News in Brief: A National Roundup

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ACLU Contests Public Bond For Mich. Catholic School

The American Civil Liberties Union is backing a suit challenging the issuance of a revenue bond in behalf of an independent Roman Catholic school in Michigan.

The Economic Development Council in Oakland County issued a bond for some $3 million in 1995 to help the Sacred Heart Academy in Bloomfield Hills improve its science and technology facilities. The pre-K-12 school serves 454 students.

Such government issued bonds are tax-exempt to the bondholders, meaning the borrower benefits from a lower interest rate. The ACLU's Michigan chapter argued that this gave the school an advantage.

At the behest of a board member of the nearby Southfield public schools, the Michigan ACLU late last month asked the U.S. District Court in Detroit to order the county to recall the bond.

Robert A. Sedler, a lawyer for the ACLU, said the county's action violates the religious establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Lawyers for the county said last week they were still reviewing the complaint.

Ohio Tests Ruled Public

Ohio's graduation test is a public record, the state supreme court has ruled, and it must be released to those who ask to see copies of the exams that have already been administered to students.

Tests "should not be enshrouded in a cloak of secrecy, isolated from the scrutiny and oversight of the general public, concerned parents, and students themselves," wrote Justice F.E. Sweeney for the 4-3 majority.

The April 29 decision represents a victory for Hollie Rea and her father, Stephen Rea. As a high school senior in 1995, Ms. Rea took the 12th grade Ohio Proficiency Test and the Ohio Vocational Competency Assessment. Afterward, she and her father were told they could review the tests only if they signed an agreement not to disclose the exams' contents. They refused and filed suit in 1996.

N.C. Union Challenges Test

The North Carolina Association of Educators has filed suit to stop the state's scheduled test for teachers in low-performing schools.

The affiliate of the National Education Association was joined in the class action filed this month against the state school board and superintendent by the Gaston and Edgecombe county school boards. They argue that the test--scheduled to be administered June 12 to 247 teachers, counselors, and other staff members who work in 15 schools where students have scored low on state tests--violates teachers' constitutional right to equal protection of the laws. ("Testing Awaits Staffs in Low-Achieving Schools," April 15, 1998.)

The association also filed a suit to force the state board to hold public hearings on the regulations governing the test.

The general-knowledge test is mandated by a law enacted last year that also gave teachers substantial raises. The state board is on record opposing the test, which lawmakers are expected to debate during a session that begins this week.

Youth-Accident Rate Drops

The number of children killed in bicycle collisions, car crashes, and other accidents has dropped by 26 percent in the past decade, thanks largely to the increased use of bike helmets and seat belts, a report released last week by the National Safe Kids Campaign says.

The overall death rate from accidental injuries to children 14 and younger was 11 per 1,000 in 1995, a drop from 15 per 1,000 children in 1987, according to the report from the Washington-based advocacy group.

The findings were based on data from the National Center for Health Statistics, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and private groups.

On the downside, sports-related injuries for basketball, in-line skating, and football jumped during the same period. The basketball-injury rate has risen more than 50 percent among 5- to 14-year-olds, the study found.

Accidents overall still remain the leading cause of death among 1- to 14-year-olds, the report says.

Teacher Wins Suit Over Job

An Oregon district must pay some $37,500 to a former teacher who claimed she was unfairly passed over for a principal's position, a jury has ruled.

Marianne Clausing-Lee's complaint dates back to 1987, when she was accused of writing inflammatory unsigned letters about another employee of the 7,500-student Corvallis public schools. After an investigation failed to prove she was the author, officials assured her that the incident would not be held against her in future personnel matters.

But Ms. Clausing-Lee, a 25-year veteran educator who holds a doctorate in educational administration, said the district broke that pledge when it did not offer her any of the principalships she applied for in the next several years.

"In each case the job went to the best qualified person," argued Tom Moore, the lawyer who represented the district.

Although the court dismissed an additional defamation charge, for which the teacher sought far more in damages, a state circuit court jury decided last month that the district had committed a breach of contract. The award was based on the difference between two years of her salary as a teacher and what it would have been as a principal.

Mother Slain at School

A sheriff's deputy allegedly shot and killed his estranged wife and wounded a teacher's aide in the office of an elementary school in Buffalo, N.Y., this month.

Juan A. Roman, 37, allegedly shot and killed Norma Roman after she dropped off two of their children at the 650-student Public School 18 on May 1. Margaret Beals, a teacher's aide, was struck in the arm. None of the students was hurt, although one 8-year-old student was in the office at the time of the incident.

Mr. Roman was arrested walking down the street just after the shooting.

Members of the city police force visited classrooms to assure pupils that they can still trust police officers, despite the alleged gunman's occupation, said Andrew Maddigan, a spokesman for the district.

Drug Trafficking Charged

A middle school vice principal in Miami has been indicted on federal charges of drug trafficking.

Willie James Young was arrested last month by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency just blocks away from the 1,900-student North Miami Middle School.

He has been charged with conspiracy to possess and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. He pleaded not guilty to the charges. A trial date has not been set.

School officials said they were unaware that Mr. Young was under surveillance by the DEA. He is on unpaid leave.

Vol. 17, Issue 35, Page 4

Published in Print: May 13, 1998, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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