say they are working on a new evaluation form.

Home-Schooling Debate

The president and vice president of a Williamsburg, Va., elementary school P.T.A. resigned this month after other parents criticized their decision to educate their children at home.

The group's bylaws do not bar officers from home-schooling their children, but some Rawls Byrd Elementary School parents and teachers believed the two leaders would not adequately represent the interests of the majority of P.T.A. members whose children attend public schools.

Vol. 14, Issue 04

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