Skip to main content /transcript



NEWSROOM for August 30, 2001

Aired August 30, 2001 - 04:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: Seen in classrooms the world over, this is CNN NEWSROOM.

TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: Glad you are with us for another edition of CNN NEWSROOM, everyone. I'm Tom Haynes. Let's take a look at what's ahead.

Education tops our agenda. How you dress and how you test are the issues at hand. We're lighting up the sky in "Science Desk." Fireflies are the focus. Summer is on the way out and the Santas are already on the scene. I have that story in "Worldview." Finally, we'll "Chronicle" potential problems for the Bronx Bomber.

With back-to-school season in full swing, we're taking a look at issues facing both students and parents. Today, it's how you dress in school. It seems more and more schools are adopting school uniforms. Twenty-one U.S. states are letting schools mandate uniforms but many students and their parents object.

Kathy Slobogin reports on who should decide what you wear and whether it makes any difference.


DONNA BENNETT, MOTHER: No. That's mighty skimpy.

LINDSEY BENNETT, STUDENT: That's not skimpy.

D. BENNETT: That is skimpy. Look at the arm holes on that.

KATHY SLOBOGIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's an age-old battle: What the mother likes, the daughter wouldn't be caught dead in.

D. BENNETT: These are cute. No?

SLOBOGIN: But now shopping for school clothes is more fraught than ever. Parents are squeezed between a fashion industry that has even elementary school students looking like Britney Spears and school dress codes that are increasingly strict.

D. BENNETT: What is this, though?

L. BENNETT: Whoa. D. BENNETT: It has a big split.

L. BENNETT: Major exposure.

D. BENNETT: It's not dress code.

SLOBOGIN: Donna Bennett and her 14-year-old daughter Lindsey (ph) live in a suburb north of Atlanta, where the high school dress code has a long list of forbidden apparel.

D. BENNETT: Too low.

SLOBOGIN: Principal Doe Kirkland is on fashion patrol.

DOE KIRKLAND, SEQUOYAH HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL: I can see your tummy. You are going to have to keep that shirt pulled down...


KIRKLAND: ... and tucked into those jeans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE STUDENT: I didn't even notice it was short.

KIRKLAND: Not that it doesn't look good.

SLOBOGIN: The dress code prohibits bare midriffs, bare backs and bare shoulders. Tank tops and spaghetti straps are out -- so are wide-legged pants, skin-tight pants and pants with holes.

KIRKLAND: You with the pants, come here. You are going to have to keep those things buttoned so they don't drag. Now, you know that. You know that.


SLOBOGIN: Shorts must be less than 5 inches above the knee. But pants can't touch the floor. Pajamas are definitely out.

KIRKLAND: Without the dress code, kids will push the bar, and the clothing becomes a distraction.

SLOBOGIN: Kirkland says at one time, she didn't feel dress codes were necessary. But recently, she's changed her mind.

KIRKLAND: It was primarily the girls. The girls began to kind of push the limit. We allowed shorts. We didn't prescribe the length. And they got shorter and shorter and shorter. It was boys that complained about the girls' attire. They said, you know: Ms. Kirkland, it's sort of hard to concentrate in class when you're sitting behind someone who doesn't have on much clothing.

SLOBOGIN: Last year, the school's county floated a proposal for school uniforms; 58 percent of parents were in favor. But those opposed wrote blistering comments, like, "I will not be told what my child will wear to a school I pay for with my tax dollars," and "I remind you that an Austrian man by the name of Adolf Hitler had similar ideas about homogeneous appearances."

Donna Bennett liked the idea of uniforms, if only as a backup for parents.

D. BENNETT: I voted in favor of uniforms. I think it was more of a selfish thing so that I would have reasons to enforce what I already believe in.

SLOBOGIN: Kirkland also supported uniforms until she talked to her students.

KIRKLAND: They feel real regimented in a school anyway. We have got a bell system. You have to raise your hand to make a comment. You have to get permission to go to the restroom. So -- and I like that. I like an orderly environment. But I do feel like adolescents needs something to demonstrate their individuality. And they feel like they need their clothes to do that.

SLOBOGIN (on camera): In the last few years, there has been a uniform movement in American schools, with many parents and educators seeing them as a way to restore order, improve discipline and even boost student achievement. But other parents have sued school district over uniforms, claiming they're an erosion of students' freedom of expression.

