A Teacher Giveback for Students

WATERBURY, Conn.--City teachers have given up a share of their new raise, relinquishing $303,502 from their first two paychecks of the year to help buy books and supplies for their schools.

"This is a way teachers can help directly their own students," Westside Middle School Principal Martin Scully said yesterday. "I think it's a wonderful gesture. It comes back directly to our kids."

Waterbury's 1,160 teachers gave back around $300 each. The city made a matching contribution. The teachers' four-year contract requires the city to match whatever the teachers give, up to a maximum of $325,000.

"We decided when we renegotiated our contracts that we wanted to give back to the city so the children would benefit," Westside teacher Suzanne Franson said.

The money can be spent on books, supplies, computers or other educational needs, but not supplies that the city usually provides.

A portion of the money--$450,000--will be distributed to schools Dec. 1 based on their enrollment. The remaining $150,000 will be distributed at the end of the year, based on schools' performances on statewide proficiency exams.

"The concept behind this whole thing is fantastic," said PTA President Mark Moriarty. "The teachers are very much involved. They care just as much as parents about helping the students."

No School Liability in Strip Search

ATLANTA--A federal judge ruled that a strip search conducted by police and school officials on a group of fifth-grade children in 1996 was unconstitutional but the authorities should not be sued for it, a school attorney said.

"The judge ruled that the search was illegal, but that police and school officials meant no harm in doing the search," said Clayton County School Attorney Gary Sams. The ruling, issued Monday by U.S. District Judge Julie Carnes, meant that a lawsuit filed by parents of 11 students would not go to trial.

"I am furious by this ruling," said parent Tewarnie Starks, who was forced to transfer her son to a private school when he became "unruly" after the incident. "I feel like me and my child have been raped by the judicial system." Starks said she would seek an appeal.

The lawsuit was filed in April 1997 by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of 11 West Clayton Elementary School students who said they were ordered to take off their pants and shirts in restrooms by teacher Tracey Morgan and police officer Zannie Billingslea after $26 from a student candy sale disappeared.

Carnes ruled the legal doctrine of qualified immunity "protects a teacher who makes a mistake, even when a federal court determines that . . . the teacher's acts exceeded a judicially set standard."

"She was a new teacher, and she didn't know how to handle this," Sams said. "She misheard what the assistant principal told her, which is go search for the money, and not to go conduct a strip search."