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Voluntary, private religious courses can be held in public schools in the evening or on weekends but not just before or after the school day, a federal district judge in Toledo, Ohio, ruled this month.

Acting in a lawsuit involving the Findlay public schools, U.S. District Judge John Potter held that children can be misled into thinking the state supports a particular religion when religious instruction is offered in their school at a time when school personnel are still working. But he added that such programs were permissible at times when teachers and students would not otherwise be present at school.

The lawsuit, Ford v. Findlay Board of Education, centered on the district's practice of renting classroom space to an interdenominational group known as Weekday Religious Education Council, according to Russell Rakestraw, a lawyer for the school board. The group used the rooms to conduct the courses for 3rd and 4th graders in 8 of the district's 10 elementary schools.

According to Mr. Rakestraw, the parents who filed the suit challenged the constitutionality of a state law that permitted the rental of space to such groups. The parents, he said, contended that the First Amendment prohibited the use of public-school classrooms for religious instruction at all times.

Mr. Rakestraw said the Findlay school board voted not to appeal the ruling last week.

A 16-year-old East Indian girl who graduated with the highest grade-point average in her Connecticut high-school class has charged school officials with ethnic discrimination because she was not chosen as class valedictorian.

Shruti Rajan and her parents filed a complaint this month with the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities against4teachers and administrators at Old Saybrook Senior High School involved in the decision.

According to William Dineen, the school's assistant principal, Ms. Rajan was not selected because she completed her studies in three years, not four, and was not technically a member of the class of 1985.

Ms. Rajan's older sister, who also completed her studies in three years, graduated from the Old Saybrook, Conn., high school as class valedictorian in 1983. The difference, Mr. Dineen said, was that the sister entered school as a member of the class of 1983. Ms. Rajan entered as a member of the class of 1986 and later decided to graduate early.

"I know there was not any intent on the part of the school system to discriminate on the point of ethnic origin," Mr. Dineen said. "The basic issue is what class was she in."

The husband of a St. Mary's County, Md., public-school teacher who was fatally stabbed at school by a custodial trainee has filed a $9-million lawsuit against the county superintendent, the board of education, and representatives of the area's Private Industry Council.

The suit, filed Aug. 5 in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, charges the defendants with civil-rights violations resulting from their "grossly negligent" hiring, placement, and "lack of proper supervision" of Lester Broome, whom the school board hired as a custodial trainee at Chopticon High School on the basis of a recommendation by the area Private Industry Council.

The council, made up of local business representatives, oversees the distribution of local aid under the terms of the federal Job Training Partnership Act, the government's principal employment-training program.

Mr. Broome is currently awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to the Aug. 3, 1984, felony murder of Beverly Jo Heater, a business teacher, in her classroom at the high school.

The complaint describes Mr. Broome as a person with "a known history of criminal battery, sexual violence, dangerous misconduct and theft."

"Defendants owed a duty to mem-bers of the Chopticon High School community who would come into contact with Lester Broome to provide a reasonably safe school environment and workplace," the complaint charges."

An "inappropriate" chemistry experiment involving 8-to-12-year-olds enrolled in a special summer program for gifted and talented students has caused school officials in Washington, D.C., to review the guidelines used to assess outside programs run at city schools.

The experiment, in which the participants mixed charcoal, sulfur, and potassium perchlorate to make sparklers, resulted in an explosion that injured four children. Two were rushed by helicopter to a local hospital in critical condition with second- and third-degree burns.

The Aug. 12 accident occurred in a summer program run by outside instructors at the Murch Elementary School. Parents paid tuition directly to the teachers; the district supplied only the building.

According to Janis Cromer, a school-district spokesman, one student, apparently disregarding instructions, jabbed a metal wire into the bowl of materials, causing the blast.

Murch officials had reviewed the curriculum for the program, Ms. Cromer said, but the chemistry section replaced an astronomy course "at the last minute," and was not approved. Ms. Cromer described the experiment as "inappropriate" under district guidelines for elementary science experiments.

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