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The Massachusetts education department has given the Boston school district one year to improve vocational-education programs or lose state approval.

Withdrawal of state backing would strip the district of authority to operate such courses.

A report by a 67-member evaluation team said that 21 of the 31 vocational programs offered in the district did not fully meet state regulations on safety and educational quality.

Boston school officials have given vocational education a "second-class status" that has contributed to declining enrollments, low staff morale, and uneven instructional standards, the report maintained.

"This is not only to relay our displeasure but also to give them notice," said David Cronin, associate commissioner for the state's occupational-education division. "Unless the programs are improved, they will no longer be approved by the state."

Without state approval, a local district is legally prohibited from running vocational-education classes and cannot receive state reimbursements for them.

If the district is barred from running such programs, the 600 students currently in vocational-training classes in Boston schools would have to transfer to other communities.

Pennsylvania school officials must develop a plan for providing handicapped students in two eastern counties with classroom facilities that are "comparable in quality" to those of their nonhandicapped peers, a federal district court has ruled.

The case involved special-education programs in 14 school districts in Carbon and Lehigh counties.

There were "significant disparities" between the districts' regular classrooms and those for handicapped students in "size, sanitation, noise levels, furniture, and ventilation," Judge Daniel H. Huyett 3rd found. Special-education classes frequently were shuffled among districts, forcing students to travel long distances, he noted.

"Educational programs for handicapped children compete for space and money with programs for nonhandicapped students," the judge wrote, adding that students with disabilities "have for too long been the losers in this competition."

State education officials were not expected to contest the ruling.

Educators who administer corporal punishment resulting in severe bruising can be classified as child abusers, a Florida appellate court has ruled.

The First District Court of Appeal turned down a plea by two educators who had sought to have their names expunged from the state's child-abuse registry after paddling children for disciplinary infractions.

The paddlings--administered in two separate incidents by a dean and a principal--resulted in "extensive" bruising that lasted about a week, according to court records.

Although the punishments were inflicted in accordance with state law and with parental consent, the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services was justified in classifying them as abuse because of the extent and duration of the bruises, Judge J. Klein Wigginton wrote for the majority.

In a dissent, Judge Ford L. Thompson argued that the punishment did not constitute "excess force." The department should seek legislation to prohibit corporal punishment, he maintained, instead of adopting an "unwritten arbitrary and capricious policy" to limit its use.

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