News in Brief: A National Roundup
Construction Spending Hits High
Spending on school construction reached an all-time high in 2000, topping $36 billion, according to this year's annual report on the topic by American School & University magazine.
The Pennsylvania-based magazine, which has monitored school construction since 1928, reports in its May edition that K-12 construction accounted for nearly $22 billion of last year's spending nationally on schools and college buildings. The figure includes additions and refurbishments.
Spending on K-12 construction projects rose 35 percent compared with 1999. Most of the work was in the Sun Belt, from Southern California to Florida, but New York and New Jersey also are listed as states where construction was common.
An estimated $118 billion will be spent on school construction during the next three years, with much of that work planned in the Midwest and New England, the magazine reports.
Driver Fired in Bus Bullying
A Florida school bus driver who reportedly high-fived three students after they tormented a 6th grader on his bus has been fired.
The Volusia County school board voted April 25 to terminate Harry Diaz, who had been driving for the 61,000-student district for only two months when the incident occurred, said district spokeswoman Nancy Holland.
Two 11-year-olds and a 12-year-old who had been teasing and beating up the Deltona Middle School student for months began teasing him again on Feb. 26 when he boarded the bus with dog feces on his shoes. As other students complained about the smell, the three students wiped some of the feces on the boy's face and clothes, according to Volusia County sheriff's department affidavits.
Witnesses told The Orlando Sentinel that the bus driver did nothing to stop the boys, and even gave them an approving high-five sign. Mr. Diaz told school officials that he did not see the boys smear feces on the 6th grader or notice him crying, the Sentinel reported.
Sheriff's department spokesman Gary Davidson said criminal misdemeanor charges of battery and stalking have been filed against all three boys.
Four Killed in Bus Crash
Guidance counselors and social workers were on hand at Oak Hill Middle School in Newton, Mass., last week to help the school community through its grief after four of the school's students died in a tour-bus accident on April 27.
According to the superintendent of the 11,300-student Newton school district, Jeffrey M. Young, the counselors were available to work with both students and staff during last week's four funerals and a school memorial service for the crash victims.
He said that the deaths of the students, Kayla Rosenberg, Melissa Leung, Stephen Glidden, and Gregory Chan, were "a devastating loss for this community."
The bus was carrying 42 of the school's 620 students on a field trip from Massachusetts to a festival in Halifax, Canada, when it apparently took a wrong turn onto a sharply curved exit ramp in Sussex, Canada, and overturned.
Mr. Young said that the school opened last Monday for students and staff to meet with each other and counselors, but that classes were not in session.
N.Y. Catholic Schools To Close
Three of six Roman Catholic schools slated for possible closure in the New York Archdiocese will remain open, the archdiocese announced last week.
As part of a belt-tightening, the archdiocese had announced last month that it was considering closing six schools, all of which have required increasing subsidies from the archdiocese. On the basis of financial plans the schools submitted, three were chosen for closure and three were allowed to remain open, Msgr. Thomas Bergin, the archdiocese's vicar for education, said in a statement on May 1.
The plan to close the three schools, which are attended by more than 460 prekindergarten to 8th grade students, is projected to save the archdiocese $880,000 per year, said the archdiocese's spokesman, Joseph Zwilling.
The three schools closing at the end of this academic year are St. Bernard/St. Francis Xavier in Manhattan, and two in suburban counties north of the city, St. Joachim/St. John in Beacon, N.Y., and St. Peter's in Rosendale, N.Y.
Coach Resigns Over Strippers
A high school baseball coach in Ohio has resigned after 14 of his players were suspended following allegations that the players paid two strippers to perform for them in a hotel during a road trip.
Tim Graham, a business teacher and head baseball coach at Lancaster High School in Lancaster, had been suspended with pay pending an investigation by district officials.
The players, who were suspended for five days, will not play for the remainder of the season.
The players allegedly hired the strippers after finding their names in a phone book while on a school-sponsored baseball trip to Cincinnati. The team's coaches were at dinner when the alleged incident took place.
"I accept the fact that it was my responsibility to be accountable for the actions of my players," Mr. Graham, who resigned April 26, told The Columbus Dispatch.
District Bars Abortion Help
The 13,000-student North Penn school district in Lansdale, Pa., has approved a policy that prohibits staff members from helping students obtain abortions.
The school board passed the policy by a 7-2 vote on April 19, according to Christine Liberaski, a spokeswoman for the district.
The policy is believed to be the first of its kind in the country to be adopted voluntarily. A similar policy is in effect in the neighboring Hatboro-Horsham district, where it was adopted as part of a settlement to a lawsuit.
North Penn began developing its policy in reaction to that lawsuit, in which the parents of a pregnant girl alleged that a school counselor helped her get an abortion without her parents' knowledge or consent. ("Abortion Debate: Do the Schools Have A Role in Counseling Girls?" March 7, 2001.)
North Penn hoped to prevent a similar incident or lawsuit by establishing a definite policy for the staff to "encourage parental involvement in all student decisions relating to pregnancy."
Vol. 20, Issue 34, Page 4