News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Students Face Expulsion for Creating Offensive Pamphlet

Nine students in Florida face possible expulsion from Miami-Killian Senior High School in Kendall for creating and distributing 2,500 copies of a pamphlet that takes harsh and offensive aim at groups and individuals at the school, including Principal Timothy Dawson.

But civil liberties and student-press groups have defended the students--who have been suspended for 10 days--as having engaged in speech, however offensive, that is protected by the First Amendment.

They fault Mr. Dawson for calling school police, who arrested the students at the 3,521-student school on hate-crimes charges late last month, several days after the pamphlet was first distributed. The students were jailed until 3 a.m. the next day, but the state attorney later decided not to file criminal charges.

Henry Fraind, the deputy superintendent for the 347,000-student Miami-Dade County public schools, said the district would press for alternative placement of the students because distributing the pamphlet--which he said contained "obscenity, vulgarity, racial slurs, and ethnic slurs" and possibly a death threat against Mr. Dawson--violated the student conduct code. An assistant to Mr. Dawson said the principal would not comment while an administrative review was under way.

N.Y.C. Admissions Questioned

Admission to a New York City magnet school, which was supposed to be decided by a lottery system, has been tainted by favoritism, according to city investigators.

Siblings of current students, children of school employees, and children of parents who lobbied school officials have been unfairly admitted to the 900-student Michael J. Petrides School on Staten Island, Special Commissioner of Investigation Edward F. Stancik charged last week. His office is an independent watchdog over the city's 1.1-million-student school system.

Schools Chancellor Rudy F. Crew said the investigation did not find "direct evidence" of violations of admissions procedures, but he said he was concerned about the "appearance of impropriety."

Superintendent Christy Cugini of Community School District 31, which includes 52 schools in the Staten Island borough, said admissions to the magnet school cannot be totally random because enrollment is supposed to be diverse in achievement levels, gender, and race.

Saudi Academy Approved in Va.

Despite some continuing opposition from the community, Loudoun County, Va., officials last week approved an application by the Saudi Arabian government to build a new school on a site in the county.

The Loudoun County board of supervisors voted 7-2 in favor of allowing the Islamic Saudi Academy to begin construction of a $50 million campus near Ashburn, Va., to replace its crowded Mount Vernon, Va., school. The new school will accommodate 3,500 students.

The proposal to bring the school to Loudoun had divided local residents. ("Islamic School Faces Local Opposition," March 4, 1998.)

The approval by the county board cleared the way for what be will be the largest private Islamic institution in the nation.

Plan Targets Social Promotion

Superintendent Thomas W. Payzant is asking the Boston school board for a $2.4 million commitment to help end so-called social promotions in the 63,300-student district.

The new promotion policy would detail the coursework and assessments students must successfully complete to move to the next grade or graduate, according to district spokeswoman Gretchen O'Neill.

And the stakes are high: This year, 24 percent of the city's 4th graders and almost 80 percent of its 11th graders would fail to meet the new requirements, Ms. O'Neill said.

The recommendation is included in Mr. Payzant's $547.5 million fiscal 1999 budget proposal. The new money would pay for special literacy instruction and after-school and summer school programs intended to bolster academics.

The school board is required to approve a budget request and send it to Mayor Thomas M. Menino by March 25.

Pipe Bomb Found in Locker

Three Maryland students were charged with assault and possession of an explosive device after a middle school principal discovered a pipe bomb in one of the student's lockers.

On a tip last month from other students at Rocky Hill Middle School in Clarksburg, Principal Al Stein located the bomb, evacuated the 700-student school, and alerted the local bomb squad. Removing the device triggered a small explosion, but it was quickly contained and no injuries were reported.

Investigators said last week that Rocky Hill, which is part of the 125,000-student Montgomery County district, was meant to be used as a transfer point for the device and that the bomb was intended for someone not connected with the school.

The two 8th graders and one 9th grader involved in the incident have been suspended while the district's administrators consider whether to expel them. A trial date has not been set.

Colo. District OKs Gay Club

A Colorado high school has settled a lawsuit that will allow a gay and lesbian student-support group to become a student-run club.

The Homosexual-Heterosexual Alliance Reaching for Tolerance at Smoky Hill High School will be given all the privileges of a club, including a paid faculty adviser and the right to advertise on school property.

A lawyer for the group said the settlement addresses a series of problems that prevented the group from setting its own agenda and having status equal to that of other clubs at the school in the Cherry Creek school district.

Before the Feb. 27 agreement, the school assigned a counselor to the group who "basically ran the meetings," according to Dwight L. Pringle, the lawyer for the club.

The group also was required to use its acronym, HHEART, in its advertisements so its posters would not include the word "homosexual," he said.

Next year, the 38,000-student school district will pay a teacher to be an adviser and will hold HHEART to the same advertising standards as any other club.

Scouts' Gay Ban Overruled

A New Jersey state appeals court has ruled that the Boy Scouts of America's ban on admitting homosexuals violates the state law against discrimination.

Last week's ruling by the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division overturned a 1993 decision that upheld the Scouts' expulsion of James Dale. The appeals court said that Boy Scout organizations are "places of accommodation" that emphasize open membership and thus must adhere to the state's anti-discrimination laws.

Mr. Dale, an Eagle Scout who earned 30 merit badges during his 12 years with the organization, was expelled from the Monmounth Council of the Boy Scouts in 1990 after the group discovered he was gay.

The Irving, Texas-based organization, which has 5.8 million members nationwide, plans to appeal the decision.

Mich. Student Shoots Self

Police have ruled that a 13-year-old student committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with a .22-caliber rifle he had smuggled into Reed City (Mich.) High School in a guitar case.

The Feb. 25 incident occurred in front of the boy's locker at the 550-student school around 8 a.m., as students were heading to classes. No one else was injured.

The shooting of Vincent Garofalo followed the suicide of a Reed City high school senior one week earlier. There is no established connection between the deaths, said Bill Riemersa, the chief of police for Reed City, a town of about 3,000 people in north-central Michigan.

According to local newspaper accounts, Mr. Garofalo had told friends that "something was going to happen" the week of the incident. Investigators have been unable to identify a motive for the suicide, Mr. Riemersa said.

Indian Mascot Approved

The mascot of Mosinee High School in Wisconsin, an Indian warrior in a feathered headdress, does not discriminate against Native Americans, according to a state appeals court.

The Feb. 17 ruling by the 3rd District Court of Appeals in Wausau, Wis., upheld an earlier decision by the state education department that the school's Indian nickname and mascot do not violate civil rights guidelines.

The case stemmed from a complaint by Barbara Munson, the mother of three graduates of the high school and a member of the Oneida nation. She first protested the school's logo in 1994, but the school board overseeing the 2,000-student system in central Wisconsin denied her request.

About 65 schools in Wisconsin use Indian nicknames and logos.

Henry Steele Commager, one of the century's leading scholars of American history and the author of textbooks that were a standard in high school and college classrooms, died March 2. He was 95.

His high school text, Our Nation, published in 1941, was one of the most widely used and influential textbooks for decades to follow. The Growth of the American Republic, which he co-wrote with Samuel Eliot Morrison in 1931, was a standard college text for four decades.

In 1990, he received a lifetime-achievement award for his history writing from the Society of American Historians.

Vol. 17, Issue 26, Page 4

Published in Print: March 11, 1998, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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