News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Ohio Districts Make Errors On Statewide Report Cards

Report cards designed to measure the quality of education in Ohio's public schools contained incorrect information about two Dayton-area districts, state officials said last week.

Data-entry mistakes made within the 4,200-student Franklin-Monroe and 700-student West Carrollton districts and submitted to the state resulted in significantly changed scores, said Lee Anne Rogers, a spokeswoman for the Ohio education department.

The Franklin-Monroe district inaccurately coded special education students, and as a result was shown as meeting only 16 of 18 state performance standards, Superintendent Dave Gray said. The district should have scored 18 out of 18.

In the West Carrollton district, officials neglected to include the results from a 9th grade proficiency test given last fall in the packets submitted to the state. Because of the error, the record mistakenly shows that the district met only three of the state's 18 standards.

--Julie Blair

Bible Club Denied Resources

A Bible club at a school in the Bethel, Wash., district is not entitled to the same benefits as nonreligious clubs, a federal judge has ruled.

Tausha Price, an 11th grader at Spanaway Lake High School, sued the district after administrators denied her permission, during the 1997-98 school year, to form a Bible club with "associated student body" status, which makes school clubs eligible for transportation services and other school resources.

The district said the club could meet in a classroom and post announcements on a school bulletin board and the closed-circuit television system, said John H. Binns Jr., a lawyer for the 15,250-student district.

Ms. Price argued that treating the club differently violated the First Amendment.

In dismissing the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Franklin D. Burgess in Tacoma found that the First Amendment and the federal Equal Access Act barred the district from providing to a religious group advantages that would require significant expenditures of district resources.

Ms. Price is considering an appeal, according to her lawyer, David A. Cortman.

--Andrew Trotter

Drivers Claim Age, Sex Bias

Four bus drivers have filed a lawsuit against the Fayette County, Ky., schools alleging age and sex discrimination.

Bus drivers Phyllis Stafford, Rebecca Jones, Cindy Greer, and Brenda Rogers took their complaints of discrimination to the district's Equity Council last year. The council, a watchdog group that advises the school board, issued a report last June concluding that the environment in the transportation department made it difficult for female drivers to work.

Since the report came out, the drivers claim they have suffered from such retaliatory action as being passed over for promotions, according to the lawsuit filed April 2 in U.S. District Court in Lexington. They also claim that the transportation director had made derogatory comments about older workers. The plaintiffs are seeking an end to the alleged retaliation and a total of $100,000 in damages.

Officials of the 32,500-student district, which includes Lexington, would not comment on the case.

--Karen L. Abercrombie

Parents Sue Media Over Shooting

Parents of three West Paducah, Ky., students killed by a classmate have filed a lawsuit against more than 25 entertainment companies. The parents claim that computer games and violent movies provoked the 14-year-old freshman's attack.


Michael Carneal, who fatally shot three girls and wounded five others at Heath High School in December 1997, was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

The suit filed April 13 in federal district court in Paducah claims that the teenager was incited to violence by watching such movies as "The Basketball Diaries," viewing pornographic sites on the Internet, and playing violent computer games. Time Warner Inc. and Nintendo of America are among the companies named in the suit.

Likening the lawsuit to a product- liability case, Mike Breen, a lawyer for the parents, claimed the entertainment products were "defective and dangerous."

A spokesman for Nintendo of America declined to comment last week. Several other companies named in the suit could not be reached.

--Jessica Portner

Ex-Principal Wins Damages

The city of New Orleans appealed last week a state judge's ruling ordering the payment of $200,000 in damages to a former principal--six years after she was arrested for refusing to allow a police officer who could not produce official identification or a proper release form to remove a student from school.

Anita P. Dumas sued the city following the April 1993 incident at John F. Kennedy High School, where she was the principal. Law-enforcement officials did not press charges against Ms. Dumas, who was arrested for obstruction of justice. Her lawyer, Darleen M. Jacobs, said Ms. Dumas was simply following school procedure in refusing to release the student for an interview with a social worker.

State District Court Judge Gerald Federoff wrote in his March 30 ruling that the consequences for Ms. Dumas were "horrendous." In front of students and faculty members, she had been taken from the building in handcuffs; she resigned a year later. "Having been humiliated before her faculty and student body, she could not emotionally resume her normal duties," the judge wrote.

--Erik W. Robelen

Countersuit Filed Over Test Breach

A Chicago public school teacher who was suspended without pay for publishing high school test questions in his newspaper has countersued the district.

George Schmidt, the editor of the Substance newspaper, filed suit this month against the Chicago district for what he charges was a violation of his First Amendment rights. Mr. Schmidt's paper printed questions from the Chicago Academic Standards Exams in January, prompting a $1.3 million lawsuit by the 421,000-student district. Administrators said the tests would have to be rewritten. ("Chicago Schools Take Aim at Teacher Newspaper," Feb. 10, 1999.)

Mr. Schmidt, who was first given an administrative job and then was suspended without pay last month, is seeking his job as an English teacher and security coordinator at Bowen High School, the restoration of lost wages and benefits, and punitive damages of more than $1 million.

District officials did not return phone calls last week.

--Ann Bradley

Principal Accused of Drug-Selling

A private school principal who has been an outspoken advocate for drug-awareness education has been accused of running a narcotics ring out of her school office in New York City.

Following a three-month investigation, Delores Hill was arrested this month, along with the school's health director and janitor, for allegedly selling cocaine to an undercover police officer at Tabernacle Elementary School, a 170-student school in Brooklyn.

One of the three drug deals she is accused of allegedly occurred in the principal's office while she was babysitting two infants, according to the Brooklyn prosecutor's office.

A 1990 article in the Long Island newspaper, Newsday, featured Ms. Hill and her work at the school. In it, she called for more drug-education programs. She added that some 2nd graders knew more about drugs than their parents.

--Michelle Galley

Judge Orders School Elevators

A student with a spinal cord defect has won a legal ruling that says her New Jersey high school must install two elevators.

In a state suit filed last year against the Hunterdon Central district, Janel Kovara, an 18-year-old senior at Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington, N.J., charged that the three-story school had reneged on its promise three years earlier to install elevators. She said she was forced to take roundabout routes, putting her health and safety at risk.

A state administrative judge ruled last month that the district must install elevators. The school board was scheduled to discuss the order this week.

The 2,100-student district approved a corrective-action plan in 1994 to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act but decided against constructing the elevators.

--Adrienne D. Coles

Vol. 18, Issue 32, Page 4

Published in Print: April 21, 1999, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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