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Zero-tolerance policies take heat

SAN DIEGO

Momentum is building against zero-tolerance policies toward drugs, weapons, and violence in schools. Noting that concern over safety has prompted some schools to take punishment to an extreme, leaders of the American Bar Association are expected soon to take a public stance against such rules on civil rights grounds.

School districts say parents often request the policy to ensure safe halls and to prevent punishment based on factors like race. The ABA and civil rights groups argue that minorities are disproportionately affected, and that students are being treated like criminals for minor infractions. In a frequently cited case, a sixth-grader was suspended last year for carrying a weapon. Her modus operandi? A 10-inch key chain on her Tweety Bird wallet.

Bipartisan boost to character education

WASHINGTON

A bipartisan bill would give school districts up to $500,000 a year to spend on character-education programs that teach students about respect and responsibility. The authors of the new legislation, Sens. Christopher Dodd (D) of Connecticut and Pete Domenici (R) of New Mexico, hope to build on a successful pilot program, "Character Counts," which they helped start seven years ago. The "Strong Character for Strong Schools Act" calls for $50 million in funding.

Please be our principal

KEENE, N.H.

School officials in New Hampshire, like those around the nation, say it's hard finding good principals. Local school districts are hiring principals with fewer qualifications than normal for jobs that demand more experience than ever.

Peggy McAllister, executive director of the New Hampshire Association of School Principals, says plenty of teachers have the credentials, but many do not want to take the position.

New Hampshire has about 600 principals. There has been turnover in about 125 of those jobs in each of the last three years. Ms. McAllister says longer workdays, low pay, and declining respect for public education are key factors.

Attention Teachers Interested in writing for us?

We are always on the lookout for 600-word columns written by kindergarten teachers on up to college professors. To submit a "Class Act" column, e-mail Amelia Newcomb at: newcomba@csps.com or write to The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA, 02115.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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