News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Gates Millennium Program Announces Nominations

More than 50,000 students have been nominated for the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, a college-scholarship effort for minority students started by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation last September with a $1 billion grant.

More than 50,000 students have been nominated for the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, a college-scholarship effort for minority students started by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation last September with a $1 billion grant.

From those nominations, which the foundation announced last week, the program will award 4,000 of the merit- and need-based scholarships for the 2000-01 school year. Eligible students must have at least a 3.3 grade point average on a 4.0 scale, demonstrate leadership skills and community involvement, and prove financial need. The scholarships, intended to supplement university financial-aid packages, will provide support for minority students accepted into or enrolled in a four-year college or university, as well as those undertaking graduate studies in mathematics, science, engineering, education, or library science.

The program will help 20,000 minority students attend college, and will spend $50 million annually for the next 20 years. Trevor Neilson, a spokesman for the foundation, expressed admiration for the quality of the applicants and "their scholastic achievement."

The Gates Foundation administers the program in partnership with the United Negro College Fund, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, and the American Indian College Fund.

—Naomi Greengrass

School Bus Did Not Stop, NTSB Says

The National Transportation Safety Board has reached the preliminary conclusion that a Georgia school bus did not stop at a railroad track crossing before it was struck by a 33-car freight train near the Georgia-Tennessee line in Tennga, Ga., an NTSB spokesman said last Friday.Three students were killed and four injured, two critically, in the March 28 accident. The railroad crossing had a warning sign, but no lights or other protection, authorities said.

The Murray County, Ga., school bus was carrying seven passengers to Northwest Elementary School in Tennga when the CSX train struck it at a speed of 50 mph at about 7 a.m., according to a spokesman from the Tennessee Highway Patrol. The bus driver, Rhonda Cloer, 34, and the injured students, ranging in age from 5 to 9, were taken to T.C. Thompson Children's Hospital in Chattanooga, Tenn. The driver and one student were later discharged.

More than 1,000 people, including Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, attended a candlelight vigil March 29 in front of the Murray County Courthouse in Chatsworth.

The school system has rerouted buses to avoid the railroad crossing where the accident occurred, said Kate Pannell, a spokeswoman for Murray County schools.

—Mark Jennings & Naomi Greengrass

Columbine Report Set for May

After consulting with victims' families, the Jefferson County, Colo., sheriff's department announced last week that it will release a report to the public at the end of next month concerning the Columbine High School shooting.

The document, which will be more than 200 pages long, is set to be issued in CD-ROM format and will contain videos and audio data from the April 20, 1999, incident in which two students shot to death 12 classmates and a teacher and then killed themselves.

Steve Davis, a spokesman for the sheriff's department, said officials were waiting to release the material in May to avoid rehashing sensitive information near the anniversary of the attack. The edited report will provide a timeline of the events of April 20 and will reveal the details of exactly when, and where, the victims were killed and which gunman killed them.

Mr. Davis said the report, which is not yet completed, would not contain some graphic details of the massacre in order to spare the feelings of the victims' families.

—Jessica Portner

Fall Kills Student Climber

Castella/DunsmuirA 17-year-old California high school student was killed and his friend injured March 23 when the two boys fell off a ledge in a state park while working on a class project about rock climbing.

John Joseph Stafford Jr. was at Castle Crags State Park in Castella, Calif., when he slipped and fell more than 75 feet. His friend, Ian Smith, who was photographing him for the project, was dragged over the edge with him. After Mr. Smith regained consciousness, he tried to revive his friend, with no success. Mr. Smith then tried to hike down the canyon, but his broken ribs, fractured pelvis, bruises, and multiple cuts prevented him from getting far, forcing him to spend the night in the canyon before being rescued.

The boys were working on the project for a class at Dunsmuir High School in Dunsmuir, Calif., just north of the park. According to Sgt. Dave Dean of the Shasta County sheriff's office, Mr. Stafford was an avid rock climber, but Mr. Smith was not.

—Candice Furlan

School Paper Targeted Teachers

Eleven students at a Los Angeles charter school have been suspended for publishing an underground newspaper that school officials said maligned certain teachers and was also salted with innuendo and numerous instances of crude language.

One teacher had not returned to class at Palisades Charter School more than a week after the paper falsely said she was an actress in pornographic films, according to Assistant Principal Margaret Evans.

School officials have begun procedures to transfer four of the students, who received suspensions of from two to five days, to another school and may attempt to transfer others, Ms. Evans said. One student slated for transfer has said as many as 40 students were involved in producing the paper.

Approximately 300 of the high school's 2,500 students skipped morning classes March 22 to rally in protest of the suspensions and the banning of the publication, on the grounds that officials were interfering with students' free-speech rights.

—Andrew Trotter

Parents Want More Phys. Ed.

Parents believe the public schools should play a more central role in teaching children how to stay fit, a new national survey shows.

Eighty-one percent of parents of public school children said daily physical education should be mandatory, according to the survey last month from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, a nonprofit group of fitness professionals based in Reston, Va.

However, only 44 percent of students are receiving daily physical education instruction, and 5 percent of children receive none at all, noted Carl Gabbard, the organization's president and a physical education professor at Texas A&M University. "It is no wonder obesity rates are soaring," he said.

Sixty-seven percent of the 1,017 adults and 69 percent of the 500 teenagers surveyed said they strongly believe that participation in team sports helps children learn lessons about discipline and teamwork that will help them be more physically active and confident in the future.

—Mark Jennings

Nebraska Pole Vaulter Dies

GeringAn 18-year-old student in Gering, Neb., died last week from injuries he suffered during pole-vaulting practice at his school.

Nathan Dean, an 18-year-old senior at Gering High School, landed past the 16-foot landing pit and hit an asphalt slab, cracking his skull. He died two days after the March 29 incident at Regional West Hospital in Scottsbluff, Neb.

Bruce Epstein, the principal at the 515-student school, said that the other nine pole vaulters will probably not compete in the next track and field event, which is scheduled to be held this week. He noted that the school is careful to comply with all recommended precautions and safety regulations related to pole vaulting.

—Candice Furlan

Accreditation Revision Likely

A child-care center in Hudson, Mass., has been shut down by state officials for a variety of abuses, including an incident in which the center's director allegedly taped an 8-month-old child to a wall with duct tape, state officials said.

Kate Arsenault, the director of communications for the state's child-care office, said a three-week investigation of the center, called A Place to Grow, turned up the allegations earlier this year that led to the decision to close the center last month.

Last fall, the center had received accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

The Washington-based group's deputy executive director, Barbara Willer, said that when the center's license was suspended, the facility automatically lost its NAEYC accreditation.

Ms. Willer added that she was appalled that such abuses could have occurred at an accredited center, and noted that revisions to the accreditation process are under way. ("Early-Childhood-Accreditation Demand Overwhelms NAEYC," Nov. 10, 1999.)

—Michelle Galley

Vol. 19, Issue 30, Page 4

Published in Print: April 5, 2000, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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