News In Brief

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American Ugly

In March, police arrested Mary Louise Rawn-Peterson, a Ventura County, California, teacher who'd recently shown the film American Beauty to her AP English class, as a dispute over its screening escalated. District policy forbids teachers from showing R-rated films to students; when Rawn-Peterson refused to interrupt her class to speak to administrators about her misconduct, officials had her handcuffed and arrested for trespassing. Police eventually dropped the charges against the teacher, but the school board voted to discontinue her contract. Rawn-Peterson says she is being punished for criticizing district policies.

Paper Cut

Palisades Charter School in Los Angeles suspended 11 students in March for publishing an underground newspaper that school officials claimed maligned teachers and used crude language. A teacher the paper falsely identified as a porn actress was too upset to return to school for more than a week after the incident, the school's assistant principal says. About 300 of Palisades' 2,500 students rallied in protest of the suspensions as well as the school's ban of the publication, complaining that officials were interfering with their free-speech rights.

Cooking The Books

Dewitt Road Elementary in Webster, New York, is microwaving its 10,000 library books to rid the collection of an infestation of lice, reports a March issue of New York Teacher, a United Federation of Teachers newspaper. Book lice are tiny bugs that consume mold and glue in bindings, causing books to fall apart. "It's time-consuming, since we have to microwave one book at a time, but it's worth it," John Bodak, Webster schools facilities manager, told the paper. "We really wanted to avoid using chemicals or sprays on library books children would be using."

Beyond The Pale

African American characters were mistakenly drawn as white in illustrations accompanying an excerpt from a children's book on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test given to 3rd graders earlier this year. A state official noted that the illustrations in the book, More Stories Julian Tells, by Ann Cameron, did not include people and the story itself seemed "race neutral."

God Squad

School officials in Hempstead, New York, have decided to allow a group of ministers to offer academic and social counseling at the district's high school. The group, the Ministers Alliance to Develop Education, will tutor students and run parenting, career-development, AIDS-awareness, and anti-gang programs. The ministers and their representatives have agreed not to proselytize, bring religious symbols into the schools, or use prayer during counseling.


Shawano, Wisconsin, teacher Daniel Day received a fine of $402.50 in February when he pleaded no contest to charges that he kicked a student at Wittenberg-Birnamwood High earlier in the school year. According to the criminal complaint, Day kicked the 18-year-old after the student shook a vending machine. The district is requiring that Day attend anger-management classes.


In March, the Utah legislature approved a bill that would have sex education in the state's schools feature an abstinence-only curriculum. Representative Bill Wright, the bill's sponsor, said a state mandate was needed to prevent organizations such as Planned Parenthood from influencing sex ed programs. However, Governor Michael Leavitt, a Republican, vetoed the bill two weeks later, citing "inconsistencies and uncertainties that would make administration and interpretation of the law confusing."

Get Out

Almost 40 percent of science teachers questioned by the National Science Teachers Association in a recent survey of its members say they are considering retiring or leaving their jobs for another career. "The scary part is. . . these are the people who are actively involved in science education," says NSTA Executive Director Gerald Wheeler.

Teach For Us

Philadelphia has hired the nonprofit consulting arm of Teach for America, an organization that places college graduates in needy schools, to help recruit 50 to 75 new teachers to work in middle schools beginning next fall. The effort will target nontraditional candidates, including midcareer professionals and college seniors who haven't studied education. Those accepted will complete five weeks of training this summer.

Video Victory

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by the families of three students killed in the 1997 school shootings in Paducah, Kentucky, against Time Warner Inc., Nintendo of America Inc., and 19 other entertainment companies. The parents claim that the companies' violent video games, movies, and Internet sites led student Michael Carneal, then 14, to carry out the shootings. The lawyer representing the families said the plaintiffs would appeal.


The Woodland Joint Unified School District in California is investigating eight teachers accused of illegally copying portions of the Stanford 9 state achievement tests and showing them to students. The district put the teachers, all members of the science department at Woodland High near Sacramento, on administrative leave for three days in April.


A North Carolina school district has ended an experiment with single-sex classrooms after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education. Teachers at Parkwood Middle School, dismayed by research suggesting that girls receive less attention in coed classrooms, began the experiment last fall. The state ACLU chapter claimed the move violated federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in federally funded education programs.

See The Light

New research contends that students learn faster in classrooms with plenty of natural light than they do in artificially lighted spaces. The Herschong Maghone Group, a Fair Oaks, California, company, compared the work of 210,000 students and found that those in classrooms with large windows or skylights improved 20 percent faster on math tests and 26 percent faster on reading tests.

Vol. 11, Issue 8, Pages 10-12

Published in Print: May 1, 2000, as News In Brief
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