News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Broward Schools Can't Bar Scouts,
Judge Says

A federal district judge has ruled that the Broward County, Fla., schools cannot bar the Boy Scouts from using public school facilities after school hours.

But in his ruling last week, U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks did allow the district to terminate an agreement giving the Boy Scouts special privileges.

Superintendent Frank Till said the district was "pleased that [the court] sustained our anti-discrimination policy," and that the Scouts cannot now recruit in schools. The district had sought to exclude the Scouts from the use of school facilities because of the Scouts' policy against gay members and leaders.

Scout Executive Jeff Herman of the South Florida Council of the Boy Scouts said the Scouts "were pleased with the ruling because it allows the Boy Scouts to go back to using the school buses and buildings."

The ruling upheld their right to be treated the same as any other youth group in the schools, he noted.

—Vanessa Dea

Nev. District To Hire Edison

The Clark County, Nev., school board has given initial approval to hiring Edison Schools Inc. to manage seven of its schools, beginning next fall.

The 231,000-student district, which includes Las Vegas, would turn over six elementary schools and one middle school, serving a total of 7,500 students, to the New York City-based company. The school board on March 15 voted 5-1, with one abstention, in favor of the plan.

Edison is working to raise $1.5 million in philanthropy per school for start-up costs, such as teacher training. The for-profit company uses the philanthropic model in states and districts where per-pupil spending is well below the national average.

The company has raised $3 million in contributions so far for the Clark County schools, and it is working to raise the rest by April 1. If it fails to meet that target, Edison may delay taking control of some of the schools until the 2002-03 school year, company officials said.

—Mark Walsh

Execution Will Prompt Closings

The Indiana district near the federal penitentiary where Timothy McVeigh will be put to death plans to close its schools on the day the scheduled execution. Mr. McVeigh was sentenced to death for the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.

The 16,500- student Vigo County district in Terre Haute won't operate on May 16, the day of the execution, because of school officials' security concerns, said Ray S. Azar, an administrator in the student-services office.

"On May 16, we expect a large number of visitors and protesters and supporters, as well as about 1,600 media [personnel] from around the world," Mr. Azar said, adding that officials assume local police will be occupied handling the onslaught.

—Mary Ann Zehr

N.Y.C. Cancels Food Contract

The New York City board of education last week canceled a one-year contract to buy $8.9 million in frozen foods after the city comptroller warned that the supplier may have ties to organized crime.

Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi wrote in a letter to board officials that Liberty Food Group LLC, which was to provide the food, is a successor to a company linked to the Gambino crime family.

Liberty failed to disclose information in its contract application to the board that would have shown its relationship to a firm that had been linked through press reports with organized crime, Mr. Hevesi wrote.

Executives with Liberty Foods, based in Brooklyn, did not return a call for comment. But they told The New York Times that there was no relationship between the firm and the Gambino family.

—Ann Bradley

Teacher Disciplined for Prank

A high school teacher in Wisconsin has been disciplined for his part in a practical joke that disrupted his school.

William Peterson, a mathematics teacher at Stoughton High School, 20 miles southeast of Madison, sent a fellow teacher an anonymous, typewritten note that she and school officials thought was a bomb threat.

The note, concerning a Betty Boop lunchbox that was in her locker, alarmed the teacher. She notified the principal of the 1,200-student school, who called the police.

Myron Palomba, the district superintendent, said the incident "was just an error in judgement."

Mr. Peterson was given a five-day suspension without pay, and police charged him with disorderly conduct, a civil charge. Mr. Peterson declined to comment.

—Marianne Hurst

Okla. District Recovers Funds

An Oklahoma school district has recovered most of the $125,000 allegedly embezzled by its former finance director over two years.

The Catoosa school system is still trying to get reimbursement for $16,000 that Reamonell McElhaney allegedly stole between March 1998 and March 2000, according to Darrell L. Gwartney, the superintendent of the 2,500-student district in suburban Tulsa.

Ms. McElhaney resigned her post last July after auditors raised questions about checks deposited at the Tulsa Teachers Credit Union. On March 15, she was indicted on federal embezzlement charges and was scheduled to be arraigned this week.

A bond company paid $100,000 to cover the district's loss, and Ms. McElhaney repaid the district $9,000, Mr. Gwartney said.

Ms. McElhaney could not be reached for comment.

—David J. Hoff

Colorado Panel To Probe Gap

Spurred by a new group of African- Americans who favor school choice, a Colorado agency will study whether four Denver high schools practice "racial profiling."

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission plans to hold hearings, most likely in churches near East, George Washington, Manual, and Montbello high schools, said Judy Fester, a spokeswoman for the commission.

The commission voted last November to study the request by the Denver chapter of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, a Milwaukee-based group formed in August 2000 to promote school vouchers and charter schools. The chapter wants the commission to probe why African-American students lag behind their white and Asian-American peers at the schools.

The state agency intends to send the study to Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican, and the state legislature, Ms. Fester said.

—Mark Stricherz

Parents Sue Over Slur

The parents of a student at Taft Middle School in Crown Point, Ind., are suing a teacher, claiming that he gave their son a Valentine Day's candy with the word "fag" written on it.

Donald E. Miller allegedly scratched off the message on the heart-shaped candy and gave it to the 8th grader in front of the rest of the class, according to Art Henderlong, a staff director with the Indiana State Teachers Association who is representing Mr. Miller.

The parents claim that the teacher targeted their child because he was bothered by his behavior and unaware that he suffers from Tourette's syndrome. Mr. Henderlong said that Mr. Miller did not single out the student and was aware of the child's illness.

The teacher was not involved in the incident with the candy at all, Mr. Henderlong said, adding that since the charges were made, two students have claimed responsibility.

A hearing in the lawsuit is set for April 17.

Mr. Miller was put on indefinite administrative leave, according to Superintendent H. Steve Sprunger of the Crown Point Community School Corp. Mr. Henderlong said that the school system was going forward with a dismissal hearing.

—Vanessa Dea

Vol. 20, Issue 28, Page 4

Published in Print: March 28, 2001, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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