(voice-over): The uniform movement took off when a California school reported a dramatic decrease in school crime after students began wearing uniforms. To a nation shell-shocked by horrific schools shootings and gang violence, uniforms suddenly looked attractive.

A recent survey found that more than a fourth of U.S. elementary and middle schools now have uniform policies or are considering them; 52 percent of the principals surveyed said uniforms had a positive effect on student achievement. But the uniform success stories are anecdotal. Sociologist David Brunsma actually looked at data from thousands of sophomores across the country to see if the anecdotes held up in the scientific study.

DAVID BRUNSMA, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA: And we found absolutely nothing, which was actually surprising at the time given all the anecdotal meanderings about the positive effects of uniforms. Yet no one had tested it. And when we went about testing it using rigorous statistical analyses, we found absolutely nothing.

SLOBOGIN: Brunsma found no correlation between uniforms and achievement, attendance, substance abuse or discipline. Brunsma says uniforms are a surface response to deeper problems.

BRUNSMA: It's just a coat of paint. We need to really try to understand why the building is deteriorating and not just paint it up and make it look as if everything is OK.

SLOBOGIN: Whether it's a viable reform or simply a diversion, for principals like Kirkland, controlling what students wear is worth the daily struggle.

KIRKLAND: Keep that thing tucked in.

SLOBOGIN: Kathy Slobogin, CNN.


HAYNES: Yesterday we explored the topic of standardized testing, a subject hotly debated by students, parents and educators. Education Secretary Rod Paige sees it as an integral part of educational accountability. Others see it as a hindrance to the learning process.

Student Bureau talked with those on both sides of the issue and here's what they found.


ALLISON WALKER, CNN STUDENT BUREAU: National standardized testing for students in public schools, a cornerstone of President Bush's education reform plan.

ROD PAIGE, U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: We're proposing current frequent assessments for students, specifically, testing annually in grades three through eight in math and reading.

WALKER: Education Secretary Rod Paige is touring the U.S. seeking public support for the reforms dubbed "No Child Left Behind."

PAIGE: Testing is a system that we use to determine how they've made progress. And if they've not made progress, then it needs to be fortified or repeated or otherwise remediated before they move forward.

WALKER: But what do students think about another standardized test?

CHRIS ARMSTEAD, AGE 16: I don't really care to take them if it's not worth anything.

NIKA STRZELECKA, AGE 17: It's just a way to get out of class. It's a -- I mean it's a free week of school.

LAURA DALLAS, AGE 17: To me there's -- I don't think -- care to perform for any -- you know it's just being monkeys for politicians.

FARAH DILBER, AGE 17: By the time students reach the 12th grade, they're dated of tests. They realize that the tests don't have any immediate consequences or even long-term consequences.

JESSICA YOUNG, AGE 17: Testing every year isn't necessarily bad because my parents -- my mother works in the DeKalb County school system, and she thought that knowing what level I was at or knowing the things that I could work at were beneficial to me.

WALKER: The federal government can't force local schools to test students, but it can cut off federal funding if they don't go along with it. Congress is considering the proposal now, and the new testing could start next spring. While some teachers are worrying new tests could be used to determine their pay raises, others see the need for it.

GAIL FEGELY, HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER: I do believe that we need to have something to make sure that the teachers are being held accountable for some basic skills and some information to make sure that we're not graduating kids and passing kids on without having some skills.

PAIGE: It's important that we do appropriate assessments so we can determine extent that learning is taking place. And also inform us on where we need to go with precision in all the corrected deficits that are being experienced.

WALKER: As it stands now, the Bush plan for testing would not directly affect high school students since it ends with the eighth grade.

DALLAS: It really does take away from class time. Your teachers are tense, you know, because technically this will -- supposed to have some sort of, you know, future for their job possibly if -- especially if they continue to expand it. And there's -- it is just a week off of school.

STRZELECKA: We could spend the time that we're spending testing kids actually teaching them.

DILBER: I have no problem with testing made more frequent if there were consequences, but if we're just taking the test to see -- to assess where we are and there's not consequences or outcome of that then students aren't motivated to try their best.

ARMSTEAD: It would be good if you got rewarded if you did well, but they don't do that.

WALKER (on camera): Secretary Paige says national standardized tests would not mean the federal government would tell local schools what they must teach. It will help parents know if their children are falling behind others around the country.

Allison Walker, CNN Student Bureau, Atlanta.


