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Acting on a recommendation of Gov. Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Board of Education has approved a computer-literacy plan that would require 15 hours of instruction each year for students in the 7th and 8th grades.

The program, called "Computer Skills Next," was developed by a 16-member committee appointed by the board.

It established the committee last summer, after the Governor asked members to consider a computer-literacy program for junior-high-school students.

Part of the committee's task was to work out a definition of computer literacy. "We've tried to define computer literacy as understanding the history and development of computers, their basic function and operation, and being able to understand simple programs," said Robert L. McElrath, state commissioner of education.

The committee recommended that the state begin phasing in the program in 1983, and make it mandatory by the 1985-86 school year.

Training personnel to instruct the students would be a major component of the plan. The committee suggested 60 experts be trained to teach 700 local computer-resource specialists who would work with students. The group also recommended providing all 4,300 7th- and 8th-grade teachers in the state with two days of computer-literacy training.

The committee estimated that about 4,430 microcomputers would be needed to put the plan into effect. It must first be funded by the state general assembly.

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled last month in favor of two school psychologists (and the school board that employed them) named in an ''education malpractice" suit by the parents of a handicapped student who said their child was improperly placed in classes for the mentally retarded.

In a 4-to-3 decision, the court said the Montgomery County school dis-trict cannot be sued unless the action against the student was taken maliciously.

The court said that unless there is clearly malicious intent, school districts should be immune from "education malpractice" suits.

The student, known only as John Doe, was diagnosed in 1967 by the school district as "retarded or borderline intellectual level functioning."

A year later, a private physician diagnosed his condition as dyslexia, a neurological disorder, not related to intelligence, that impairs a person's ability to read.

The student graduated from high school in 1979, reading at a third-grade level.

In the dissenting opinion, the minority said the case involved medical--not educational--malpractice, "a cause of action that has long been cognizable in Maryland courts."

John Domingus, attorney for the "Doe" parents, said the parents intend to appeal the decision of the Maryland court to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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