News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Student Charged in Spreading of Computer Viruses in Wis.

A high school student has been charged with unleashing a swarm of 89 computer viruses--software programs that can destroy data and disrupt digital systems--into computers in a Wisconsin district.

Assistant District Attorney Steven M. Michling filed a criminal complaint against Adam J. Kope, 17, in the Oneida County circuit court on Jan. 20., charging him as an adult with a felony that carries penalties of up to a $10,000 fine and five years' imprisonment.

The lawyer representing Mr. Kope, John Voorhees of the Wisconsin State Public Defender's Rhinelander office, said he was still gathering information on the charges against Mr. Kope, who has not yet been arraigned.

According to the complaint, Mr. Kope told police he brought a computer disk from home that contained viruses he had downloaded from the Internet while working on the computers at a local college.

Mr. Kope said that on Jan. 13, he placed the disk into the computer at his class at Rhinelander High School and activated the viruses in the school's computer network, the complaint states.

Andrea M. Deau, the technology coordinator for the 4,000-student School District of Rhinelander, said the district had virus-protection software, but it apparently was overwhelmed by the number of viruses. The viruses affected computers at the district's middle schools and high schools but left the computers at the district offices and elementary schools--which use a newer operating system--unscathed.

Ms. Deau said the invasion shut down the network for two school days and will cost the district at least $14,000.

District Approves LEP Change

Santa Barbara, Calif., school officials have agreed to replace local districts' bilingual education program with an approach that favors more English instruction.

Changing Times for Students

A recent University of California, Los Angeles, survey of some 250,000 freshmen at more than 460 colleges and universities nationwide revealed dramatic changes over time in family demographics and rising levels of academic disengagement. The annual survey is a widely watched barometer of student attitudes and trends.

Family Demographics
Family of 4+ Mother is a full-time homemaker Parents divorced or separated
1978* 1997 1976* 1997 1972* 1997
67.2 49.2 33.9 11.4 8.7 25.8

* The first year the item appeared.

Academic Disengagement
Bored in class Overslept and missed class or appointment Study or doing homework 6 hours per week
1987 1997 1987 1997 1987 1997
29.6 36.0 30.3 34.5 43.7 33.9

"The American Freshman: National Norms for Fall 1997" is available for $22, prepaid, plus $4.79 for shipping from the Higher Education Research Institute, UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, 3005 Moore Hall, Box 951521, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1521; (310) 825-1925.

SOURCE: Higher Education Research Institute, University of California, Los Angeles.

The school board voted unanimously at a heated Jan. 14 meeting to adopt a plan that calls for limited-English-proficient students next year to be taught increasingly in English rather than their native languages. The plan also calls for extensive teacher training and continued use of bilingual aides and teachers to help students in their native languages as needed.

The Santa Barbara elementary and high school districts, which are governed by one school board and administered by a single superintendent, together enroll 15,570 students in grades K-12.

The change primarily would affect the 2,500 LEP students at the elementary level. Roughly 66 percent of the elementary district's 6,120 students are Hispanic.

Critics of the change say that bilingual education has become the scapegoat for all the district's educational shortcomings and that the district has not fairly evaluated the bilingual program.

Union Organizer Can Sue

The superintendent of the Springdale, Ark., schools may be liable for punishing an employee for union involvement, according to a federal appeals court.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit last month reversed a decision by the federal district court in Little Rock to dismiss the claim against Superintendent Jim D. Rollins.

The suit says he violated the constitutional rights of non-certified employee Susan Rowe by placing her on probation for participating in the Springdale Education Association, a 390-member affiliate of the National Education Association.

In its Jan. 9 ruling, the three-judge panel upheld the lower court's dismissal of a related claim against the Springdale district, a 10,000-student system near Fayetteville in the northwestern part of the state. The courts agreed that Ms. Rowe could sue Mr. Rollins only as an individual. The appellate court's ruling clears the way for a trial in the case.

School Site Near Plant OKed

The City Council in Santa Clara, Calif., has voted to let the Granada Islamic School open in an industrial park near a semiconductor company despite concerns about potential health risks to students.

Officials of the semiconductor company, LSI Logic Corp., which uses hazardous materials in its manufacturing process, had argued against having the 300-student school as a neighbor. The company cited the threat to young children of a possible chemical spill. Council officials said the company was also concerned about facing possible new, costly regulations as a result of being so close to a school.

But school officials, who are moving the Islamic school because it has outgrown its current facility, are satisfied with the safety procedures of the company, according to Geoffrey Goodfellow, the City Council's director of planning.

The school has also installed a costly new ventilation system to protect students against any pollutants released from the plant.

Gay Group Claims Inequity

A gay-student support group at a Colorado high school has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that it is not being afforded the privileges of other student groups.

The Homosexual-Heterosexual Alliance Reaching for Tolerance, a student group at Smoky Hill High School in Aurora, Colo., sued the Cherry Creek district in federal district court in Denver.

The suit alleges that school officials prohibited gay slogans on the group's posters and barred mention of the group in the student handbook and school yearbook.

The 3,100-student school also rejected a request for extra pay for the group's faculty sponsor and instead recommended that a school counselor guide the group, which has about 25 gay and straight members, the suit says.

The 38,000-student district released a statement that said the gay-support group has the same access to the public address system, bulletin boards, and facilities as "any other student-initiated group."

Curriculum Suit Dismissed

A case against a Connecticut school board over the use of a curriculum that promotes proper behavior has been dismissed by a state court.

Three parents sued the West Haven board of education and the principal of the 280-student Alma E. Pagels School for using the "Responsive Classroom" curriculum. They claimed the curriculum, which teaches children to take responsibility for their actions, in addition to traditional subjects, jeopardizes their children's education by emphasizing social skills over academics.

A superior court judge said that the selection of curriculum is not subject to a claim of educational malpractice.

A federal judge had previously dismissed the plaintiffs' claims that use of a curriculum that is markedly different from that of other schools in the district violated the students' constitutional rights.

Board Members Suspended

The Kentucky state board of education has suspended two members of the Floyd County school board, citing their failure to properly manage the troubled school system.

After a three-day hearing in Frankfort, two Floyd County school board members--Jody Mullins and Chairman B.J. Newsome--were found guilty of nonfeasance on Jan. 23. Six state board members, serving as a jury, said the two spent money without getting the required state approval and contributed to a pattern of ineffective management.

The state oversees the finances of the 7,700-student district, which has been plagued by budget shortfalls.

A third Floyd County board member charged, Edward Patton Jr., resigned in November rather than go through the hearing.

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