News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Boy Scouts Drop Units Opposed to Gay Policy

The Boy Scouts of America has declined to renew the charters of eight Scouting units because their sponsors, parent-teacher organizations in the Oak Park, Ill., elementary district, said they could not abide by the Scouts' policy excluding homosexuals as leaders.

Irene Clute, the co-president of the Oak Park Council of PTOs, said the PTO sponsors of two Boy Scout troops and six Cub Scout packs from seven schools in the 5,000-student district informed the local Boy Scout office last fall that they would follow their village's and school district's nondiscrimination policies.

Last month, the Des Plaines Valley Council of the Boy Scouts wrote to the PTO Council that the sponsors' charters could not be renewed because of "an inconsistency between your position and the position of the Boy Scouts of America concerning avowed homosexuals as Scout leaders."

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 last year that the Boy Scouts of America has a First Amendment right of "expressive association" to exclude homosexuals as leaders.

Ms. Clute said the eight Scouting units, which served about 300 boys last fall, were given until Feb. 28 to find new sponsors. But many boys have indicated they won't continue to participate, she said.

—Mark Walsh

Mother Charged With Assault

A Boston mother who was angry about the procedures used to discipline her son was charged with assault after she allegedly stormed into the boy's 1st grade classroom and pushed the teacher in front of her pupils.

Teacher Carla Reveliotty, a 30-year veteran of the Boston public schools, lost her balance and crashed into a desk, fracturing her cheekbone, said Tracey Lynch, a spokeswoman for the 64,000-student district.

Angela Brinson allegedly shouted and pushed the teacher, who had forced her son to take a "timeout" the previous day after he kicked her, Ms. Lynch said.

Ms. Brinson, who has pleaded not guilty to the charge of assault and battery, told local reporters that the educator slipped and fell. "I have never, ever gone in any place irate, because I am not that type of person," she said following the Jan. 19 incident.

In response to the incident, Superintendent Thomas W. Payzant pledged last week to open a "mediation center" to facilitate communication between parents and teachers. He also appointed a team to investigate methods for handling classroom violence. A report from that panel is due in six weeks.

—Julie Blair

Principal Falsifies Grades

A Denver principal will get to keep her job despite admitting that she falsified students' grades.

Linda Hoeksema, the principal of Contemporary Learning Academy, acknowledged tampering with the marks for 82 of the high school's 350 students. The alternative school enrolls students who have had past truancy problems, and Ms. Hoeksema said she wanted to help the students graduate.

"I did it with my heart and my gut, and I didn't use my head," Ms. Hoeksema told TheDenver Post.

Ms. Hoeksema was the principal at three other, smaller alternative schools at the same time. District officials have removed her from those jobs.

Mark Stevens, a spokesman for the district, said Ms. Hoeksema was formally reprimanded and given a plan to remedy the problem.

Ms. Hoeksema admitted to falsifying students' grades last fall, Mr. Stevens said, by giving them credit for elective classes rather than for the core courses in which they were enrolled. The students had too many absences to pass the core courses.

—Mark Stricherz

Board Sticks to Teacher Rebuke

Despite an arbitrator's finding that it was "arrogant" to reprimand a music teacher for speaking out against budget cuts, the Charles City, Iowa, school board is asking a court to rule that it was within its rights to scold the teacher.

The board of the 1,800-student district is appealing a December ruling by arbitrator Michael Gordon, who found the reprimand "a mindless and shameful exercise of arbitrary power designed to ... chill good-faith comments by teachers."

The case arose after award-winning high school choir teacher Larry Michehl told parents and students that cuts in his music program were being contemplated. The comments came as he was accepting an award at a spring concert. Soon afterward, a letter appeared in his personnel file citing him for "insubordination" and "lack of cooperation." Mr. Michehl challenged the letter in arbitration and won.

Virginia Ruzicka, the president of the school board, said the board's appeal seeks to clarify whether the board is entitled, under terms of its contract with teachers, to submit a discipline issue to arbitration.

"It's not about free-speech rights," she said. "This is about whether or not the boss has any rights."

Mr. Michehl disagreed. "I see it as a First Amendment issue," he said.

—Catherine Gerwertz

D.A. To Probe School Fight

Philadelphia's district attorney will reinvestigate a Jan. 8 high school fight between black and white students after receiving a complaint that only the African-American students face criminal charges.

Racial slurs were uttered before the scuffle among three black male students and two white male students in the cafeteria of the racially diverse George Washington High School in northeast Philadelphia. The two white students suffered minor injuries and were treated at a local hospital.

Two of the black students face a number of juvenile criminal charges, including aggravated assault and ethnic intimidation. The other black student was charged with attempted murder and was set to be tried as an adult.

Cathie Abookire, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, said the case was being reinvestigated. She said District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham was re-evaluating the attempted murder charge as well.

The Philadelphia chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has criticized the investigation because the white students were not charged.

All five boys were suspended from school and are being transferred to other programs and schools, said Alexis Moore, a school district spokeswoman.

—Karla Scoon Reid

Man Poses as Student

A 25-year-old man who enrolled in a GED program at an Oregon high school by pretending to be 17 years old was arrested after a teacher saw him drinking a beer at a pizza parlor.

Daniel Charles Ray Hanson claimed he was a homeless teenager whose mother had just died when he enrolled at South Medford High School in Medford, Ore. School officials were trying to find him subsidized housing and clothes.

"The counselors took him at face value," said Cynda Rickert, the school's principal. "He gave information that identified him as a 17-year- old."

Mr. Hanson was arrested Jan. 19 at the school and charged with forgery for providing false information, according to Lt. Tim George of the Medford Police Department. Mr. Hanson, who could not be reached for comment, is scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 6.

—John Gehring

Vol. 20, Issue 21, Page 4

Published in Print: February 7, 2001, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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