News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Appellate Court Allows Delay in Charlotte Plan

A federal appeals court has ruled that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., school district can delay plans to end its student-busing program. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, based in Richmond, Va., said that complying with an order to end race-based student assignment in the 99,000-student district next fall would be a Herculean task and could mean neglecting student needs.

The school board voted Jan. 4 to scrap a reassignment plan in which half the district's 101,000 students would have attended different schools in the 2000-01 academic year.

The current assignment policy, in which students who choose to attend themed magnet schools are bused throughout the district, will continue next fall, but magnet school assignments will not be race-based.

Last September, a federal judge declared the district "unitary," saying it had done everything possible to eliminate vestiges of segregation and should discontinue busing. The district is set to appeal that ruling in June.

—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

Expulsion Rates Studied

A report on "zero tolerance" student-discipline policies in 10 cities nationwide has found that blacks were expelled or suspended at rates far exceeding their enrollment rates in the 1998-99 school year.

In San Francisco, for example, 16 percent of the school system's enrollment that year was African-American, but 52 percent of expelled or suspended students were black, the study found.

Whites made up 12 percent of the students and represented 10 percent of those expelled or suspended in San Francisco city schools. The patterns were similar in the other districts.

The Oakland, Calif.-based Applied Research Center, a nonprofit research group that studies race, wrote the report. The discipline data are part of a larger study to be released in February.

—Robert C. Johnston

All-Girl Charter Approved

The Chicago school board has approved an all-girls charter school focusing on mathematics, science, and technology to open next fall on the city's South Side.

National charter school experts say the Chicago board's Dec. 15 vote may have created the first charter school in the nation explicitly intended to serve students of just one sex.

The Young Women's Leadership Charter School is needed, supporters say, to create an environment where girls can excel in math and science and explore careers in those areas, where they tend to lag behind their male peers academically.

City school officials and the charter school's founders say the school—projected to enroll 525 girls in grades 6 through 12—passes legal muster.

—Lynn Schnaiberg

'Substitute' Crisis Seen

School districts in Washington state have reached a crisis point in their shortage of substitute teachers, union officials there are warning.

The problem is statewide, affecting all 300 school districts and 1 million students, according to Rich Wood, a spokesman for the 70,000-member Washington Education Association.

The National Education Association affiliate blames poor pay, ranging from $90 to $100 a day, as the biggest problem in attracting substitute teachers, who are required by state law to have teaching certificates.

—Candice Furlan

Tech Grant for Oregon

Oregon public schools received a $50 million donation at the beginning of this month to expand technology services.

Representatives of US West, the Denver, Colo.-based telecommunications enterprise, delivered a $25 million check to Gov. John Kitzhaber to start the initiative, with the second half of the money to be delivered next January.

According to Larry Austin, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Education, the funds will be used to connect Oregon's more than 200 high schools to the Internet and to provide the 570,000-student school system's high schools with two-way audio and visual connections for distance education.

Calling the donation a "big boost," Mr. Austin said he envisions, for example, that a teacher of Japanese language in southern Oregon will be able to teach any student in the state.

—Candice Furlan

Student Accused of Hacking

A Wyoming high school student has been accused of hacking into his school's computer system.

The student, 17, was charged last month with a crime against intellectual property, and if convicted could face up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $3,000. The senior at 625-student Rawlins High School in Rawlins, Wyo., was scheduled to appear at a preliminary hearing before a county court judge Jan. 7. A teacher discovered a file missing that contained questions for the quiz. A police investigation followed, which alleged the student broke into the computer system and deleted password-protected files. The student was "showing off," said Travis King, a detective for the Rawlins police department.

—Mary Ann Zehr

Charter School Evicted

The Adaptive Thought Orientation Process Academy, a charter school college-preparatory program, was evicted from its Phoenix, Ariz., site during the 100-student school's winter break. Half the students now attend the school's Tempe campus and the other half have enrolled elsewhere.

Lyle Skillen, the director of charter school liaison for the Arizona Department of Education, said that Raymond Jackson, who holds the charter, is considered a national leader in charter schools. But Mr. Jackson ran into trouble last year when the State Board of Charter Schools put the school on a two-year corrective-action plan because of financial-reporting and other problems.

—Candice Furlan

Spec. Ed. Settlement OK'd

A federal judge has approved a settlement order to provide more special education services and staff training in an impoverished, mostly minority district in East Palo Alto, Calif.

The settlement—affecting the California Department of Education, the 5,250-student Ravenswood Elementary School District, and parents of disabled students—seeks to better identify and provide services to students with disabilities.

Bill Koski, the supervising lawyer for the East Palo Alto Community Law Project, said his office and two other groups filed the suit three years ago after seeing hundreds of documented violations of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Under the settlement, drafted last fall and approved Jan. 3, the district must provide supplemental and corrective services to students with disabilities.

—Joetta L. Sack

Expelled Student Files Suit

A former Sandwich, Mass., high school student who was permanently expelled after he allegedly threatened to kill four classmates has filed a $75 million lawsuit claiming he was denied due process.

One week after the shootings at Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colo., last April, a threat was found on a restroom wall in the 930-student Sandwich High School. Three days later, another threat appeared.

Then 16 years old and a sophomore, the student admitted to having written the second threat. He was prohibited from ever attending public school in the state.

Defense lawyer Kurt Fliegauf said the school had a responsibility to protect students and assumed the threats were genuine.

—Michelle Galley

One Threat Too Many

A student from Colorado's Columbine High School who received an Internet threat has decided to attend nearby Chatfield High. Both are located in the 92,000-student Jefferson County school district.

On Dec. 15, Erin Walton, a junior, received a computer message from someone using the screen name Soup81. The author threatened that the next day he would "finish what was begun" last April 20, when 12 students and a teacher were slain by two student gunmen at Columbine. School officials canceled the last two days of final exams and ended the semester early.

Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation traced the message to Michael Ian Campbell, an 18-year old in Cape Coral, Florida. He was arrested and was due to appear in federal court in Denver Jan. 11.

—Adrienne D. Coles

Vol. 19, Issue 17, Page 4

Published in Print: January 12, 2000, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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