George Giovanis, a junior at Coventry (R.I.) High School, marked the first day of school last fall by stripping down to his socks and taking a jog through the building. He later said he was trying to show his pride in his Greek heritage as Athens made a successful bid to host the 2004 Summer Olympics.
But administrators, who were not amused, issued him a suspension for the rest of the semester. That set off a state-district dispute over the proper punishment for such an offense.
Arguing that such punishment was overkill, Mr. Giovanis' family hired a lawyer and appealed to the Rhode Island education department. Commissioner of Education Peter McWalters ultimately ruled in November that although the student's actions were "indecent, dangerous, and illegal," the four-month suspension was excessive, "when compared with other suspensions in the record."
The ruling sent Mr. Giovanis, an honors student, back to class. But the 5,500-student Coventry district has appealed the decision to the state school board. Another hearing is expected by the end of June.
"The district is not going to stand back and let the commissioner make a decision as to what's best in our schools, when he wasn't even there," said Frederick G. Tobin, the lawyer representing the district.
The South Carolina native whom Fortune magazine calls "the toughest babe in business" is getting mixed signals about her recent comments on education before the state Senate.
Saying she wanted to protect her recent "investment"--a $25 million gift to the University of South Carolina--Darla Moore, the president of the New York-based investment firm Rainwater Inc., urged the senators to improve what she called the state's "borderline Third World" system of education.
Calling her remarks "inappropriate and very offensive," Republican Sen. John E. Courson wrote to the financier demanding an apology. Mr. Courson cited as an example actress Jane Fonda's recent public apology for telling a United Nations group that children in northern Georgia live in "tar paper shacks."
But on learning of the letter, Democratic Sen. Darrell Jackson penned his own note. "If any apology is necessary," he wrote, "the state of South Carolina should apologize for neglecting to fully fund education."
--JEFF ARCHER & JESSICA L. SANDHAM
Vol. 17, Issue 37, Pages 13-14Published in Print: May 27, 1998, as State Journal