News in Brief: A National Roundup
Dallas Board Chief To Resign In Wake of Racial Disputes
After months of serving as a lightning rod for race-related protests, the president of the Dallas school board has announced that he will quit the panel this spring, two years before his term expires.
Bill Keever said that since becoming board president last May, he has endured weekly death threats, picketing of his home and office, and criticism for his handling of repeated disruptions of board meetings by local black activists.
"Being president of the school board in Dallas is the most difficult job in the world," he said last week. "A person can't do this job for very long. It's crushing."
Longstanding tensions flared this month when the panel named Yvonne Gonzalez superintendent in a vote boycotted by the board's three African-American members. They accused the board's five whites and one Hispanic of racism. ("Hiring of Hispancic Sparks Tension in Dallas," Jan. 29, 1997.)
Mr. Keever, who is white, had served one three-year term before becoming president after his re-election last spring.
Tenn. District Violated IDEA
The Knox County, Tenn., school system violated federal special education law in the way that it disciplined a middle school student with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit has found.
In 1993, the student, identified as Chris L., allegedly entered a restricted school bathroom and vandalized a water pipe, leaving $1,000 in damage. During disciplinary proceedings, school officials decided that the boy--who had a history of behavioral problems and poor grades and was taking the medication Ritalin to control his ADHD symptoms--was eligible for protection under the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. But school officials then filed a juvenile court petition against him.
The 6th Circuit court in Cincinnati agreed with a lower court in its Jan. 21 decision that the action violated the IDEA's procedures because referring Chris L. to the juvenile-justice system was akin to initiating a change in his educational placement and program.
Knox County officials said that they may appeal the closely watched case.
Colo. Teacher Wins Job Back
A Colorado teacher who was fired after showing students a film by Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci has won his job back.
A state appeals court panel ruled unanimously that the Jefferson County district failed to give Columbine High School teacher Alfred E. Wilder clear notice of policies he was to follow in using controversial teaching materials. In its Jan. 23 ruling, however, the appellate panel found that the teacher did not have "blanket" First Amendment protection to show such a film in class.
The school board dismissed Mr. Wilder last April, citing his showing of "1900" as well as tardiness and absences from the classroom. The film contains nudity and violence, and the school received complaints from some parents.
The court also held that the dismissal was triggered by the showing of the film, not the other conduct that the board cited.
District officials plan to appeal.
Students Get Make-Up Chance
Students from a high school in New Milford, Conn., will get a chance next month and in May to right a wrong that wasn't their fault.
The 27 sophomores and juniors at New Milford High School will be permitted to take the SAT as a way to make up for the fact that when they took the Preliminary SAT last October, the PSAT's site director misplaced their completed answer sheets--for two months. The preliminary exam, meant to be a predictor of performance on the college-entrance test, is used as the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship Program, which awards about 7,000 college scholarships worth $27 million a year.
Principal Joanne Mendillo said that she hopes the district will pay for the make-up exam, even though the school's only role in the debacle was serving as the test site.
Mo. District Nixes Pizza Pact
The Kansas City, Mo., school board has canceled a contract with the Pizza Hut chain because of a local franchise's refusal to deliver to one of the city's most prestigious high schools.
The board voted 6-3 last month to void the $170,000 contract it had just awarded the Dallas, Tex.-based company.
A $450 order for 40 pizzas for an honors students' luncheon at Paseo Academy School of Fine and Performing Arts was refused because of concerns for driver safety, said Jeff Jervik, a company spokesman. Mr. Jervik said that because drivers do not have to carry cash to deliver contract pizzas, the agreement would not have been affected by the company's safety policy.
The magnet school is located in a mostly minority neighborhood.
District Bans Donor Names
School District 11 in Colorado Springs, Colo., has drawn the entrepreneurial line at naming schools after people who give money to them.
The 33,000-student district has attracted national attention for allowing commercial advertising on its school buses, athletic facilities, and hallways. But the school board last week voted 5-2 to keep donor monikers out of the running for school names.
The decision came as the board approved its first-ever policy for naming new schools, four of which will be built in the next few years, according to district spokeswoman Tracy Cooper.
Under the new policy, schools may be namesakes for historic personages, leaders living or dead, events, or nearby locales, but not for contributors.
Court Backs Weapons Policy
A 15-year-old Omaha, Neb., public school student must serve the two-semester expulsion given him for bringing a pocketknife to school in 1994, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled last week.
In 1994, Kristoffer Kolesnick, then an 8th grader at King Science Center, was expelled for showing the knife to another student on a school bus. Violation of the Omaha district's weapons policy calls for an automatic two-semester expulsion, but a Douglas County judge later reduced the expulsion to one semester.
The district appealed, asking the high court to reinstate the full punishment. Mr. Kolesnick, now a sophomore at the district's Burke High School, has completed the one-semester expulsion.
The district has not decided whether to force Mr. Kolesnick to sit out another semester, nor has the student and his family decided whether to appeal.
Middle School Student Slain
Police in West Palm Beach, Fla., have arrested a classmate of a 14-year-old student who was shot to death outside his middle school last week while trying to retrieve a watch that the victim believed had been taken from him.
John Kamel was shot shortly after 8:30 a.m. as students at Conniston Middle School were heading to class. Police then pulled the classmate, age 14, from class. He was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
Ex-Head of Southern Education Foundation Dies
John A. Griffin, a former executive director of the Southern Education Foundation and a founding member of the Southern Regional Council, died Jan. 27 in Atlanta of pneumonia. He was 84.
From 1965 to 1978, Mr. Griffin led the SEF, which supports historically black colleges and numerous education programs aimed at black youths. In 1953, he helped organize a Ford Foundation study of the South's segregated schools. The results of the study informed the debate over U.S. Supreme Court policies for public school desegregation in the 1950s.
President of AFT From 1948-52 Is Dead
John Manly Eklund, the national president of the American Federation of Teachers from 1948 to 1952, died last month at his home in Naples, Fla. He was 87.
Mr. Eklund was a Methodist pastor before he began teaching English in Denver in 1938. He also worked as a guidance counselor in that city.
As the AFT president, he pressed to end racial discrimination in Southern union locals. He also spoke out against policies that required loyalty oaths from teachers and barred Communists from school jobs.