The California Labor Board has ordered 15 8th graders to be returned to a classroom from which their parents had requested that they be removed. Chief Deputy Labor Commissioner Jose Millan ruled that the Rio Bravo-Greeley School District (located about 100 miles north of Los Angeles near Bakersfield) wrongfully heeded parents' requests to pull their children from teacher James Merrick's class. The Commissioner accused the school district of treating Merrick differently because of his "perceived sexual orientation." The parents said their children had complained of feeling uncomfortable with Merrick's discussions about homosexuality. The school district has settled with Merrick, and has decided not to appeal the Labor Board's ruling to CA Industrial Relations Director Stephen Smith. The Pacific Justice Institute is representing the students' families. Merrick is represented by the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a gay rights organization.
Indiana basketball legend Bryce Drew champions sexual abstinence among young people. Drew (now a member of the NBA's Houston Rockets) joins former Chicago Bears football star Mike Singletary and other top athletes who speak out in favor of abstinence. Singletary appeared last November at a rally celebrating abstinence in Chicago sponsored by Project Reality. Currently, Drew is partnering with Indiana abstinence organization PATH (Positive Approach to Teen Health, based in Valparaiso) to produce an eight-page abstinence booklet that will be distributed to teens. The booklet "will speak specifically to high school students on the subject of abstinence as the preferred choice." PATH is already receiving requests for the booklet from other states.
A darkly "comic" novel about a boy wrongly convicted of a crime who serves time at a strange juvenile detention facility in the barren Texas drylands has won the 1999 Newbery Medal for children's literature. The book is called Holes, by Louis Sachar. The award is presented annually by the American Library Association.