Districts News Briefs
A 37-year-old man walked into a suburban Cleveland middle school last week and opened fire with a shotgun, killing a custodian and wounding three others, including a police officer, school officials said.
The gunman, said to be a disgruntled parent, was himself shot and wounded by a police officer who arrived at Wickliffe Middle School as classes were letting out. No motive had been determined and no students were injured, authorities said last week.
"The staff and kids were terror stricken," said David R. Tanski, the superintendent of the Wickliffe, Ohio, public schools. He added that the shooting was unprecedented in the normally quiet district.
Mr. Tanski canceled classes for two days following the shooting to arrange for counseling for students.
The suspect, currently in a local hospital under police guard, was charged with murder and assault with a deadly weapon.
Signing Off: The Cobb County, Ga., school board voted to ban all advertising banners at its high school football stadiums after a church sought to display a religious message.
The pastor of the Open Door Fellowship Church in Marietta, Ga., asked last month to display a banner with the message "Jesus Is Lord" at Lassiter High School.
School officials rejected the advertisement, fearing spectators would perceive it as a religious endorsement that would violate the U.S. Constitution's ban on government establishment of religion.
But some legal experts warned that the district was practicing "viewpoint" discrimination by rejecting a religious message. To avoid further legal disputes, the school board voted Oct. 12 to ban all advertising from stadiums at its three high schools.
Discrimination Alleged: A black vendor has filed a lawsuit accusing Detroit school officials of steering $2.9 million in food contracts to a white-owned firm even though it was not the lowest bidder.
Jefferson Hicks, the president of Pearl's Kitchen, claims school officials violated their own policy designed to give Detroit-based businesses preference in district contracts by awarding the contracts to Gordon Food Service Inc., based in Grand Rapids, Mich.
A spokesman for the district, Steve Wasko, declined to comment on the lawsuit, but has issued a statement denying Mr. Hicks's claims.
"Under our process this individual's bid was not the best," the statement said. "The decisions are based solely on who comes out with the best bid, to serve the best interests of the school district, its parents, and students."
A request by Pearl's Kitchen for a court order to block the contract with Gordon Food Service was denied last month.
Troubled Charter School: A Colorado charter school has been given 30 days to correct numerous violations brought to its attention by the Adams 12 Five Star school district, or have its charter revoked.
The Academy of Charter Schools, a 275-student, K-11 school with a traditional curriculum, was granted a charter earlier this year. But a group of parents questioned the management of the school in a letter to the district last month.
A district investigation revealed faulty governance and hiring procedures. It also found that the academy was violating open-meeting and minute-keeping rules, and not accurately reporting gifts and donations.
"I think maybe it's been a communication problem," said Susan Carlson, the public-information officer for the district. There was no deliberate wrongdoing, she said, and the school is working to correct the infractions.
'Sick' Schools: Parents of some Virginia Beach, Va., students are angry about the school district's handling of "sick building" complaints on eight campuses.
For several years, students at the schools have complained of various physical ailments, which some have linked to poor air circulation and faulty heating and cooling systems in the buildings.
Despite the district's recent efforts to improve the schools' air quality, some parents have said administrators allowed the problems to fester for too long.
But the schools "have made major strides in dealing with these things over the past six months," Paul Garrison, the district's director of environmental services, said in an interview last week.
The district has hired consultants to help make improvements, distributed dehumidifiers and air cleaners to teachers, and set up portable classrooms while officials look for other solutions, Mr. Garrison added.
School officials also gave parents the option of transferring their children out of the schools, most of which are new buildings designed to conserve energy by minimizing exposure to outside air.
Strikes Continue: A judge last week fined striking teachers in Salem, Mass., a total of $20,000 for every day the strike continued.
Leaders of the Salem Teachers' Union went to Essex Superior Court Nov. 7 to face contempt charges, and a judge assessed the fine the next day. According to Massachusetts law, it is illegal for public employees to strike.
The strike, which began Oct. 31, continued late last week after numerous bargaining sessions.
Teachers in various Illinois districts were also on strike. Round Lake District 116's 390 teachers are in their fourth week of a strike, with 5,200 students out of school.
In Prairie Hills Elementary District 144, 173 teachers were on strike, idling 3,000 students. And in the 400-student Niles Elementary School District 71, 43 teachers were on strike.
In Washington State, 49 teachers in the 900-student Concrete district in Skagit County were on strike.
In all instances, the big issue was teacher pay.
Jury Awards $8 Million: A U.S. District Court jury in Wichita, Kan., has ordered a helmet-making company to pay almost $8 million to the family of a 22-year-old man who was paralyzed in a high school football accident six years ago.
The jury decided after more than five weeks of deliberation that the family of James R. Arnold was correct in blaming Riddell Inc., a Chicago-based company, for his injuries.
The award was for medical expenses. The jury did not award the family compensation for suffering.
Mr. Arnold, a top-ranked quarterback for Ashland High School in southwest Kansas, was recovering a fumble when an opposing player crashed into him.
The force of the collision cracked Mr. Arnold's spine, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. The accident left him dependent on a respirator and 24-hour care.
The family argued that the helmet should have contained more padding in the crown.
Officials from Riddell could not be reached for comment, but were expected to appeal the verdict.
Vol. 14, Issue 11