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As many as 750,000 children nationwide may be receiving medication for hyperactivity or inattentiveness, a new study suggests.

The study, which was based on data collected in Baltimore County, Md., since 1971, estimated that nearly 6 percent of all elementary students nationwide may be undergoing treatment with Ritalin and other stimulant drugs. It also found that increasing percentages of girls, secondary-school students, students from lower-income families, and stu6dents who were inattentive but not behaving inappropriately were being given the controversial drugs.

"Medication treatment for hyperactive children in the United States has emerged from its minor treatment role in the 1960's to become a dominant child mental-health intervention in the late 1980's," the study's authors wrote.

The study was published in the Oct. 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The likelihood that a junior- or senior-high-school student will be suspended can be predicted with some accuracy on the basis of behavior in the early grades, according to a report prepared by the Montgomery County, Md., school system.

The study found that students who are often absent from elementary school, or who frequently get into fights or are insubordinate during those years, are much more likely than other students to get into trouble leading to suspension in later grades.

The report also identified other typical characteristics of frequently suspended students. They are more likely to have lived with a single parent and to have moved often. They also are more likely to have received special-education services, but less likely than other students to have participated in extracurricular activities.

"The Early Education Experiences and Behavior of Students Suspended in Junior and Senior High School" compared the disciplinary records of 219 students who had been suspended more than once to those of 170 students who had never been suspended.

Most schools do "little or nothing" to help their 18-year-old students register to vote, a survey of the 44 largest public school systems has found.

In 1984, 43 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds voted, compared to about 65 percent of their elders, according to a report by People for the American Way, a civil-liberties group based in Washington.

Although all of the school systems surveyed reported some voter-registration activity for students, the report said, most of the efforts are "extremely limited."

The report cited as a model a Dade County, Fla., program in which social-studies teachers are authorized to register students. This year, 98 percent of the system's eligible students are registered to vote.

Copies of the report, The Vanishing Voter and the Crisis in American Democracy, are available for $7.95 from: paw, Publications Department, 2000 M St., Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20036.

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