HAYNES: And if you're bucking for a little extra info and maybe some extra credit, visit The All-Purpose School at, a wonderful resource for students and teachers alike.

We are lighting things up now as we focus on fireflies. Fireflies belong to the beetle family and are able to make light with their bodies. This process is called bioluminescence. Other bioluminescent creatures include other types of beetles, gnats and jellyfish. This ability doesn't just make for a great light show, some scientists believe it could make good medicine for humans.

David George has the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DAVID GEORGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Can you spot the fireflies in this picture? One of the fascinating things about fireflies is their sheer mystery. We know one reason they blink on and off like they do is to attract mates. It's all about sex. But how do they control the blinking?

In a study published in the journal "Science," researchers trace the answer to the nerve cells leading to the firefly's lantern and the presence of an enzyme that makes the gas nitric oxide.

BARRY TRIMMER, TUFTS UNIVERSITY: So, we asked the question, can nitric oxide actually make the animals glow? And the answer is, yes.

GEORGE: The nitric oxide works by throwing a biological switch that keeps oxygen from escaping from the cells inside the lantern. The result is sort of like what happens when you blow air on a dying fire.

TRIMMER: They'll flash a few times, and then they won't.

GEORGE: In these experiments in a laboratory at Tufts University, fireflies' lanterns glowed steadily when exposed to increased levels of nitric oxide. In the wild, the process works intermittently, with the firefly controlling the flashes. There are over 200 species of fireflies in the United States.

TRIMMER: Each firefly has a species-specific flash. So they control it, so they know exactly who's who, and they can find their mates.

GEORGE: So, ultimately it is sex that lights a firefly's fire. And lady lightning bugs have a murderous little trick. They can mimic the flash patterns of females from other firefly species.

SARA LEWIS, TUFTS UNIVERSITY: And by mimicking these females they're able to lure in prey, males, jump on them and eat them.

GEORGE: Who would have thought that about fireflies? The Tufts Researchers say their new findings may prove important to human medicine. After all, they say, the nervous systems of insects and mammals really aren't that different.

TRIMMER: So when we look for things in insect brains, they are helping to tell us about the way things work in human brains as well.

GEORGE: Small world, isn't it?

David George, CNN.


HAYNES: And in today's "Science Desk Extra," new rumblings about Sicilian volcano Mount Etna. Etna has been erupting quite a bit this summer. Now scientists say they have evidence Etna's eruption patterns may be changing. They say the mountain could produce fewer lava flows and more explosive eruptions, bad news for people living in Etna's shadow.

Also noteworthy, from the world of science today, paleontologists have discovered two dinosaur skeletons, the skulls of which have beaks like modern day ducks. The beaks even have sieve-like filter systems similar to the ones found in ducks. Despite the similarities, scientists do not believe dinosaurs and ducks are related.

That's it for today's science news. For now, check out some of the great stuff headed your way in our new season.


MICHAEL MCMANUS, CO-HOST: Coming your way this season on CNN NEWSROOM, we'll explore people, places and things. We'll meet people prominent in the present.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Spanish is here to stay. But it, again, that does not mean it'll impede the children and grandchildren of Spanish speaking immigrants from learning English.

MCMANUS: And study interesting people of the past while pondering your plans for the future. We'll visit places far away from home and find fascinating cultures in our own backyard. We'll discover things in the world around us, things seen...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The ocean is like a soup. It's just filled with creatures from the top all the way to the greatest depths seven miles down. And I just love it all.

MCMANUS: ... and sometimes unseen. So join us, starting this fall as we travel from our newsroom to your classroom out into the world beyond. It's all right here on CNN NEWSROOM.


HAYNES: In "Worldview" today we look at dance, a famous holiday character and a long and winding road. Find out how West African culture inspired a dance cropping up here in the United States and learn about a convention of Santa's helpers making holiday plans in Denmark. There's a lot to do before Christmas rolls around this year. Plus, we'll travel the highways and byways of a once renowned road, Route 66.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To some it's just an old piece of pavement; to others, it's a piece of history. Route 66 once stretched nearly 2,500 miles across eight states and three time zones. Immortalized by John Steinbeck in his novel "The Grapes of Wrath," it was often called the "Mother Road" or the "Main Street of America." It reached its heyday back in the 1930s, '40s and '50s when thousands of Americans were heading west.

