News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Nonprofit Group Forms To Challenge 'Monopoly"

Philanthropist and financier Theodore Forstmann thinks parents shouldn't have to send their children to the assigned schools in their neighborhoods. And, backed by millions of dollars and a bipartisan lineup of political heavyweights, he's started a new organization to get that message across.

Parents in Charge, a New York City-based nonprofit organization, is the latest effort by Mr. Forstmann to attack what he calls "the public education monopoly."

Ann Poletti, the group's executive director, said last week: "We believe parents should be able to chose schools, public or private. There just should not be a sole supplier any more."

Ms. Poletti said the organization takes no stand, however, on vouchers or public financing of private education.

At a press conference last week in Washington, Joseph Califano, a U.S. secretary of health and human services under President Carter, and Martin Luther King III, the son of the slain civil rights leader, voiced support for the program. The two serve on the group's board of directors, along with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., former Democratic National Committee Chairman Robert Strauss, and William J. Bennett, who served as U.S. secretary of education under President Reagan.

The organization plans to invest in advertising and research, and to work with local educators to promote its message, Ms. Poletti said.

—Mark Stricherz

Girl Sentenced in Shooting

A 14-year-old Pennsylvania girl accused of shooting a classmate who reportedly had bullied her was sentenced last week to an open-ended term at a juvenile detention center for what Lycoming County Judge William S. Kieser called premeditated attempted murder.

Elizabeth C. Bush brought a .22-caliber revolver to Bishop Neumann Junior-Senior High School in Williamsport on March 7 and shot another girl in the shoulder, then threatened to shoot herself. ("At School, a Cruel Culture," March 21, 2001.) Lycoming County District Attorney Thomas Marino said the judge did not believe Ms. Bush's explanation in court that she had brought the gun to school only with the intention of shooting herself, not her classmate.

Ms. Bush will likely remain in the juvenile detention center until she is 21, Mr. Marino said. "I want to see her rehabilitated, but she's going to serve her time," he said.

—Darcia Harris Bowman

Staff Arrests Prompt Resignation

The principal of Woodstock (Ga.) High School has resigned following an investigation into alleged sexual relationships between teachers and students at his school.

J. Rick Ingram submitted his resignation to Superintendent Frank Petruzielo of the Cherokee County school system last month, saying he wanted the 1,730-student school to have "a fresh start," according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He will step down as of July 1.

The investigation, involving the Cherokee County Sheriff's Department and the Cherokee County district attorney's office, has led to the resignations and arrests of three teachers at the school who were coaches or former coaches.

One was charged with attempted sexual assault for allegedly propositioning a 17-year-old girl; one with aggravated child molestation for an alleged relationship with a 15-year-old girl; and the third with sexual battery for allegedly touching a 16-year-old girl's breast, according to District Attorney Garry Moss.

All three were charged with sexual assault by a school employee against a student. Mr. Moss said his investigation was continuing.

—Linda Jacobson

N.Y. Catholic Schools May Close

As part of an effort to balance its budget, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York is considering closing six under-enrolled elementary schools.

It is likely that three schools in Manhattan and one each in Dutchess, Rockland, and Ulster counties north of New York City could be closed, archdiocesan spokesman Joseph Zwilling said last week.

The six have received an average of $760,000 in annual church subsidies since the 1995-96 school year and are projected to need at least $950,000 this year, he said.

Cardinal Edward M. Egan, who became the archbishop of New York last June, has been reviewing the archdiocese's spending. In a statement dated March 29, he said that closing the schools was being considered and all administrative departments of the archdiocese were undergoing financial review.

—Catherine Gewertz

Classes Resume After Shooting

Classes resumed last week with crisis teams on hand for counseling at Lew Wallace High School in Gary, Ind., after a 16-year-old student was shot and killed in front of the 1,000-student school on March 30.

Neal Boyd, a sophomore at the school, was shot in the chest by a former student, age 17, authorities said. No one else was injured.

Principal Clausell Harding said the former student came onto school grounds just before classes started, walked up to Mr. Boyd, and shot him. He then pulled on his hood and walked away before he started running off school grounds, according to the principal.

The police arrested the youth at his sister's house about an hour later. He was charged with murder and pleaded innocent April 2.

—Vanessa Dea

'Sick' School Closes Again

For the second year in a row, Lakeview Terrace Elementary School in Moses Lake, Wash., has closed for the year because the school may be making students and teachers sick.

Steve Chestnut, the superintendent of the Moses Lake school district, said that "a small percentage of our students have experienced some symptoms, headaches, rashes, stomach aches."

When they return to classes this week, the 400 Lakeview Terrace students will be relocated in seven different schools in the 6,000-student district. All but two classes will have their own rooms, Mr. Chestnut said. Lakeview Elementary will stay closed until the start of next school year while the cause of the illnesses is examined.

—Vanessa Dea

Hispanics Sue To Delay Vote

Two Hispanic residents of Dallas have asked a federal judge to postpone the city's upcoming school board election until voting districts have been redrawn based on data from the 2000 U.S. Census.

In Dallas, each of nine voting districts elects one trustee for the school board. Three of the board's nine positions are up for election May 5.

Trinidad Garza, a former Dallas school board member, and Pedro Vaca, a local community activist, filed suit last month against the 158,000-student Dallas Independent School District, its school board, and its nine board members. Mr. Garza and Mr. Vaca argue in the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Dallas, that the current configuration violates federal and state laws because the voting districts don't reflect the populations living within their boundaries.

The school board has been in the process of redistricting and is not permitted by state law to call off its May election, said Eric V. Moyé, a lawyer representing the Dallas school system.

All board members must stand for election after the redistricting occurs, and no later than May of next year, Mr. Moyé added.

—Mary Ann Zehr

Vol. 20, Issue 30, Page 4

Published in Print: April 11, 2001, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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