Short Stuff 19.2

Teacher Wins Suit

Bill Nevins recently won a $205,000 settlement from the Rio Rancho School District in New Mexico. The district did not renew his contract after his students read poetry opposing the Iraq war in class and in public. Although it paid the settlement, the district claims it did not rehire Nevins for other reasons.

Commercialism Grows

A recent report by the Commercialism in Education Research Unit (CERU) at Arizona State University found increased commercialization in schools, but also growing opposition to the trend.

The study, which analyzed media references to commercialism, found that references to schoolhouse commercialism rose from July 1, 2003 to June 30, 2004 in the following categories: sponsorship of programs and activities (up 9 percent); exclusive agreements (up 122 percent); appropriation of space, including the use of school property to promote individual corporations, granting naming rights, or general advertising (up 87 percent); using broadcast, Internet, or related media to target students as consumers (up 24 percent).

“The reasons that schools are willing to engage in what is ultimately a barter for access to their students by going to corporations have not varied over the years,” the report states. “Funding shortages continue to strain school systems.”

For more information, visit the CERU website: http://

Black Gays and Lesbians Face Hurdles

A recent study jointly conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute and the National Black Justice Coalition found that black lesbian couples are raising children at almost the same rate as black married couples. It also found that black same-sex couples raise children at twice the rate of white same-sex couples. The study analyzed data from the 2000 census. Black same-sex couples, according to the study, are also less likely to own homes than white gays and lesbians, are more likely to work in the public sector or the military, and generally earn less. “As this landmark report makes clear, gay African-Americans are an active, involved, vibrant, and integral part of our communities. African Americans make up 13 percent of the U.S. population. Black same-sex couples are 14 percent of all same-sex couples in the United States. We are you,” said H. Alexander Robinson, strategic director of the National Black Justice Coalition. The full study is available at

Student Conviction Overturned

The California Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a 15-year-old student who had been imprisoned for writing poetry containing violent images that allegedly violated California’s criminal threat law. The court said the boy’s poetry was “too ambiguous and equivocal to constitute a criminal threat.”

School Funding Gaps Widen

Gaps between wealthy and poor schools continue to widen, according to a recent study by the Education Trust. High-poverty districts typically received $868 less than their wealthier counterparts in 2002, the last year with data available. Gaps tended to be wider in more populous states. New York schools faced the steepest gap, with wealthy schools receiving $2,0400 more per student.

SAT Under Fire

The College Board, which publishes the SAT college entrance exam, doesn’t want the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, or FairTest, to publish data showing that poor and minority students score lower than white and affluent students on the test. The Board says FairTest is violating copyright law by posting the scores without permission. FairTest, which is critical of the undue importance of standardized tests in the admissions process, says the data is available in the public domain and refuses to remove it from its website.