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Despite strong opposition from some community members, the Montgomery County, Md., school board voted last week to begin teaching 8th-grade students about birth control. Currently, only senior-high students receive information about contraception.

The vote came after more than two hours of debate, which included strong criticism of the measure by some community members. During a comment period that preceded the vote, the board received 3,400 letters opposing the change, and about 100 in favor of it, according to Kenneth Muir, a spokesman for the district. Most of the criticism suggested that, by adding the material, the school district would be showing students how to use contraceptives.

The purpose of the program, however, is one of acquainting young people, "before they need to know," with different forms of contraception, the framework in which various religious groups find contraception acceptable, and the efficacy and danger of different methods, Mr. Muir said.

"The school system isn't advocating anything," said Mr. Muir. "The first contraceptive technique presented and the only one presented as 100-percent accurate is abstinence."

Last week's vote was the second time that the board had considered the change; the measure was voted down by board members last year. Subsequently, however, several new members were elected to the board.

The curriculum change will add about one hour and 45 minutes of instruction to the existing 8th-grade unit on health.


Acts of vandalism in Philadelphia's schools cost the city's school system more than $3 million in repairs and custodial services during the 1980-81 school year, according to data compiled by the Council for Educational Priorities.

cep, a coalition of 17 citywide civic and educational groups, was able to determine individual building and districtwide repair expenses from a review of records on school maintenance and operations.

About 27 percent of the 8,421 work orders for the high schools were attributed to vandalism, which cost the district $764,900 to repair, according to Janice Williams, cep's assistant director.

The district spent $640,916 to correct the work of vandals in middle schools and $1.5 million for vandalism-related repairs in elementary schools, Ms. Williams said.

She said the information will be distributed to school-board members to help them make decisions about school closings.


A New Jersey school administrator has been suspended for secretly removing asbestos from two elementary schools.

George T. Hepbron, assistant superintendent of the East Windsor School District in Hightstown, last month personally removed three feet of asbestos wrapping from pipes at the Walter Black Elementary School and six inches of asbestos insulation from pipes at the Grace Norton Elementary School, he said.

Raymond Lewis, president of the board of education, suspended Mr. Hepbron indefinitely for acting without formal authorization. The board was scheduled to set a final suspension period last Thursday.

Mr. Hepbron said quick action was needed to allay the fears of parents. He said he removed the fibrous material after school on Friday so that no one would be around to interfere.

Many parents removed their children from school after reports that the asbestos was still in the schools despite a $44,000 cleanup project last year.

The Environmental Protection Agency has said schools must report asbestos contamination by June 28.

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