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The New York Board of Regents last week decided to seek an amendment to the N.Y. penal code that would clearly grant authority to the state board of education to ban corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure.

The state board of regents, which has opposed the use of corporal punishment in disciplining students, will petition the legislature for the change, according to Christopher Carpenter, a spokesman for the state department of education.

Under a provision of the state penal code, he said, parents and teachers are exempt from any criminal assault charges stemming from the use of corporal punishment.

In an opinion written by the lawyer for the state department of education, that provision was interpreted as precluding a formal statewide policy opposing corporal punishment in the schools.

A separate opinion issued by the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, however, argued just the opposite.

Because of the conflict in legal interpretation, according to Mr. Carpenter, the state board has not issued a rule banning the practice.

"Informally, the department policy has been to allow local school districts to make their own policy. As a result, some do and some don't," Mr. Carpenter added.

Two contempt-of-court charges, one civil and one criminal, were still pending against Alabama Gov. Forrest H. (Fob) James as of late last week. The charges allege that Governor James has encouraged teachers to defy a court injunction against the state's new school-prayer law.

The injunction was handed down this summer by U.S. District Judge W.B. Hand, who ordered that the law, which permits teachers to lead "willing students" in prayer, not be executed until a trial has been held on its constitutionality.

Currently, the trial date is set for Nov. 8. Lawyers working on the case say they hope that the judge will rule on a "summary motion" filed earlier, which means that he would decide the question without holding a trial.

Such a ruling could occur soon, the lawyers say.

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