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A 19-year-old who claims that as a student in an Atchison (Kan.) County special-education cooperative he was isolated in a 3-foot by 5-foot room for as many as 30 days in a row has filed suit in federal court.

The lawsuit, filed by William Hollis, who was a student in a "personal-social adjustment" class at the cooperative during the 1980-81 school year, charges that he was subjected to unconstitutionally "cruel and unusual" punishment. It asks for a minimum of $10,000 in damages from the cooperative, Effingham Unified School District 377, and several individuals.

According to Tantaleon Flores, Mr. Hollis's lawyer, several other students who attended the cooperative that same year were also isolated in the small room, which contained a desk but had no window, ventilation, or heat source.

Three years ago, Mr. Flores filed suit on behalf of a brother and sister who had both been shut in the "closetlike" room. That case is about to enter the pretrial stage, Mr. Flores said.

Robert L. Blunt, superintendent of the Unified School District 377,said he could not comment on either of the cases but added that the insurance companies for the cooperative and the school district were considering an out-of-court settlement in the case filed by the brother and sister. Mr. Hollis may have filed his suit after hearing of the possible settlement, Mr. Blunt said.

The board of education of the Montgomery (Md.) County public schools voted unanimously this month to equip 53 new school buses ordered for the 1985-86 school year with seat belts.

The buses will be fitted with "lap belts," at a cost to the district of $71,400, said William C. Westcoat, supervisor of automotive maintenance for the school system.

Although "evidence is inconclusive that the belts will enhance the safety of the school-bus rider," Mr. Westcoat said, the district decided to install them on a trial basis after "intense lobbying" by the local parent-teachers association.

The school system's transportation office also contacted 14 other districts using seat belts in their buses and found, according to Mr. Westcoat, that "they had nothing negative to say" about the safety devices.

The district will decide whether to continue fitting new buses with the seat belts and begin adding them to older buses after a year's trial beginning next fall, Mr. Westcoat said.

He added that school officials and bus drivers would encourage students to wear the belts but noted that primary responsibility for their use would rest with parents.


More than 300 parents in Canton, Mass., took advantage this month of a school district's offer to make two-minute videotapes of their children--so-called "videoprints"--for use as identification tools in the event of a child's disappearance.

"This is a kind of spinoff from the fingerprinting we conducted three years ago," said James C. Lynch, assistant superintendent of the 2,600-student district. He said that, to his knowledge, it is the only district-backed effort of its kind.

The district sent letters announcing the program to parents of some 1,700 children in grades K-8, Mr. Lynch said. Those who chose to participate were required either to bring a video cassette or to purchase one for $5 at the school. Proceeds from the sale of the cassettes were donated to a Rhode Island-based child-advocacy group.

Students were taped at three evening sessions at the school, according to John Ball, a volunteer at Canton's cable-access television station who did the taping. He said he has worked with Jill Toronto, a local college student, to promote the videoprint concept.

"It is very difficult to recognize a child from a flat photograph," said Mr. Ball. "With a videoprint, you look for about 15 different things--the demeanor, the tone and inflection in their voice, the way they carry themselves--all the things that make each child different but don't show up on photographs."

"I'd like to see this done nationwide," said Mr. Ball, who has a 4-year-old son.

Parents participating in the videoprint program keep the video tapes themselves and can return annually to update them, said Mr. Lynch.

The Wake County, N.C., board of education last week followed a growing trend in the nation's largest tobacco-producing state by voting to ban cigarette smoking and tobacco use in all district schools.

Despite the economic importance of tobacco to the county--it is the fifth-largest tobacco-producing county in North Carolina--board members said they approved the ban because of tobacco's adverse effects on health.

"Sure there is an irony in it," said John H. Gilbert, a school-board member. "But I'd doubt that you'd find any tobacco farmer that would encourage his 16-year-old son to smoke, and I say that as one who has long enjoyed the pleasure of the pipe."

Under Wake County's new policy, "no students in grades K-12 shall smoke or use any tobacco product in any school building or school bus or vehicle at any time or on the school premises during the school day.''

Currently, students in grades 10-12 may smoke at designated smoking areas within schools during times authorized by the principal. The new policy eliminates such smoking areas and requires some form of punishment for students who violate the ban.

School officials have not yet determined what the penalty for smoking will be, but Wendel M. Murray Jr., associate superintendent for administrative services for the district, said students now found smoking outside designated areas are often suspended.

Hartselle, Ala., school-board members have agreed to pay to retrain a special-education teacher as a French teacher, after a two-month search failed to locate a certified foreign-language instructor.

James P. Cain, principal of Hartselle High School, said the school searched for a certified French teacher last year and this year without success, "so we asked our faculty if anybody was interested in teaching French."

Judy Thomas, a special-education teacher at the school, stepped forward. She will begin taking French classes this summer and is expected to begin teaching French in the fall.

To be certified as a French teacher, Ms. Thomas will have to take 33 semester-hours of courses in the subject and pass a subject-area test.

School-board members want a verbal agreement that Ms. Thomas will teach French at the high school for three years in exchange for the foreign-language training. The school system must also seek a waiver to avoid a $500 state penalty for assigning her to teach temporarily out of field.

The state's shortage of foreign-language teachers will become more acute, Mr. Cain said, because of a new state honors diploma that requires students to take courses in a foreign language.

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