News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Room for Growth in New L.A. Plan

In an attempt to stay a few steps ahead of a potential enrollment crisis, the new management team for the Los Angeles school system has unveiled a six-year school construction plan intended to accommodate 120,000 additional students.

Howard B. Miller

The district, the nation's second largest and among the fastest-growing, now has 710,000 students in 660 schools.

Howard B. Miller, a lawyer and former school board member who was named to the new post of chief operating officer in October, presented the facilities plan at a school board meeting Nov. 23. It includes the construction of 150 primary centers, which would serve students in kindergarten through 4th grade, and the conversion of existing middle schools into high schools. No new high schools would be built under the proposal. The district's current construction plan calls for 97 new schools over the next nine years, but due to management problems and a lack of available land in the district, few of those schools will be built as planned.

The school board, which has not yet endorsed the new plan, is scheduled to hear more details later this month.

—Kerry A. White

Youth Crime Rate Down

Even though the total number of juveniles in the nation is on the rise, juvenile violent crime is at its lowest level since 1987, and fell 30 percent from 1994 to 1998, according to the U.S. Department of Justice's office of juvenile justice and delinquency prevention.

The agency's new report reflects a "substantial reduction" in the number of juvenile arrests for every violent and property crime, according to Shay Bilchik, the administrator of the juvenile-justice office.

"Juvenile Arrest 1998" presents an analysis of the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports data, and notes an almost 50 percent drop in the murder-arrest rate for juveniles from 1993 to 1998. In addition, the arrest rate for weapons-law violations dropped 33 percent during that period.

In a separate finding from the agency, a survey shows only 28 percent of violent crimes against juveniles become known to police. School victimization of juveniles is less likely to be reported to police than nonschool victimization, according to the survey published in the November Juvenile Justice Bulletin, but more likely to be reported to some authority.

—Adrienne D. Coles

School Bond Lauded Online

Citizens of Fairmont, W.Va., interested in a multimillion-dollar school bond proposal decided to use the Internet to promote their cause.

Two weeks ago, the Marion County Bond Committee, a group of citizens, school board members, and members of the county chamber of commerce, launched a World Wide Web site to promote passage of the Marion County Bond 2000.

The proposal, scheduled for a vote Feb. 26, calls for $29.7 million to build a new high school, a new gymnasium, and a commons area at the site of an existing high school, the 1,200-student North Marion High School in Fairmont.

The Web site at, already contains a summary of the proposal, estimated costs for both projects, drawings and plans for the construction, tax rates for the proposed bond, and a section for users to submit questions by e-mail. The site will be completed by the end of the year, organizers said.

—Candice Furlan

Controversial Chief To Retire

An Alabama school official who sparked controversy five years ago by proposing to bar interracial couples from a school prom plans to retire Jan. 1.

Hulond Humphries, 62, has served in his current job as the elected superintendent of the 2,200-student Randolph County school district since July 1997.

He was forced to resign as the principal of Randolph County High School in 1994, following a furor surrounding his prom proposal and alleged comments he made to a student about racial mixing.

Mr. Humphries' remarks prompted a student boycott and protests from black residents.

Ultimately, complaints about the situation led the U.S. Department of Justice to reopen a desegregation lawsuit against the district and compelled the Randolph County schools to take steps to remedy what federal officials called a "racially hostile environment."

In the wake of the controversy, Mr. Humphries was elected to the superintendent's post with support from 57 percent of voters.

Erik W. Robelen

Bus-Driver Shortage Seen

Many Connecticut districts are staggering their school starting times to make up for a shortage of bus drivers that is also being seen nationwide.

Due to low unemployment, most school districts in Connecticut are falling 10 percent short of the number of drivers needed, according to Robin Leeds, the director of the Connecticut School Transportation Association.

Linda Coates, a risk manager for Dattco Inc., a New Britain, Conn., company that provides transportation for students in the state, said the company is trying to attract people who are not in the job market, such as retirees and housewives.

Cliff Gibson, the area manager for the Connecticut division of Laidlaw Transit of Napersville, Ill., the nation's largest provider of school bus transportation, said that many of the 80 school districts in Connecticut are staggering the start of the school day to allow for fewer drivers.

The problem is not exclusive to Connecticut. About 20 percent more school bus drivers—some 85,000 people—are needed nationwide, according to the National Association of Pupil Transportation.

—Candice Furlan

Players' Suspensions End

Thirteen football players from the 4,600-student Fontana (Calif.) High School returned to class last week after serving five-day suspensions for their involvement in a fight with opposing players at a playoff game.

The fight broke out while players from the two teams were shaking hands following the Nov. 19 game, which Fontana High lost. Players from Fontana, which is 40 miles east of Los Angeles, say that students on the opposing team taunted them with racial slurs.

Mike Demmer, the principal at Fontana, would not identify the races of the students involved or elaborate on the alleged slurs. Under the school's discipline policy, fighting is grounds for an automatic suspension, which can range from three to five days. No one has voiced concern over the length of the suspensions, Mr. Demmer said.

—Robert C. Johnston


Jeanne S. Chall, a leading expert in reading research and instruction, died of congestive heart failure Nov. 27 at her home in Cambridge, Mass. She was 77.

Jeanne S. Chall

A prolific writer, Chall was best known for Learning to Read: The Great Debate, a 1967 book that put her in the midst of the national debate about the best way to teach reading.

Over more than half a century in the field, the Polish-born researcher developed diagnostic tools for reading specialists, advised on children's educational television shows, and founded a reading laboratory at the Harvard University graduate school of education.

She retired from her professorship at the university in 1991.

—Debra Viadero

Vol. 19, Issue 15, Page 4

Published in Print: December 8, 1999, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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