News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Trustees in Hartford, Conn., Pick New Superintendent

The Hartford, Conn., board of trustees last week named Robert Henry as the new superintendent of the 24,500-student district.

Anthony S. Amato resigned as superintendent on Oct. 28, citing the fact that the city's schools were reverting to local control after five years under state management. The state-appointed panel that runs the district named Mr. Henry, who had served as chief of staff under Mr. Amato, to replace him on Oct. 30.

This week, the district is undergoing further change with voters' selection of four of the seven members who will serve on a new school board to govern the district as it emerges from state oversight. The city's mayor will appoint the other three members of the board, which will take office Dec. 3. ("Clevelanders to Weigh in on Mayoral Control of Schools," Oct. 30, 2002.)

The state of Connecticut will continue to monitor the district's progress until June 30, 2005.

— Ann Bradley

L.A. District Ordered to Pay Teacher Who Fought Searches

The Los Angeles Unified School District must pay a former teacher $425,000, after a jury found that the district violated her First Amendment rights.

A California Superior Court jury sided with Ami Motevalli in the Oct. 18 decision, affirming that she had the right to speak out against random searches of students for weapons at Locke High School.

Ms. Motevalli contended in a lawsuit that she was not rehired by the school district after she spoke out against the searches, conducted with hand-held metal detectors

The district maintained that Ms. Motevalli had put students in danger by prohibiting her students from taking part in the searches.

District officials did not return calls for comment.

—Alan Richard

Pittsburgh Catholic School Barred From Competitions

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh has prohibited Central Catholic High School from participating in postseason football games, after two players were charged with assaulting a teammate.

In the alleged incident in August, the two accused teenagers are said to have held the third boy down after practice and touched his face with their genitals. The student who allegedly was assaulted has transferred to another school.

School administrators investigated the incident at the time, after allegations were made by the student involved and his family, but the officials said they were unable to verify the complaint. The boy's parents then filed a criminal complaint, and police last month said they were able to verify the allegations.

"We are outraged by the decision of some players in the Central Catholic football program not to intervene and to remain silent about this activity afterwards, despite being asked by school administrators on numerous occasions to come forward with information," the Rev. Kris D. Stubna, the secretary of education for the diocese, said in a statement.

—John Gehring

Family Sues Cleveland Board Over Alleged Rape by Students

The family of a 6-year-old boy who allegedly was raped at school is suing the Cleveland board of education for $2 million.

According to Cleveland police and the family's lawyer, the alleged assault by two 5th grade boys took place last spring, when the victim was 5. The then-kindergartner at Charles Dickens Elementary School was sodomized in April, said Cmdr. Ed Tomba of the Cleveland police. The two older boys were then 10 and 11 years old.

The young boy may have been assaulted on more than one occasion, said David Pomerantz, the family's lawyer. The assault took place during regular school hours, he said.

The lawsuit alleges that the school failed to properly protect the boy and failed to adequately supervise the two older students, Mr. Pomerantz said.

District spokesman Dan Minnich said the 77,000-student district was investigating the incident. "The documentation in the district's possession does not support the student's allegations," he said.

None of the boys allegedly involved in the incident is currently attending district schools, Mr. Minnich added. Rape charges have been filed in the juvenile court system against the older boys, and hearings are still pending, Mr. Tomba said.

—Nashiah Ahmad

Ohio NEA Affiliate to Change Policy on Nonmembers' Dues

The Ohio Education Association has agreed to require documentation usually just once from nonmember teachers who object to paying a union fee on religious grounds.

Under the agreement made by the National Education Association affiliate with the Cleveland district office of the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, such objections also are to be handled "in a timely manner."

The agreement follows a directive from the EEOC last spring asking the Ohio union to moderate the requirements it makes of some nonunion teachers who want the union fees they must pay for representation to instead go to a charity.

The directive stemmed from complaints originally brought by two teachers in two Ohio school districts. State law requires nonunion teachers to pay a fee to the union in exchange for its representation in collective bargaining.

But it also allows people with religious objections to union policy positions and activities—on issues such as homosexuality, for example— to redirect their fees to a charity.

—Bess Keller

N.Y.C. Schools Will Scrap New Elementary Report Card

The New York City school system will eliminate a new, 10-page report card for elementary school pupils after using it only once, because it is too complicated and risks confusing parents.

When Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein said on Oct. 23 that he wanted the new report card "eliminated as quickly as possible," less than a month remained before it was to be used for the first time for the system's 600,000 children in elementary school.

Schools will use the report card for November's grades, since there is too little time to change, but a new one will be in place by the time elementary school children receive their March grades, said district spokesman Kevin B. Ortiz.

Middle and high school students receive a more traditional, one-page progress report.

Developed under the previous chancellor, Harold O. Levy, the new report card was intended to reflect students' progress in meeting state standards and deliver more detailed information to parents. But teachers worried it could take an hour to fill out each report card.

The report card uses numbers 1-4 instead of the long-used letter system to measure pupils' skills. It assesses more sub-areas: 39 skills in language arts and 28 skills in mathematics. And it uses a letter system—A, B, C, with C being highest—to report on each student's interest and effort.

—Catherine Gewertz

Washington State School Named for Sept. 11 Hero

The Federal Way, Wash., school board has voted to name a new high school for Todd Beamer, the passenger who is credited with helping to foil hijackers on his airplane during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The 22,000-student district's board cited Mr. Beamer's heroism and leadership in voting on Oct. 22 to name the school for him.

Mr. Beamer is believed to have led passengers in a struggle against the hijackers of United Airlines Flight 93 by shouting "Let's roll!" The plane crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pa., killing all aboard.

— Ann Bradley

D.C. Teachers' Union President Resigns Amid Financial Probe

The president of the District of Columbia teachers' union resigned last week, following the discovery of alleged irregularities in the organization's financial statements.

The executive board of the 5,000-member Washington Teachers' Union requested that President Barbara Bullock step down following a probe conducted by the union and its national parent, the American Federation of Teachers, said Alex Wohl, a spokesman for the AFT.

Treasurer James O. Baxter and Ms. Bullock's special assistant, Gwendolyn Hemphill, were also asked to leave. Mr. Baxter as of late last week had not done so; Ms. Hemphill has orally agreed to depart, Mr. Wohl said.

The ongoing investigation found that union members had been overcharged for dues, Mr. Wohl said. Each pay period, the union deducts $16 from every member's check, he said. A decimal was misplaced, and $160 was withdrawn from one pay check.

Several checks and credit-card purchases also could not be accounted for, Mr. Wohl said. He declined to elaborate on the amount of money involved.

The unions have referred the case to the U.S. attorney's office, where it will be reviewed, said Channing D. Phillips, a spokesman for the office.

Neither Ms. Bullock, Ms. Hemphill, nor Mr. Baxter's lawyer could be reached for comment.

Esther S. Hankerson has been named the interim president of the union. She previously served as the union's vice president.

—Julie Blair

Vol. 22, Issue 10, Page 4

Published in Print: November 6, 2002, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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