News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Army Corps of Engineers To Oversee L.A. Construction

Concerns about years of mismanagement of sorely needed school construction have prompted the Los Angeles schools' new leadership team to enlist the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in overseeing new building projects.

Under an agreement announced last week by Howard B. Miller, the district's recently appointed chief operating officer, the Corps of Engineers will oversee the design and construction of at least 150 schools and conversions and repairs at some 50 existing ones.

Commercial contractors will actually build and repair the schools. The corps, which the district will reimburse for its consulting work, will help negotiate the contracts.

The 710,000-student district, the nation's second largest, is also among the fastest-growing.

—Kerry A. White

Tax-Credit Suit Dismissed

School choice advocates praised an Illinois judge's decision Dec. 7 to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a $500 state income-tax credit that can be used to offset tuition cost at private and religious schools.

In dismissing the suit brought by the Illinois Federation of Teachers, Judge Loren P. Lewis of the Franklin County Circuit Court cited the U.S. Supreme Court's 1983 decision upholding a similar tax credit in Minnesota. Gail Purkey, a spokeswoman for the union, said the teachers' group was disappointed that the judge "either overlooked or ignored" state constitutional provisions prohibiting state support of religious schools. She said the union would file an appeal.

A second suit challenging the constitutionality of the tax credit, filed by the Illinois Education Association and other education organizations, is pending in Sangamon County Circuit Court.

—Jessica L. Sandham

Schools To Get Defibrillators

With the help of grants from a local hospital, automatic defibrillators are to be made available in first-aid stations at some Wisconsin high schools.

In response earlier this year to the fourth cardiac arrest at a Milwaukee-area high school, the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, located in Milwaukee, offered last month to provide money to schools for the purchase of the machines and the training necessary to operate them, said Karen F. Bauer, the life-support-program coordinator for the hospital.

The machines cost about $3,000 each and are used to shock a patient's erratic heartbeat into a more normal rhythm, Ms. Bauer said.

Demand is high. To date, Ms. Bauer has received 30 inquiries.

—Julie Blair

Okla. Paper Wary on Shootings

Oklahoma's largest-circulation daily newspaper deliberately toned down its reporting of last week's shootings at a rural Oklahoma school.

Editors at the Daily Oklahoman in Oklahoma City, about 140 miles from Fort Gibson, the site of the incident, explained in the Dec. 7 issue that the paper's lengthy account would be kept off the front page.

A 7th grade boy at Fort Gibson Middle School was arrested and detained in Muskogee following the incident, which occurred on Dec. 6, police said. Four students at the 450-student school were shot and a fifth injured in the panic that followed.

—Andrew Trotter

New Admissions Policy Tried

Thousands more high school students than usual are waiting to find out if they have been accepted to Harvard, Brown, and Georgetown universities, thanks to a change in those schools' early-admission policies allowing applicants to apply early to other schools. Previously, students applying early had to agree, if accepted, to enroll the following fall.

The change has resulted in a surge of applications—62 percent more at Brown, located in Providence, R.I.; 30 percent more at Harvard in Cambridge, Mass.; and 44 percent more at Georgetown, located in Washington.

—Michelle Galley

Md. Scores Dip Slightly

Scores on Maryland's state testing program have dropped for the first time in the seven years since the program started.

In last spring's round of testing, 43.8 percent of students scored at the "satisfactory" level on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program, known as MSPAP. That is off slightly from 1998, when 44.1 percent of the 3rd, 5th, and 8th graders hit that mark.

In 1993, 31.7 percent of Maryland students scored at the satisfactory level, and the scores then rose steadily every year until this year.

—David J. Hoff

Marijuana Grown at School

Four students at a North Carolina high school were hit with criminal charges and one-year suspensions after they were discovered allegedly growing more than 100 marijuana plants in their school's greenhouse Dec. 2.

The plants were found by Officer Sam McNeill, who was stationed at Union Pines High School in Carthage, according to Lt. Susan McCrimmon, a spokeswoman for the Moore County sheriff's office.

The students, whose ages range from 16 to 18, planted seeds at school Nov. 23, according to Anita Alpenfels, a public-information officer for the 11,000-student district, and they grew two to three inches over Thanksgiving break.

Other students at the 985-student school told Officer McNeill about the marijuana, which led to the arrest of the four students and subsequent charges relating to the manufacture, possession, and intended sale of marijuana.

— Candice Furlan

Starter Guns OK as Props

District officials in Natrona County, Wyo., have decided to allow students performing in a play to use starter guns as props.

District policy forbids anything resembling a weapon on school grounds. But the one-act play performed for a statewide competition by Natrona County High School in Casper called for the use of guns.

The play, "Like, Totally Weird," is about two teenage boys who sneak into the home of a Hollywood producer and take him and his actress girlfriend hostage. The boys then re-enact violent scenes from the producer's movies.

After he watched a dress rehearsal, Stan Olson, the superintendent of the 12,000-student district, decided the absence of the props would have hurt the school's entry in the competition.

—Adrienne D. Coles

Science Winners Named

Three high school students have won a total of $190,000 in college scholarships in the inaugural year of a national science competition.

Lisa Harris of New York City collected the $100,000 prize for best individual entry in the Siemens Westinghouse Science & Technology Competition.

Ms. Harris, a senior at the Dalton School, created a process to pinpoint four carrier genes for cystic fibrosis. In the team competition, Daniar Hussain, a senior at Richland High School in Johnstown, Pa., and Steven Malliaris, a senior at New Trier High School in Winnetka, Ill., won for writing a new computer program that improves the storage and retrieval of data. They will split a $90,000 scholarship.

The Siemens Westinghouse competition—sponsored by the Siemens Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the New York-based electronics conglomerate—is separate from the Intel Science Talent Search, the successor to the contest long sponsored by Westinghouse Electric Corp. After Siemens acquired Westinghouse last year, it started the new contest. ("New Sponsorship Causes Confusion For Science Contests," Jan. 13, 1999.)

—David J. Hoff

Philip Elman


Philip Elman, the chief author of the federal government's briefs in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education, died Nov. 30 at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington. He was 81.

As a lawyer in the U.S. Department of Justice, Mr. Elman suggested the key phrase "with all deliberate speed" when the court clarified in 1995 how its 1954 decision overturning school segregation should be carried out.

Mr. Elman was born in Paterson, N.J., and graduated from Harvard Law School. From 1944 to 1951, he worked as an assistant in the U.S. solicitor general's office and argued some 50 cases before the high court.

—John Gehring

Vol. 19, Issue 16, Page 4

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