News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Wis. High Court Allows Liability for Playground Fall

Wisconsin school districts can be held liable for some playground accidents, the state's highest court has ruled.

Reversing a state circuit court's decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled unanimously last week that the parents of 11-year-old Trista Auman could sue the 1,100-student Stanley-Boyd district near Eau Clair after she broke her leg while playing during a school recess three years ago.

The defendants contended that districts are shielded from such lawsuits by the state.

The ruling "will certainly cause officials and administrators to give every consideration to the extent of recess, what recess will be," Miles Turner, the executive director of the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators told a local newspaper. "Will it be playing on the playground or a more restrictive setting?"

The lawsuit will now be returned to the lower court to determine damages.

—Julie Blair

Duval County, Fla., District Is Desegregated, Court Agrees

A federal appeals court has upheld a 1998 decision by a federal district court declaring the Duval County, Fla., schools to be desegregated.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, ruled on Nov. 19 that the 127,000-student district has fulfilled its obligations under a 1990 consent decree.

The Jacksonville branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which sued the district in 1960, had argued in its appeal that the district still has 26 schools that are predominantly black.

But the appeals court said the existence of such schools was due to residential-housing patterns in the core of the city, and not to any action taken by the school district. Judge Rosemary Barkett said in a partial dissent that the board had failed to meet goals for student assignment.

—Ann Bradley

Albuquerque School Officers To Carry Weapons Off- Hours

School police officers in Albuquerque, N.M., will be allowed to carry weapons before and after school, but not during school hours, under a measure approved by the school board.

Board members voted 5-2 on Nov. 14 to support the measure, which was a compromise on the controversial issue of whether to allow school police officers to arm themselves.

Superintendent Brad Allison, who has long supported the idea of armed officers, said he was unhappy with the outcome of the vote. "One never knows when there will be an incident that will require weaponry to make kids safe," he said.

School board President Leonard DeLayo said that board members didn't want to send a message to students that guns were the way to solve problems.

School police patrol the district's 85 elementary, 27 middle, and 11 high schools. Albuquerque city police officers who are stationed at high schools are the only officers allowed to carry guns during school hours.

—Lisa Fine

New York Firefighters to Thank S.C. School for New Truck

A group of New York City firefighters plans to visit White Knolls Middle School in South Carolina this week to thank the students for a new fire truck.

Four students from the Lexington, S.C., school presented New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani with a check for $354,000 on Nov. 22. That's enough to replace one of the fire trucks that was lost after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

Shortly after Principal Nancy Turner announced the start of the fund-raising effort in early October, the local fire chief called the school to let Ms. Turner know that New York City gave the city of Columbia a fire truck in 1867.

The fund drive became the perfect way to repay that debt, according to Debbie V. Scott, the assistant principal of the 1,300-student school just outside Columbia, the state capital.

The effort quickly grew. Local and national media reports spread the story, and checks from across the country started pouring in, said Ms. Scott.

In 56 days, the school raised $510,000. The leftover money will be used by the city to upgrade the fire truck and buy extra equipment.

—Michelle Galley

Wash. State Woman, 32, Sentenced After Posing as High School Student

A 32-year-old woman who posed as a high school student in Washington state was sentenced to three years in prison after being convicted of theft and perjury this month.

Treva Throneberry entered the state foster-care system under an assumed name after claiming she had run away from home. She then enrolled as a sophomore in Evergreen High School in the southwest part of the state. She graduated in June 2000.

Ms. Throneberry was on the tennis team and took part in the school's drama program. She graduated with a C average, according to Carol Fenstermacher, a spokeswoman for the 23,000-student Evergreen Regional High School District.

Her education cost the state approximately $13,000. She later received a tuition waiver to attend a state college. The defendant will be credited for the eight months she has already served and could be recommended for a work program that could earn her an early release.

—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

Calif. District Clarifies Method For Giving Out Teacher Bonuses

Education leaders in Sacramento are trying to quell confusion over the local distribution of bonuses to be paid out this month as part of California's new incentive program.

The law allows local union and district officials to agree on a method for distributing the money, which is awarded to schools that exceed improvement goals. If no such deal can be reached, funds must be divvied up based on employees' salaries, meaning seniority plays a major role in determining how much each individual receives.

The issue came to a head in Sacramento amid reports that the 730,000-student Los Angeles Unified School District was using the default formula, although many teachers had assumed the money would be divided equally. ("Smaller-Than- Expected Bonuses Anger Some L.A. Teachers," Nov. 7, 2001.)

Some teachers in Sacramento's three award-winning schools worried that the same thing would happen when officials of the 52,000-student district claimed that the local union had not made its position clear.

But leaders of the Sacramento City Teachers Association, a National Education Association affiliate, said they agreed to have the bonuses distributed equally in January. The SCTA last month sent a letter to district leaders, who agreed that each eligible staff member would get the same amount.

—Jeff Archer

University of Texas Drops Appeals in Hopwood Case

The University of Texas at Austin announced last week that it would not file any further appeals in the landmark case in which white applicants challenged affirmative action in its law school, thus ending a 10-year legal battle.

The U.S. Supreme Court twice declined to review the case, known as Hopwood v. Texas. The high court had declined in 1996 to review a ruling by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, in New Orleans, that race-based affirmative action could never be justified on the basis of encouraging campus diversity.

Last year, in a new phase of the case about whether the white students who challenged the policy would have been admitted without regard to race, another 5th Circuit panel reiterated the 1996 ruling against affirmative action. In June, the high court declined to review the case.

University officials said on Nov. 27 that they would not appeal a recent 5th Circuit ruling regarding attorney's fees and that they would pay $1.17 million to the plaintiffs' lawyers. None of the four applicants was ever admitted to the law school, the university noted.

—Mark Walsh


Margaret Byrd Rawson, whose pioneering research and advocacy work in dyslexia helped lead educators around the world to a greater understanding of how to help children with reading disabilities, died Nov. 25. She was 102.

Her work, which spanned 70 years, included conducting one of the country's longest-running studies of children with language disorders. She followed her subjects, 56 boys from The School in Rose Valley in Moylan, Pa., for more than 50 years. Her book, Dyslexia Over the Lifespan, published in 1968 and updated in 1995, described the study.

Ms. Rawson was a founding member and former president of the Orton Dyslexia Society, now called the International Dyslexia Association, based in Towson, Md.

—Lisa Fine

Vol. 21, Issue 14, Page 4

Published in Print: December 5, 2001, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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