District News Roundup

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Memphis Junior High Student Is Fatally Shot in Hallway

A Memphis teenager has been charged with the shooting death of a fellow student during a scuffle in a junior high school hallway.

Authorities charge that a 15-year-old male student killed Torenzo Bell, also 15, at Cypress Hill Junior High School on Sept. 12.

The fight broke out in a bathroom, police said, and spilled over into the second-floor corridor, where Mr. Bell was fatally shot.

Police said the two students had argued the day before about stolen cars, and they believe the shooting was related.

School officials brought in counselors and psychologists to help teachers and students deal with the shooting.

Jersey City Control Continues

The New Jersey state board of education will maintain control of the Jersey City school district for at least another year. The 28,000-student district six years ago became the first in the nation to be taken over by state authorities under an academic-bankruptcy law.

The law allows the state to take control of a failing district for five years, followed by one-year extensions as needed. The state board unanimously voted Sept. 6 to grant a second one-year extension.

Officials said that while maintenance and operations of Jersey City's schools have improved, student achievement continues to lag.

The state has since taken control of the Paterson and Newark districts.

Challenge to Gun Sweeps

The Dade County school board has filed an appeal to allow random gun searches in schools after a judge found the inspections unconstitutional.

Dade County Circuit Judge Steven Levine ruled this month that such searches by the 300,000-student district are unconstitutionally intrusive. He said a gun found in a random sweep last year could not be used to prosecute the high school student it was taken from because the search violated the student's Fourth Amendment right to protection from unreasonable searches.

Security teams will continue to conduct surprise searches with hand-held batons in the Miami-area middle and high schools until the appeal is heard.

Desegregation Complaint

The Rhode Island Department of Education has stepped up its efforts to make the Pawtucket school district comply with state guidelines on racial integration.

The department filed a formal complaint against the 9,000-student district this month, setting in motion hearings that could lead the state to withhold financial aid or impose other sanctions.

The complaint charges that 10 of the district's 15 schools are not racially balanced. The local school board has refused to reassign students and has vowed to fight the state in court.

Special-Education Probe

A Missouri school district for special-education students is under investigation by the state legislature for alleged financial and administrative mismanagement.

A group of state senators is investigating the Special School District of St. Louis County, which serves 22,000 part-time special-education students. The district, which may be the only one of its kind, collects $84 million annually in county taxes.

In addition to the legislative probe, Gov. Mel Carnahan ordered the state auditor this month to examine the district's records after reviewing a report that claimed the district paid employees for work not yet performed.

District officials, some of whom called for the probe, said they welcomed the state investigation and audit.

Baltimore Files Suit

The Baltimore school district has sued the state of Maryland for a greater share of the state's education funding.

In a Sept. 15 lawsuit, the city also sought an order to prohibit the state from requiring school-reform plans without providing money to pay for them.

In addition, the suit aims to release $5.8 million that the state legislature withheld this year until the district implemented management changes.

Of the $647 million budget for the city's schools, more than $300 million comes from the state, according to Nat Harrington, a spokesman for the Baltimore schools.

The American Civil Liberties Union has also sued the state, saying its school-finance system shortchanges Baltimore students.

Stealing School Lunches

Two former employees of the District of Columbia schools have pleaded guilty to stealing food given to the city under the federal school-lunch program and selling it to a local restaurant.

The charges stemmed from a tip that one of the school district's delivery trucks was regularly seen parked behind a carry-out restaurant.

Police recovered from the restaurant more than $6,200 worth of food belonging to the schools. Much of it had been donated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and was cleary marked "Not to be sold or exchanged," federal officials said.

The two former warehouse employees pleaded guilty this month to felony charges of theft and conspiracy under the National School Lunch Act. A presentence hearing is scheduled for November.

Vol. 15, Issue 04

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