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Briefly across the Nation

Winnetka, Ill.

School seminar sparks civil rights, race debate

When a largely white public school nestled in Chicago’s wealthiest suburbs planned a daylong civil rights seminar, it drafted two National Book Award winners as keynote speakers and crafted a syllabus that would be the envy of most liberal arts colleges.

But New Trier, a high-achieving, 4,000-student high school regularly ranked among the nation’s best, found itself stepping into the minefield of the national dialogue on race and civil rights. Some parents and conservative groups have deemed the event during Black History Month “radical” and “divisive.” Dueling petitions circulated, heated emails were exchanged and hundreds of people packed a school board meeting beyond capacity.

While New Trier’s demographics and resources aren’t reflective of many public schools, the debate highlights the complications of teaching civil rights when much of the country struggles to discuss race. Some educators worry their work will become more difficult after a polarizing election that’s fueled divisions, even in homogenous and largely Democratic areas like the upscale Lake Michigan suburbs making up New Trier.

For educators the goal is simple.

“One of the things we most hope happens is for the kids to be able to see the world through someone else’s eyes,” said Superintendent Linda Yonke.

Los Angeles

Joseph Wapner, star of ‘The People’s Court,’ dies

Joseph Wapner, the retired Los Angeles judge who presided over The People’s Court with steady force during the heyday of the reality courtroom show, died Sunday at age 97.

Son David Wapner said his father died at home in his sleep. Joseph Wapner was hospitalized a week ago with breathing problems and had been under home hospice care.

The People’s Court, on which Wapner decided real small-claims from 1981 to 1993, was one of the granddaddies of the syndicated reality shows of today. His affable, no-nonsense approach attracted many fans, putting the show in the top five in syndication at its peak.

“Everything on the show is real,” Wapner told the AP in a 1986 interview. “There’s no script, no rehearsal, no retakes. Everything from beginning to end is like a real courtroom, and I personally consider each case as a trial.”

— The Associated Press