News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Harassment Increasing for Boys AAUW Says

Although girls are still more likely to be sexually harassed in school, the number of boys who say they experience such abuse has increased since 1993, according to a national survey released last week. The reported increase came despite a proliferation of anti-harassment policies in schools, the report notes.

Eight in 10 students are subjected to some form of sexual harassment during their school years, according to Hostile Hallways II: Bullying, Teasing, and Sexual Harassment in School. That's the same level of harassment reported in the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation's first such report in 1993.

A main difference today, however, is that boys are more likely to experience sexual harassment, with 56 percent of those surveyed saying they were sexually harassed "occasionally," compared with 49 percent in 1993, and 24 percent saying they experienced such abuse "often," compared with 18 percent eight years ago.

The findings in the Washington group's report are based on interviews conducted by the New York City-based polling company Harris Interactive with 2,064 public school students in the 8th through 11th grades.

Of the students surveyed, 76 percent said they had experienced nonphysical harassment, such as taunting, rumors, graffiti, jokes, or gestures. Fifty-eight percent said they had experienced physical sexual harassment, and one-third of all the students polled said they were the targets of physical sexual harassment often or occasionally.

—Darcia Harris Bowman

Houston Names Superintendent

Kaye Stripling, a veteran educator in the 211,000-student Houston district, has been tapped to be the city's next superintendent of schools.

Ms. Stripling has been the interim superintendent since the district's previous chief, Rod Paige, was named U.S. secretary of education.

School board members voted 7-2 last Thursday to name Ms. Stripling as the lone finalist for the job. Texas law requires a three-week waiting period before she can be officially hired.

The 60-year-old educator had been area superintendent of a 32,000-student section of the district since 1995, said school board member Donald McAdams. Before that time, Ms. Stripling was a district-office administrator and a principal.

—Alan Richard

Students Charged in Bus Prank

Eight high school students face criminal charges for flattening 62 school bus tires and forcing their school district in Madison, Ohio, to close for a day.

Stan Heffner, the superintendent of the 3,500-student Madison school district, said one graduate, six seniors, and one junior from the 1,150-student Madison High School crushed the valve stems on the front tires of 35 of the district's 40 buses with a tool, possibly a hammer.

The vandalism prompted the district to close May 29 because the buses could not be immediately repaired.

Five of the students, who are over age 18, were arraigned in municipal court last week, and three juveniles are expected to be arraigned in juvenile courts this week. All are charged with criminal damaging and criminal trespassing, and all have confessed, according to the superintendent.

The district is considering offering them a plea bargain, the superintendent said. The school board has allowed Mr. Heffner to withhold their diplomas, and the students were barred from commencement exercises June 2.

—Vanessa Dea

Two Fla. Schools' Rankings Slip

The two Florida schools that jumped from an F in 1999 to an A under that state's grading system last year have lost some ground.

Fessenden Elementary in Ocala and Brentwood Elementary in Pensacola last year avoided seeing their students qualify for vouchers to attend private schools by exceeding minimum performance standards for 5th graders in math and for 4th graders in reading and writing ("From Worst to First," April 11, 2001.)

But last month, Fessenden earned a C from the state, while Brentwood received a B. Loretta Pompey Jenkins, Fessenden's principal, said the school had hoped for a repeat performance. Students' test scores in math and writing were high enough to earn an A, but 4th graders' reading scores fell short.

—Karla Scoon Reid

Broward Missing Equipment

More than $440,000 worth of equipment owned by the Broward County, Fla., school system has come up missing in an audit that is part of a 2-year-old effort to crack down on careless record-keeping and theft.

The discovery follows an audit in February that uncovered $1.2 million in missing equipment at the 249,000-student district's main headquarters in Fort Lauderdale. The more recent audit looked at a second administrative center, which includes the Educational Technology Services department, where the bulk of the missing items belonged. Unaccounted-for items include computers, cash registers, and vehicles.

This is the first year district officials have tracked items worth as little as $750 at administrative centers. All schools have also undergone audits, officials said.

"Overall, I don't think there is major theft going on," said Patrick Reilly, the director of the district's office of management-facility audits. "But we need to tighten our controls to avoid any kind of theft."

—Bess Keller

New Orleans Sees Gains

All but 11 of the 47 New Orleans schools that were identified by the state as "academically unacceptable" in 1999 should be removed from the list, district officials say.

A preliminary district analysis of recently released student scores on the Louisiana Assessment for Educational Progress for the 21st Century, results from the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, and attendance shows that all of the elementary schools and three middle schools on the list have improved enough to shed the designation. The final state analysis is not yet available.

Alphonse G. Davis, the 84,000-student district's chief executive officer, credited the schools' emphasis on realigning the curriculum, professional development for teachers, mentoring and tutoring programs, and the reduction of class sizes. ("Greater Expectations," May 2, 2001.)

The 11 middle schools remaining on the state's list of low- performing schools will be transformed into "learning academies," with additional funding and largely new administrative leadership and teaching staffs.

—Karla Scoon Reid

School Accountant Charged

Police in San Jose, Calif., have arrested a school district accountant and charged her with stealing more than $840,000 in federal grant money.

Juana Alicia Ramirez, 52, was charged with theft of public funds from the suburban Alum Rock Union Elementary School District and the district's nonprofit foundation, said Detective Jon Muller of the San Jose police.

Ms. Ramirez is accused of diverting money that was to be paid to parents who attended programs in the 16,200-student district. The money was to reimburse parents for gas and other costs as an incentive to participate in the schools, the detective said.

Money from the district's foundation was to be used for uniforms and school supplies, Mr. Muller said.

Ms. Ramirez could not be reached for comment.

—Alan Richard

Vol. 20, Issue 40, Page 4

Published in Print: June 13, 2001, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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