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As Education Week marks its 20th anniversary, here are some of the people, events, and issues that were making news 20 years ago this week.

Chemistry-Lab Waste: The Minnesota Department of Education, in an unprecedented move, conducts an unannounced one-day purge of chemistry labs and storerooms statewide and hauls away toxic chemicals. The hazardous materials are taken to a "drop site" for disposal. The unorthodox approach, taken to avoid protests about the disposal, highlights the difficulties that schools nationwide face in handling such materials. Experts say many of the country's 96,000 science teachers are ill-trained in the storage, handling, and disposal of dangerous chemicals.

Pac-man Alert: The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on a town ordinance that bars those under age 17 from playing coin-operated video games in a public arcade unless they are accompanied by an adult. The 1973 town ordinance in Mesquite, Texas, a Dallas suburb, is under challenge from the Amusement Device Manufacturers Association, a trade group. From the bench, the justices muse that the law's rationale—protecting youths from unhealthy influences—could be used to exclude them from bowling alleys, miniature golf courses, or even parks.

Foundation Validation: Reagan administration officials are reportedly in agreement with Secretary Terrel H. Bell's plan to turn the U.S. Department of Education into a $10.7 billion foundation that would retain much of the agency's authority and functions. Momentum for an earlier proposal to simply abolish the department and disperse its duties to other Cabinet departments apparently is waning. According to a memorandum sent to the president on the subject, the foundation would likely be an acceptable alternative for the 21 senators and 176 House members up for re-election who just two years before voted to create the Education Department.

Church and State: A Vermont court rules that a school trustee, ousted from the board more than two years ago because he is Roman Catholic, should be reinstated to the board. The town of St. Albans' public high school, was established by the estate of Hiram Bellows, who stipulated in his will that the five school trustees be of five different religious faiths. Stanley Beauregard, the town postmaster, declined to state his religion when the city council named him to the board in 1979. But the mayor vetoed the appointment when he learned that Mr. Beauregard would be the board's second Catholic.

Padded Cells: The chairman of the Pawtucket, R.I., school committee is "horrified" to learn that a public school there is constructing padded, 4-by-6-foot cells to deal with 38 special education students. A psychological consultant to Potter School says the three rooms are to be used for short periods when a child's aggression threatens injury to the child or other students. The consultant says that each cell would have face-size windows, and that praise for good behavior would be part of the strategy.

Belt-Tightening: Congress moves toward approval of what will amount to a 17 percent cut, in constant dollars, to federal funding for school lunches. Officials have allowed schools to start using the "offer-vs.-serve" system, thereby saving money on food that would otherwise be thrown out, and have raised prices on reduced- and full-price meals.

Vol. 21, Issue 11, Page 6

Published in Print: November 14, 2001, as Retrospective
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