News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Philanthropist Aids Second Generation

Sixteen years after offering to help bankroll the college educations of a 6th grade class at a Harlem elementary school, Eugene M. Lang has made another generous promise.

The New York City philanthropist recently made the same offer to the children of those he challenged with his 1981 gift, which resulted in the creation of the I Have a Dream Foundation.

Most of those former students at Harlem's Public School 121, Mr. Lang's alma mater, are now in the their mid- or late 20s.

Their natural children--both current and future--will be eligible for $10,000 scholarships to attend a four-year university if they graduate from high school.

Those who attend two-year programs can receive $3,000.

Students also will receive extra tutoring and mentoring--support that helped ensure that of the 61 original students, 90 percent finished a high school program and 60 percent went to college.

"There are some of my children who didn't go to college, and they regret that they missed the opportunity or that circumstances didn't allow them to have the opportunity," Mr. Lang said in an interview last week. "But they still say, 'My kid is going to college.'"

Since his initial promise, Mr. Lang's generosity has sparked other contributors to found more than 160 similar I Have a Dream programs in 63 cities.


Tougher Ethics Rules Sought For N.J. Board Members

The New Jersey School Boards Association wants the state to get tough with local board members who leak confidential information to the press, micromanage their districts, or hand out jobs based on considerations other than merit.

To make that happen, the NJSBA voted this month to push for legislation that would give the state School Ethics Commission the power to enforce the association's own code of ethics in addition to the state's.

The commission investigates alleged ethical violations by board members and other school officials and recommends actions to the state education commissioner ranging from reprimand to removal.

New Jersey's school ethics law prohibits various conflicts of interest, most of them involving finances. The association's code, adopted in 1975, requires board members to adhere to broader standards of ethical conduct.

The NJSBA decided to push for the change in response to a request from the Roselle Park school board. That board said it was frustrated by its inability to act against a member whom his colleagues accuse of disclosing to the press and public what goes on at closed-door board sessions.

Grievances To Be Aired

The Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled that school boards and teachers' unions must make grievance hearings open to the public.

The unanimous ruling, handed down this month, reverses an earlier appellate court decision on a case begun in 1992. The original complaint was filed by the Waterbury Republican-American newspaper against the Waterbury Teachers Association and the district's school board. The state's freedom-of-information statute had exempted grievance hearings brought by teachers' unions.

The high court's ruling states that although grievance presentations and testimony must be open to the public, negotiations and settlements may be conducted privately.

The Connecticut Education Association's legal counsel, William J. Dolan, said that dividing the grievance process in that way seemed inconsistent with the state's Teacher Negotiations Act.

The Republican-American's publisher, William J. Pape II, said that opening such hearings to public scrutiny should reduce the number of minor grievances raised by teachers' unions.

Ohio Judge Overturns C Grade

Cambridge, Ohio, school officials have boosted a C to an A on a student's report card after he successfully sued the district over the grade.

The lower grade was the result of a disciplinary infraction.

The change will restore John Michael Jamail to class valedictorian when he graduates from Cambridge High School next month.

Mr. Jamail broke the curfew rule imposed by his teacher on a school trip to Mexico last year.

But a county court judge ruled that a grade should be based on academic performance and not conformity to rules.

The Cambridge school board this month then allowed Mr. Jamail to receive the A he would have gotten in Spanish had his teacher not given him an F for the trip.

Face Marking Brings Lawsuit

The family of the North Charleston, S.C., kindergartner whose teacher wrote "Where are my glasses?" on the child's face has filed a civil rights suit against the teacher, district, and school principal.

Nina Campbell, who is black, was "branded and forced to serve against her will and in a condition of involuntary servitude as a messenger carrying a humiliating message," the suit filed this month in federal court in Charleston alleges.

Last November, Phyllis Adelsflugel, who is white, used a marker to write a reminder for Nina to remember to wear her glasses to Peppermill Elementary School. Charleston County schools Superintendent Chip Zullinger apologized for the incident, and Ms. Adelsflugel was suspended for 20 days.

School and district officials declined to comment on the lawsuit, but Alicia Paylor, a lawyer for the district, said a vigorous defense was planned.

Tax Increase Pays Jury Award

An Ohio man awarded millions after a 1989 automobile accident with a school bus left him paralyzed from the neck down will finally get his due this summer after local voters passed a property-tax increase.

The state will pay Donald Buchman, 37, a former construction worker, about $5.6 million, the sum--plus interest--that a Paulding County jury awarded him after he sued the 1,300-student Wayne Trace school district in rural northwestern Ohio in 1992.

In return for an advance to the district, the state will deduct $121,000 from the money that Wayne Trace receives from the state each year for the next 25 years.

The local property-tax increase--a $2 million, 25-year levy that will require the owner of a $100,000 home to pay $60 more per year--will make up for the loss of state aid. Fifty-eight percent of the district's voters approved the levy this month.

Toy Guns Swapped in Conn.

Students who brought toy guns to a Connecticut elementary school this month have received not suspensions, but free bicycle helmets.

Connecticut Children's Medical Center arranged the exchange at Hartford's Annie Fisher Elementary School as part of an injury-awareness campaign.

The program coordinators decided to add to their message by imitating crime-prevention programs that encourage adult owners of real guns to surrender them to police.

The youngsters who took part in the toy-gun exchange made out well: While toy guns often cost just a few dollars, the helmets they got retail for $30 to $40.

The exchange's only hitch came as coordinators found that many of the students didn't have toy guns to bring. In the end, all 120 of the students got helmets.

Class Sees 'Striptease'

Chicago school officials are recommending the dismissal of a computer education teacher who showed a 4th grade class the R-rated movie "Striptease."

Susan Vargas, a spokeswoman for the school district, said the teacher at John M. Smyth Elementary School violated school policy by failing to get approval to show the videotape on May 15. In the movie, actress Demi Moore plays a stripper and is shown partly nude.

"It was bad judgment on his part, and he hasn't given an explanation as to why he showed the movie," Ms. Vargas said.

Voucher Proposal Killed

The Lincoln Park, N.J., school board has voted to scrap a proposed voucher program that would have allowed the community's high school students to attend private schools at government expense.

The board had voted in February to start a voucher plan providing $1,000 to students attending any public or private high school, including religious schools. The 1,275-student district currently sends its high school students to a nearby district. ("N.J. District Proposes Vouchers For High Schoolers," Feb. 12, 1997.)

State officials warned the school board last month that state law does not permit a voucher program. The board then decided it would start the program with private funds. But the voucher proposal ran into trouble in April 15 elections, when two pro-voucher board members were ousted.

The new board voted 5-4 on May 13 to reject the voucher program.

Test Results Thrown Out

State education officials in Idaho have declared results for a math assessment invalid, saying that students were tested on concepts they hadn't been taught yet.

The Direct Mathematics Assessment, now in its second year, is given to all of the state's 4th and 8th grade students. In revamping last year's test, the state education department included questions on some concepts that were scheduled to be taught later in the school year, after the exam.

While some districts have received their test results, state averages will not be released officially. The education department asked districts to "destroy" the initial information.

In an unrelated error, the Massachusetts Department of Education discovered that practice reading tests used in seven elementary schools last month were the same as the actual Iowa Test of Basic Skills given this month. The mixup apparently occurred during the publisher's distribution of the tests.

The mistakes were discovered immediately at all but one school, whose students had to be retested the following week.

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