News in Brief: A National Roundup

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W. Va Student Prohibited From Starting 'Anarchy' Club

A West Virginia student suspended for trying to form an "anarchy club" received a setback this month when a local circuit court judge sided with the Kanawha County school board and ruled that such a club would be disruptive.

Katie Sierra, a sophomore at the 700-student Sissonville High School near Charleston, filed a complaint against the school board after she was suspended for three days last month for attempting to form the club against the wishes of school administrators.

School officials later barred her from wearing T- shirts expressing sentiments against the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan.

Circuit Court Judge James Stucky said in the Nov. 1 decision that while the right to free speech is "sacred," it is tempered by the limitation that it not disrupt the educational process.

Roger D. Forman, a Charleston lawyer who represents Ms. Sierra, said that he has appealed the preliminary injunction to the state supreme court and will pursue the matter in the federal court system if necessary.

—Jessica L. Sandham

Some Baltimore Teachers Set to Receive Extra Pay

Baltimore teachers have approved a contract that provides an 11 percent salary hike for teachers in the Chief Executive Officer's District. The special district, which contains the city's 12 lowest-performing schools, targets more resources to schools in an effort to boost achievement over three to five years.

Teachers throughout the city will receive a 5 percent across- the-board increase, with those in the CEO district getting 6 percent extra in the two-year contract, retroactive to July 1. The raise is expected to cost the school system $34 million over the next two years.

Of the nearly 7,300 members of the Baltimore Teachers Union, 721 came out to vote. The contract was approved by a 4-1 ratio on Oct. 31. The school board also has approved the contract.

—Tom Kim

Schools Near Trade Center Site Turned Back to N.Y.C. Board

The New York City board of education has regained control of two schools that were being used for emergency operations following the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

Public School 89 and Intermediate School 89, which are located about three blocks from the ruins of the World Trade Center, were being used by police, the U.S. Army, and the city's department of design and construction, The New York Times reported.

It is not clear whether classes will resume at the two schools, which were turned back over to the district on Nov. 5. School officials said they will confer with parents and teachers to see if they would want children to return to the buildings.

— Tom Kim

Elgin, Ill., District Settles Athletic-Discrimination Case

School board members in Elgin, Ill., agreed last week to settle a case that contended female athletes at a high school received unequal facilities and treatment.

The board of education for School District 46, responding to a suit filed in April by four parents at Elgin High School, agreed to build a girls' locker room and dugouts on the girls' softball field at the school. The 39,800-student district also agreed to schedule girls' games on the weekend and, based on participation, keep as many coaches for girls as for boys.

Implementing the agreement is expected to cost about $500,000, said Larry Ascough, a spokesman for the district. The girls' locker room at the high school is to be ready by next spring, while most other parts of the accord would be phased in over the next several years.

A federal court in Chicago still must approve the settlement. It is scheduled to convene Nov. 16.

— Mark Stricherz

Ga. High Court Rules Sex at School Not Protected by Right to Privacy

A 14-year-old girl who allegedly had sex with a 17-year-old boy in a high school restroom stall was not protected by a right of privacy, Georgia's highest court ruled last week.

The girl, identified in court papers as C.P., was discovered in August 2000 with the boy in a stall at Rockdale County High School in the 13,600-student Rockdale County district. She was charged in a juvenile court with delinquent acts of fornication and public indecency. The boy was initially charged with statutory rape but pleaded guilty to public indecency.

The juvenile court declined to quash the charges against C.P., but allowed her to seek review by the Georgia Supreme Court. In that court, her lawyer argued that the state's fornication statute violated her right of privacy as guaranteed by the state constitution.

In its unanimous Nov. 5 ruling, the high court said that the state has a role in "shielding the public from inadvertent exposure to the intimacies of others."

The girl's case will return to the juvenile court for resolution.

—Mark Walsh

Savannah, Ga., Schools Ban 'Lewd' Student Performances

The Chatham County, Ga., school board last week unanimously approved new guidelines intended to keep cheerleading, band performances, and other school performances wholesome.

The policy prohibits all sorts of student groups—including choruses, dance troupes, drill teams, and fine arts companies—from engaging in "lewd gestures, inappropriate comments, foul language, and suggestive or vulgar movements."

Determining which performances cross the line will be the responsibility of principals in the 35,000-student district, located in Savannah.

Diane M. Cantor, the president of the nine-member board, said complaints about the appropriateness of student performances are common, topped only by questions about teaching materials.

—Ann Bradley

Students' Medical Records Mistakenly Posted on Web

Confidential details from the medical files of children and teenagers who participated in psychiatric clinical studies have been taken off the University of Montana's Web site.

The records were accidentally posted from Oct. 26 to Nov. 5, when they were removed after a local newspaper published a story about the breach of privacy on the Missoula campus.

Posted were the patients' psychological evaluations, details from visits with doctors, and diagnoses of serious conditions, including mental retardation, depression, and schizophrenia. In some cases, the records listed the patients' full names, dates of birth, and home addresses.

A newly trained psychologist who studied some of the patients during an internship thought she was uploading 126 of her personal files to a private server. But instead, she put the information on the computer's Web server, said Ray Ford, the university's assistant vice president for information technology.

Mr. Ford said the process through which medical files are entered into computers is under "immediate review."

—Lisa Fine

Pa. Police Absolved in Suit Over Gay Student's Suicide

A federal jury in Pennsylvania last week cleared three police officers accused of causing the death of a high school football player by threatening to "out" him as being gay.

The officers from the town of Minersville, 55 miles northeast of Harrisburg, were absolved of liability in a lawsuit brought by the player's mother, Madonna Sterling. Her son, Marcus Wayman, 18, shot himself in the head in 1997 after three police officers who stopped him with a male companion in a car allegedly threatened to tell his grandfather that he was homosexual.

The civil lawsuit, filed on Ms. Sterling's behalf by the Lesbian and Gay Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, alleged that the three officers violated Mr. Wayman's right to privacy, said James Esseks, the project's litigation director.

The same case led to a November 2000 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, based in Philadelphia, prohibiting police, teachers, firefighters, guidance counselors, and other employees from divulging information about students' sexual orientation without their consent, he noted.

Ann Bradley

Vol. 21, Issue 11, Page 4

Published in Print: November 14, 2001, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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