A school district may consider neighborhood demographics when assigning students to school, a California state appellate court has ruled. The unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the California Court of Appeal is a victory for the student assignment plan of the Berkeley Unified School District. And it upholds a race-conscious assignment plan that doesn't rely on any individual's student's racial background. "To the extent that any preference is given to a student, it is on the basis of several factors relating to the collective composition of the student’s neighborhood (household income, education level, and race), not the student’s...


A federal appeals court has upheld a 2003 Texas law that requires a daily moment of silence in schools for students to "reflect, pray, or meditate." The law amended and earlier state statute that had merely permitted school districts to observe a moment of silence and did not mention prayer as an acceptable way for students to pass the time. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, in New Orleans, on March 16 agreed with a federal district court in rejecting a First Amendment challenge to the law. Noting that the amended law ...


The federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 affects school districts at their political foundation--the election of school board members. A U.S. Supreme Court decision this week could make it slightly harder for minority candidates to win election to school boards. Meanwhile, a separate case the justices are taking up this term could have a bit of impact on school districts that face special "preclearance" requirements under the voting-rights law. In a case decided on Monday, the justices ruled that law can only be used to help minorities elect their preferred candidates when the minority group members make up at ...


A federal district judge has issued a preliminary injunction barring a Florida school district from refusing to recognize a gay-straight student alliance. Administrators at Yulee High School in the Nassau County school district had argued that the club could be disruptive and that its message would violate Florida education policy encouraging sexual abstinence. Court papers indicate the district also objected to the group's proposed name: the Gay-Straight Alliance. Names such as the Tolerance Club might be more acceptable. In the March 11 injunction, U.S. District Judge Henry Lee Adams Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., indicated that he agreed with another ...


Strip-searches of students in public schools are unconstitutional in all but narrow circumstances, the federal government told the U.S. Supreme Court in a brief in an important education case to be decided this term. The U.S. brief in Safford Unified School District v. Redding (Case No. 08-479) largely takes the side of Savanna Redding, who was a 13-year-old middle school student in 2003 when she was stripped-searched by school officials looking for prescription-strength Ibuprofen pills. No drugs were found. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of the Safford school district in Arizona of a federal ...


Call it the Revenge of the School Administrator's Scorned Wife. A New Mexico assistant principal made a "sexually explicit" phone call to his school secretary, as court papers put it. It isn't clear whether there was a romantic interest between the two, or whether the call was a form of sexual harassment. What is clear is that the assistant principal's wife had installed a recording device on the couple's home phone. After her husband's call to the secretary, the wife played the recording for a school board member, who passed a tape along to the district superintendent. The Hobbs, N.M.,...


The U.S. Supreme Court today refused to hear the appeal of an Arkansas school district over students' black-armband protests against a school uniform policy. The Watson Chapel school district was seeking high court review of an appeals court ruling that said the students' protest was protected under the 1969 landmark student speech case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District. The district implemented the uniform policy in 2006 for grades 7 through 12. That fall, several students were disciplined for wearing black armbands--the same method used by the students in Tinker to protest the Vietnam War--to express their ...


The U.S. Supreme Court today denied the appeal of a high school football coach who was seeking the right to bow his head or take a knee when his players engage in voluntary pre-game prayers. In the coach's case, the appeal on behalf of Marcus A. Borden of East Brunswick High School in New Jersey said the longtime head football coach did not seek to pray or join his players in pre-game prayers. "Rather, he sought only to engage in two silent, respectful gestures: to bow his head when students pray at the pre-game dinner, and to continue to ...


The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that a city's acceptance of a monument for a public park represents government speech and thus does not implicate the First Amendment free speech rights of a group seeking to add its own monument to the park. The court's 9-0 decision in Pleasant Grove City, Utah v. Summum (Case No. 07-665) arguably holds implications for public schools. Some groups had argued that a ruling that went the other way--for a religious sect called Summum that wanted to put a monument detailing its principles in a park in the Utah city where a Ten ...


The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that a state's restriction on school district and other local government employee payroll deductions for politics does not violate the free speech rights of unions. The justices ruled 6-3 in a case from Idaho involving that state's Voluntary Contributions Act, which prohibits school districts and other local governments from using their payroll systems to let workers voluntarily deduct amounts from their paychecks for political causes, such as for the unions’ political action funds. "Idaho’s law does not restrict political speech, but rather declines to promote that speech by allowing public employee checkoffs ...


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