News In Brief

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Life Lesson

By making his home in a refurbished school bus, a math and physics teacher in Prinsburg, Minnesota, is giving his students a real-life lesson in subtraction. "Life is a lot more than possessions, accumulating things, and making money," says Erik Brohaugh, who teaches at the 150-student Central Minnesota Christian School. "You can be comfortable with what you have." A devout Christian, the 24-year-old, single teacher bought the bus and moved in just over a year ago when he realized he needed even less than the rented house he was living in. He added running water, a stove, and a toilet. He has no TV or phone and runs lights, heater, and other appliances on a 12-volt battery and propane. His bus, parked on a friend's farm three miles from the school, does attract visits from students, curious locals, and, most recently, local and national reporters. Before he can take his home on the road, however, he will need to buy a new engine. But don't expect a shopping spree. "I can always say no to buying things because I don't have enough space," he explains.

A Higher Standard

Maryland will raise the bar for admitting new teachers, even in the face of a teacher shortage predicted for the state. It has set the nation's second-highest qualifying scores on the Praxis exam, the test used to screen new teachers. Only Virginia requires higher scores on the mathematics and reading portions of the test series. Maryland recently adopted Praxis to replace the National Teacher Examinations. Cutoff scores for the NTE allowed 90 percent of Maryland's teacher candidates to pass. The new benchmark on the Praxis test, which was developed by the Educational Testing Service of Princeton, New Jersey, would screen out nearly half the teachers who take the tests each year throughout the country, state officials said. But they were optimistic that the new cutoff standard would not exacerbate the anticipated teacher deficit.

Bon Appétit

If one eats green eggs and ham, might one then be inspired to read about them? Perhaps that's what the governor of Hawaii was hoping when he served up that tantalizing fare at a brunch for 800 children in celebration of "Read Across America" day and what would have been the 95th birthday of the late Theodore Geisel--Dr. Seuss--the author of Green Eggs and Ham. Governor Benjamin Cayetano, a Democrat, was one of many governors who took part in the National Education Association event. Other governors also came up with creative ways to promote reading. In Utah, lawmakers suspended business for 15 minutes to read with 300 elementary school children. Authors, educators, and sports personalities joined NEA members at library and bookstore events around the country.

Banned Books

Four books have been returned to the library shelves of the 560-student Barron High School in Wisconsin while the school board awaits the outcome of a federal lawsuit. The books were removed when parents complained about their homosexual content. The Wisconsin branch of the American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit in U.S. District Court on behalf of three juveniles, their parents, and three 18-year-olds. It claims the district violated the constitutional rights of students by removing the volumes from the library last fall. In agreeing not to contest a preliminary injunction, the board ordered the books in question--When Someone You Know Is Gay, The Drowning of Stephan Jones, Baby B-Bop, and Two Teenagers in Twenty--returned to the library for the time being. Bill Theil, the lawyer representing the school, declined comment.

Overly Generous

A teacher at Desert Vista High School in Mesa, Arizona, was suspended for five days without pay for making a $20,000 donation to his school and for accepting outside contributions. The Tempe Union High School district said that teacher George Alper did not follow procedures and was guilty of "unprofessional and insubordinate conduct." Alper, who teaches photo-imaging and television production, said he was only trying to do what was best for his students, according to his lawyer, Susan Sendrow. But district officials don't see it that way. They say Alper spent $20,000 of his own money and accepted donations from third parties-including $20,000 worth of software from Microsoft-without going through the proper channels.

Student Rights...

A high school junior in Vernon, Connecticut, wants school-sponsored publications in the state to enjoy the same freedoms granted to regular publications. Stratos Pahis, 17, a student at Rockville High School, is rallying support for the proposed Act Concerning Student Journalists, a bill that would prohibit censorship of student publications except when material was libelous, slanderous, or violated Connecticut law. Currently in the state, school-sponsored publications cannot endorse political candidates or referendum items. The bill is opposed by the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, which argues that student publications are learning tools that need to be monitored.

...And Wrongs

A 16-year-old disgusted by his high school newspaper took matters into his own hands. John Krahn, a junior at a school in the Wisconsin Dells, created and distributed a parody of his school paper. That act got him expelled for the remainder of his school career. District officials said Krahn was guilty of "insubordinate and disrespectful" behavior. His paper "was designed to debase and defame some administrators, staff, and students" at the 516-student school, said the district's lawyer.

Loving Larry

Lobsters may not be cute and cuddly, but they have feelings, too. That's what students at Jefferson City High School learned when they tried to determine the fate of a crustacean named Larry the Lobster. Students at the Missouri high school, attempting to raise funds for the Special Olympics, masterminded the idea of selling votes for 50 cents each to determine whether Larry would live or die--and become one lucky student's dinner. At an assembly launching the fund-raiser, a student in a ninja costume chanting "Kill, kill, kill" and another chanting "Save, save, save" worked the crowd. The scene steamed a couple of students, who called the Norfolk, Virginia-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA's Bruce Friedrich said the fund-raiser "showed a grave disrespect for the life of the animal." After an unsuccessful attempt to dissuade the school from the program, PETA posted an "action alert" on its World Wide Web site, prompting a bombardment of protest calls to the 1,900-student school. The student council canceled the fund-raiser; no lobsters were eaten.

Vol. 10, Issue 7, Pages 10-12

Published in Print: April 1, 1999, as News In Brief
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