Jackson urges black students: Don't quit

STATE DIGEST

October 12, 2007

Suitland -- Pointing to statistics that black students are three times more likely than whites to be expelled from school, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson urged Suitland High School students yesterday to commit to school.

"We have no control over our date of birth or our race or our gender," Jackson said at the school, whose student body is 97 percent black. "But we have control over the choices we make."

Recalling the fight by black children to integrate white schools in then-segregated Little Rock, Ark., Jackson castigated students today who skip school or drop out altogether.

"Today, there are no howling mobs outside the doors. There are no governors blocking the doors. So why are we not attending school?" he asked.

A Chicago Tribune analysis of U.S. Department of Education data concluded last month that black students nationwide are three times more likely to be expelled than white students who commit the same offenses.

Jackson said he chose Suitland High School because of the progress the school is making in improving student performance. Suitland is one of seven schools that the state removed last year from its list of "schools identified for improvement," because of increases in their state assessment test scores.

At Suitland, for example, the graduation rate rose to 88.3 percent in 2006, according to county statistics, above the 2006 statewide rate of 85.4 percent.

But attendance at Suitland is still an issue. Attendance at the school dropped from 88.6 percent in 2005 to 85.2 percent in 2006, according to a county performance report, compared to statewide averages of 92 percent in 2005 and 91.6 percent in 2006.

"One of the biggest fights is getting the kids here," said Suitland Principal Mark Fossett.

Fossett said he worries most about freshmen, because the new pressures of high school make them the most likely to quit.

Capital News Service

Montgomery Co.

: Public schools

Judge OKs sex-orientation class

A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge is allowing a new sex education plan to proceed in county public schools.

Judge William Rowan has denied a request from advocacy groups to block schools from teaching the new lessons in middle and high schools this fall. The lessons introduce the topic of sexual orientation in classrooms for the first time in eighth- and 10th-grade health classes.

The request for a legal block on starting the classes this month was denied Tuesday. It was part of an appeal filed in July that won't have a full hearing until January.

The groups opposing the curriculum are Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, Family Leader Network and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays.

Associated Press

Calvert County

: Calvert Cliffs

Nuclear expansion plan resisted

A disaster at the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant in Lusby could lead to thousands of deaths because of congested escape routes and other potential problems, anti-nuclear groups said yesterday.

The charges come as plant owner Constellation Energy has submitted designs to add a third nuclear reactor to the two 30-year-old reactors at the site, plans that county officials say they strongly support.

"The county is very comfortable" with the expansion, said Linda Vassallo, Calvert County's director of economic development. That expansion is still years away from realization.

But opponents, speaking yesterday near the Thomas Johnson Memorial Bridge, said there are only two major escape routes from the county -- the bridge and state Route 2/4. Those routes would turn into bottlenecks in an emergency, as many of the 50,000 people who live within 10 miles of the plant tried to flee.

Even in a normal rush hour, bumper-to-bumper traffic snarls the two-lane Johnson bridge as people drive to and from St. Mary's County to get to jobs at the Patuxent Naval Air Test Center, said Norma Powers, a 19-year resident of the area.

The groups also pointed to potential problems with the lack of backup power for emergency sirens and the possibility that emergency responders might abandon their duties to help their families in a nuclear disaster.

But Bobby Fenwick, Calvert County's emergency response director, said that while the sirens are not required to have backup power, local officials have other ways to communicate with residents. They would send prerecorded messages to telephones and police officers would drive along major streets with loudspeakers.

Evacuation-time estimates conducted by Constellation Energy in 2000 found it would take no more than 6 1/2 hours to clear the area, he said.

Capital News Service

Statewide

Drought-fed disease killing deer

State wildlife officials say a disease spread by gnats is killing deer in Maryland, though the disease poses no threat to humans.

The disease is called hemorrhagic disease, which is deadly to deer and spread by gnats. State Natural Resources deer biologist Brian Eyler says the disease has been killing deer in several Maryland counties, including four on the Eastern Shore.

Outbreaks are seen about every five years. Biologists say the disease is caused by dry conditions, when deer congregate around sparse water supplies that become infested with gnats.

Eyler says the problem is not so widespread that it will affect the state's overall deer population. The disease disappears after the first frost.

Associated Press

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