District News Roundup

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Massachusetts' highest court has found constitutional the arrangement that allows a private university to manage the Chelsea public school system. The decision upheld earlier rulings.

Both before and after Boston University took over the Chelsea schools in 1989, groups and individuals representing teachers, teachers' unions, and Hispanic parents filed lawsuits alleging the 10-year contract was unconstitutional.

Under state law, the suits argued, only schools under the "exclusive control" of a public entity could receive state education money. (See Education Week, Nov. 30, 1988.)

But Judge Neil L. Lynch of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts last week echoed earlier rulings to find that because the legislature appointed BU to run the schools, the university is considered a public entity.

Safety Concerns

School safety is the main reason parents of Boston middle school students remove their children from the public schools, according to a survey to be released later this month.

The survey, conducted by an independent polling firm for the district, interviewed 100 parents who pulled their children from 6th or 7th grade in 1994.

Thirty-eight percent of the parents reported that they were concerned about their children's safety, and another 29 percent expressed concern about the quality of education in the public schools.

The report also found that 86 percent of parents polled said their children's new private schools were much safer.

The school system has launched several measures to improve school safety, said Jane Feinberg, the director of communications for the 61,000-student district.

"Whether it's perception or reality, it's obviously a very frightening number," she said. "So we're looking at the data and responding in a way that will meet the needs of parents, teachers, and children."

Swimmer Ruled Eligible

A mentally retarded Connecticut student can continue swimming with his high school team even though he is 19, a federal judge has ruled.

A U.S. District Court judge this month granted a temporary injunction against the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, allowing 19-year-old David Dennin to swim as a member of the Trumbull High School swim team. Mr. Dennin's parents and the Trumbull school board had sought the injunction after the state athletic conference ruled in October that the student was ineligible because of his age.

Lawyers for the Dennin family argued that the CIAC violated the Americans With Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. Michael Savage, the CIAC's executive director, said the group plans to appeal the decision.

Charter Denied

The school board in Emporia, Kan., has rejected an application to create the state's first charter school.

The board voted 4-3 this month to deny the Butcher Children's Charter School a license to operate independently within the district. Butcher is a laboratory school run jointly by the district and Emporia State University.

School board members said they rejected the application because they disagreed with elements of the state's charter school law.

The 1994 law allows the creation of charter schools that operate free of many local and state restrictions, but none has been approved and there have been few applications.

Suspension Questioned

The parents of a Williamsburg, Va., senior filed a lawsuit against the local school board this month after the 17-year-old was suspended for having a toy gun in his parked car.

During a routine sweep of the campus, local police found the plastic dart gun, which is on the list of "look alike" weapons that violate school policy.

Bob Emmett, the boy's father, is seeking to have the suspension erased from his son's record. He said the school's discipline policy is too broad. But Lafayette High School officials say the policy is necessary to ensure school safety. A court hearing has not been set.

Vol. 15, Issue 18

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