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Four students from the Faith Baptist Academy in Mattawan, Mich., were killed this month and seven others were hospitalized when the school bus they were riding home was rammed from behind by a tractor-trailer truck loaded with steel.

The school, which enrolls 103 students, was closed for several days after the accident as members of area churches rushed to provide support and counseling in the aftermath of the tragedy, according to a spokesman for the school.

The four children who were killed were ages 6 to 9, she said, and those hospitalized ranged from 4 to 16 years old. Although several of the children were initially listed in critical or serious condition, their status had been upgraded to at least good by the end of last week.

Eleven other students and the drivers of both vehicles were treated for minor injuries and released.

The bus disintegrated in the accident, the spokesman said, adding, "It looked like a bomb just blew it away."

The driver of the truck was charged with four counts of negligent homicide, according to state police. They said it appeared that he had fallen asleep behind the wheel and lost control on the snow-slick interstate highway.

Civil-rights advocates have criticized plans to keep Baltimore County, Md., schools open on Jan. 20, the new federal holiday commemorating the birth of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The county board of education voted 8 to 1 to hold classes that day, while encouraging schools to sponsor "appropriate celebratory activities" in honor of the slain civil-rights leader.

James R. Pennington, president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, called the deci-sion "insulting, a slap in the face of many blacks." Black youngsters "should have a hero just like white students," he said. He accused county school officials of bowing to racial prejudice in the largely white, suburban district.

Keeping the schools open is consistent with "longstanding policy," said Joann Murphy, a spokesman for the board. "We feel that children learn more about particular American heroes when they attend school that day." Schools also remain open on holidays honoring Christopher Columbus and Presidents Washington and Lincoln, she added.

The parents of a dyslexic student who graduated from high school with honors and was editor of the school newspaper are suing the New Hampshire Department of Education, claiming their daughter graduated before learning to read at a high-school level.

The student, Karen Morse, now 19, completed a regular high-school curriculum as a senior in 1983-84. However, instead of giving her a diploma, the school district appropriated $17,000 to send her to the private Landmark School in Massachusetts to help her overcome dyslexia, a condition impairing reading ability that had first been diagnosed when she was in the 11th grade, according to Michael Gfroerer, the lawyer for her parents.

Last June, the school district sent Ms. Morse a diploma in the mail. The education department then rejected a request by Ms. Morse's parents for a review of her individualized education plan and tuition to pay for a second year at the Landmark school.

The Morses filed suit in U.S. District Court this month, claiming that although their daughter made progress at the special school, her reading ability is still far below high-school level, Mr. Gfroerer said.

Under P.L. 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, Mr. Gfroerer said, graduation constitutes a change in placement, and a student must have a due-process hearing before a change in placement is allowed. No hearing was held before Ms. Morse was sent her diploma, he said.

The lawyer for the school district could not be reached for comment.

To contain the rising cost of its liability-insurance premiums, the Washington County (Md.) Board of Education voted last month to sell 64 school trampolines that have been used without accidents for at least 30 years.

Wayne Stouffer, the district's director of planning and fiscal management, said that if the district kept the trampolines, next year's insurance premiums--already scheduled to increase to $99,500--would rise to $117,000, while coverage would drop from $5.5 million to $300,000.

Mr. Stouffer said that although the schools have had no trampoline injuries, insurance companies are increasingly concerned about the risk of accidents from such equipment.

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