Today, much of the two-lane road is gone, but Dan Monaghan takes us to a spot in northern New Mexico where the past still lives.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DAN MONAGHAN, KOAT REPORTER (voice-over): The Route 66 signs these days are actually historic markers. The fabled highway was decertified in 1985, a victim of high-speed interstate travel.

DAVID KAMMER, ASPHALT EXPERT: So, you know, the Route 66 folks like to boast that it took five interstates to replace one highway.

MONAGHAN: David Kammer is a professor of pavement, an expert on the asphalt that was Route 66.

The twisting roadway cut into the steep climb is still visible to the west of what is now I-25. While the rutted and rugged roadbed is now suited to little more than lizards, it is loaded with history.

(on camera): As if these 26 switchbacks up a steep hillside weren't difficult enough already, many a motorist faced an extra unusual challenge here.

KAMMER: It had such a steep incline that the fuel pumps in the early automobiles were such that some folks actually found themselves backing up La Bajada.

MONAGHAN (voice-over): A few miles to the south is another pair of historic marks in the earth. That is Little Cut. Big Cut is above what is now Casino Hollywood. The notches in the hillside were engineering marvels in 1909, allowing travel along a road above the sandy flood plain.

Route 66 is loaded with these trivia tidbits, and it is a road romanticized by almost everyone who speaks of it. But why?

KAMMER: It sort of represents our collective dreams of the freedom of the road, of automobility, of movement from the industrial heartland to the Pacific shores, to Hollywood.

MONAGHAN: It was 21 feet wide, hundreds of miles long. Kammer calls it "a linear community," a huge step in actually uniting our states.

Dan Monaghan, KOAT, Action 7 News.


MCMANUS: From the asphalt to high above the Earth, the main figure in our next story is often airborne, and he, like many of you, feels the urge to get an early start on the Christmas rush. And, yes, talk of toys and tinsel may seem out of place in the dog days of summer but not when you're the guy responsible for the whole kit and caboodle. So what's a red suited fat fellow to do, well, head to Denmark with his beloved brethren Father Christmas and the rest of the gang. Their mission: getting a jump-start on that ever-approaching holiday hustle.


DENISE DILLON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Christmas cheer filled the streets of Copenhagen, as more than 150 Santa Clauses marched in a parade at the 38th annual Santa Claus Convention.

They come from all over the world.

UNIDENTIFIED SANTA: A merry Christmas from Canada. Hi!

DILLON: Sure, it's only July, but they've got a lot of work to do between and now December. Official figures from the Santa Convention announced that all of the Santas put together distribute a total of 500,000 tons of presents, using more than 360,000 reindeer.

So what does it take to be a Santa?

UNIDENTIFIED SANTA: You have to have a good ho, ho, ho, ho! You've got to be fond of children. And you have got to have (SPEAKING IN DANISH) as we call in Danish. And that's Christmas spirit.

DILLON: There's also the spirit of love in the air. The Norwegian Santa met a Santa's helper at a convention in Norway last year and decided there's no better place than here to make her his Mrs. Claus.

UNIDENTIFIED SANTA: We had a little dream doing it, like we are doing now. And that's the way. This is the place. This is the surrounding. This is everything.

DILLON: Between the festivities, there was official Santa business conducted. They discussed Christmas issues, Santa duties, individual cultures and the importance of their roles in various countries.

While there are some differences in their traditions and dress, the main principle is always the same -- the directive sent down by the main Santa at the North Pole: Only the good little boys and girls get gifts from Santa on Christmas morning.

Denise Dillon, CNN.


SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: Drums are an essential part of West African culture. They are used to communicate and are heard at festivals, funerals, weddings and more. Today, we look at the place of drums in a new form of dance. Drums, which have their origin in Guinea, Mali and Senegal. The world of dance is always changing. In Atlanta, we look at a new form that fuses traditional African and modern American dance into what is called moja. The dance sprang from Atlanta's Total Dance Company. Members of the group demonstrated moja at a recent performance.

Student Bureau Eileen Chan (ph) has more.


EILEEN CHAN, CNN STUDENT BUREAU (voice-over): In Swahili, the word moja means one. In the dance world, moja is a new technique that combines jazz, ballet, modern and African dance. For Ajile Axam, the creator of moja, it is more than entertainment, the dance also represents a union of the mind, the body and the spirit.

AJILE AXAM, MOJA TECHNIQUE CREATOR: The spirit moves in and out, up and down and connects each form be it modern, jazz, African and the drum is parallel to the spirit.

