News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Texas Ruling Allows Prayer Before Football Games

A federal judge has told a Houston-area district to allow a 17-year-old student to pray publicly before high school football games.

U.S. District Judge Sim Lake granted a temporary injunction to allow Marian Ward to pray over the loudspeaker at a football game in Santa Fe, Texas.

The young woman's parents sued the Santa Fe district, challenging a policy that forbade any type of religious speech at school events. Judge Lake's ruling said the policy amounted to "state-sponsored atheism."

Ms. Ward wore her band uniform and received a standing ovation from about 3,000 people at the first football game of the season earlier this month.

--Alan Richard

Ky. District To Start Earlier

High schools in Pike County, Ky., are opening their doors a little earlier these days, reversing a policy designed to give teenagers more sleep.

Superintendent Frank Welch said a school board decision to begin classes at 8:30, in response to some research indicating that older students perform better in later hours, didn't work as hoped.

Attendance dropped, and there was no proof that students fared better in their studies, he said. Students also wanted to leave school earlier for afternoon jobs.

Most schools in 11,000-student district in eastern Kentucky are now starting at about 8:15, he said.

--Alan Richard

Deals Signed in Philadelphia

David H. Hornbeck

Philadelphia began the school year on schedule last week after district officials reached agreements with members of four employee unions whose contracts had expired Sept. 1.

An arbitration panel set out the terms for a new two-year contract that gives school administrators a 7 percent raise over that term and maintains a pay-for-performance plan for principals.

Bus drivers, maintenance workers, and building engineers struck a four-year deal that will raise salaries 11 percent over that time and provide performance incentives.

Details of tentative agreements with cafeteria workers and school police officers were not released last week. Union members are expected to vote on the agreements this month.

David W. Hornbeck, the superintendent of the 215,000-student system, said the deals show "our joint commitment to children, our shared accountability, and our ability to work cooperatively for the good of the district."

--Robert C. Johnston

Charter Plan Reconsidered

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago has announced that it will not seek to form charter schools, but has left the door open to cooperating with others interested in launching them.

Earlier this month, the archdiocese, which had been considering forming the nonprofit corporation required to hold a public school charter, announced that it would not do so.

By law, charter schools cannot be Catholic schools, and it would "take additional money and considerable effort to establish and manage a charter school, money and effort that could be better used to strengthen Catholic education," the Rev. John Pollard, the archdiocesan director of education, said in a statement.

But the archdiocese intends to cooperate with charter schools established by others, Father Pollard said, perhaps by offering religious education before and after the school day for interested families.

--Lynn Schnaiberg

Boston College Reaches Out

The school of education at Boston College has received a $5 million gift from an anonymous donor to foster collaboration between the school and a nearby district.

The college will use the donation to pay for teams of students and faculty from the university to work with K-12 educators in the 5,000-student Allston-Brighton schools. The district serves a large proportion of immigrant and working-class families.

Jack Dunn, a Boston College spokesman, said that if the program was successful, it could be replicated in other Boston neighborhoods. The education school already has an "extended services" program that offers job counseling and English classes to families of students in the Allston-Brighton district.

--Meghan Mullan

Campaign Targets Cheating

The Educational Testing Service and the Advertising Council have unveiled a national public service campaign aimed at dissuading middle school students from cheating in school.

The three-year campaign, to consist mainly of print and broadcast ads, begins this month with "The Ref in Your Head," which features a whistle-blowing game official intended to represent a student's conscience.

A caption reads: "Cheating is a personal foul."

According to some recent polls, cheating among adolescents is both rampant and on the rise.

In addition to the public service announcements, a telephone hot line, (888) 88CHEAT, and an Internet site,, have been set up to give students, parents, and teachers more information on cheating and the campaign.

--Kerry A. White

Milwaukee To Monitor Buses

The Milwaukee school board has approved a pilot program to install 50 video cameras on district school buses.

The $60,000 program is an effort to deter disruptive behavior on buses. The initiative, approved late last month, also calls for 150 decoy devices that look like the cameras to be installed in other buses.

The video cameras are a part of the overall safety plan for the 102,000-student district, says Karen Salzbrenner, a Milwaukee schools spokeswoman. The district hopes to use the cameras to document behavior of both students and bus drivers.

--Meghan Mullan

Vol. 19, Issue 2, Page 4

Published in Print: September 15, 1999, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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