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Pac-Man and Friend Expelled From Kentucky High School

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Lexington, Ky--Pac-Man, that bigmouthed, yellow-faced video monster, joined the lunchtime crowd at Lexington's Tates Creek High School for a short while this fall.

But after only two days, the newest additions to the 1,500-student school--Pac-Man and his electronic friend, Donkey Kong--were expelled by Guy Potts, Fayette County's superintendent of schools.

Admission of the two to a tiny video arcade, set up by the school's student council in a corridor near the cafeteria, had been approved by Principal Warren Featherston, who saw the game as a way to attract more students to the cafeteria.

But Mr. Potts vetoed the idea. "I don't think they have any place in a school," he said. "It's inappropriate. I don't think they add to to the instructional program, and I think they would create confusion."

Like their counterparts in many other communities, members of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council debated placing tighter restrictions on video games in the county last spring. The council, however, decided against new restrictions on minors' use of the games.

Video in School

In light of the new situation, parents, teachers, and students have been debating a related question: Is there a place for video games in the public schools?

David Friedersdorf, the student-council president who came up with the idea, said he saw it as a way "to provide a service to students and to help the school."

Mr. Friedersdorf had arranged with a local video-game distributor for the school to receive half the proceeds from the games--money that could be used to buy needed school equipment.

"A lot of kids at school play the games, and the school is always tight on money," Mr. Friedersdorf said.

Shirley Daniel, president of the school's Parent-Teacher Association, agreed. "I feel the children are going to spend their money anyway, and as tight as the school's budget is, I'd just as soon see the kids spend the money at school."

The installation of video games to help raise funds for financially strapped schools is catching on across the country, said Jonas Halperin of Warner Communications, a manufacturer of computer games.

"A good coin-operated game can generate $100 to $300 a week, and even after the school splits with the distributor, they still might pick up $50 to $75 a week," Mr. Halperin said.

"That's pretty good money. Having them in a school isn't that unusual, but it's up to the individual school system. I know some machines have taken some knocks from parents," he said.

Lexington parents objected for two reasons. Some were concerned that the students would pump their lunch money into the video games. And others protested on educational grounds.

Not Educational

"I don't think they provide a lot educationally--they're like glorified pinball machines to me," said Carol Jarboe, a member of the county school board.

However, Tates Creek's computer-science teacher, Terry Hile, contended that video games have stirred students' interest in computer science. "Some of my students have invented games similar to the Donkey Kong game," he said.

As an example, Mr. Hile cited Hunter Hancock, a 1982 graduate of Tates Creek, who has spent much of this year in California developing computer games for a company there. Mr. Hancock will be a freshman this fall at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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