CHAN: The djembe drums provide the heartbeat of the moja dance. They come from West Africa where they are an integral part of the culture.

OGINGA LOVE, DJEMBE DRUMMER: It gives people an energy for living and it's very essential in all of life aspects. They play it for communication, for enjoyment. It's played at weddings, baby's birthdays, rites of passage, funerals and many other ceremonies. And it's also just played for music.

CHAN: The moja dance is neither African nor American. Ajile and her drummer, Oginga Love, used their African and U.S. training to merge the two cultures into one dance.

LOVE: Djembe tries to connect tradition -- traditional African music with dance here in America today. It's like trying to fuse the old with the new and come up with something even newer.

AXAM: I think moja dancers as an example for dance coming together, all cultures and all technical forms blending. I think when we share and we begin to understand likeness and difference that we move closer as human beings.

Eileen Chan, CNN, Atlanta.


HAYNES: In "Chronicle" today, the Little League fastballer who turned heads at last weekend's Little League World Series. Danny Almonte's 70-plus mile an hour fastballs wowed onlookers and dominated opposing batters. Problem is, after Almonte's Bronx New York team's strong showing, there are new questions about whether the young pitcher is too old to be a Little Leaguer and even his immigration status is now in doubt.

Josie Karp reports.


JOSIE KARP, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A proclamation officially made Tuesday, Rolando Paulino All-Stars Day in New York City. Mayor Rudy Giuliani gave each player a key to the city. It was supposed to be a celebration for a job well done. It turned into an investigation of what might have been done wrong.

STEPHEN KEENER, LITTLE LEAGUE PRESIDENT: Nothing's been verified yet, and today it was a great day to celebrate a great bunch of kids that represented New York.

RUDY GIULIANI, MAYOR OF NEW YORK: But right now we don't know what happened. We have an allegation, the Little League is looking into it, and I think you gives the kids the benefit of the doubt and give them a little, you know, give them a little time to figure out what happened.

KARP: According to documents obtained by "Sports Illustrated," star pitcher Danny Almonte is either 12 and a legitimate hero or 14 and a ringer who should never have been allowed to compete.

LUIS FERNANDO LIOSA, WRITER/REPORTER: We found out that this is true, that this is not a rumor. I was down there, I saw the documents and he is 14. But I do feel that Danny has been used by his father and perhaps by Paulino and I think that's a shame.

FELIPE DE JESUS ALMONTE, DANNY'S FATHER (through translator): Well, I don't know where they are trying to go with this. I don't know where they are trying to go with this. We have the papers. We have the papers. He was born April 7, '89.

KARP: After the ceremony, Little League President Stephen Keener said an investigation is underway and did not rule out the possibility of an official Little League visit to Almonte's native Dominican Republic. He did not outline possible sanctions if Little League concludes Almonte was too old to play.

KEENER: Oh absolutely, it concerns me. If it is true, if the second birth record happens to be the accurate record, then obviously we've been deceived. And I'm angry about that if it -- if it is true. But until that's proven, until it's all verified, I'm going to withhold judgment.

BOB BREWER, LITTLE LEAGUE COACH: If this boy is 12 years old and they can't prove he's no older than that in that team's league, well, then what they've done is a big injustice to that boy and that team by doing all the stuff they've done and the media has.

But if he's not, well then I don't really know who you point the finger at. The only persons -- the people that I think you can point a finger out obviously would be the people who knew. And if that's his coaches, they ought to be banned from Little League baseball. If that's his dad or his mom, then they ought to be ashamed of themselves for doing that.

KARP: On Tuesday, Almonte was asked his age in Spanish and replied 12. The hard thrower only shrugged his shoulders when asked what he thought of the controversy. Adults surrounding him tried to deflect the spotlight that's now found Almonte on the field and off.

GUILLERMO LINARES, NEW YORK CITY COUNCILMAN: Let the investigation bring the truth but don't cast on the efforts of those children, our children any cloud before the truth comes out.

KARP (on camera): The Rolando Paulino all-star team is scheduled to be honored again Wednesday with a parade down the grand concourse in the Bronx. With no timetable scheduled for the results of a Little League investigation that is just beginning, this group of youngsters will continue to be lauded and scrutinized at the same time.

In New York, I'm Josie Karp.


HAYNES: And that is CNN NEWSROOM for Wednesday. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

CNN NEWSROOM is part of Cable in the Classroom, a service of the cable television industry and your local cable company.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

Back to the top