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A federal appeals court has upheld a Massachusetts state law giving local school boards the right to review private schools.

In a decision last month, a three-member panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the the First Circuit overturned a lower-court ruling that the East Longmeadow (Mass.) School Committee had gone too far in requiring the New Life Baptist Academy to provide the contents of its courses and the academic qualifications of its teachers for review. The lower court had ruled that the school's offer to provide student test results was acceptable.

But the appeals panel said the school committee could not be assured that students would receive an adequate secular education "through a monitoring system that is voluntary."

Robert Blumenthal, a lawyer for the state department of education, which joined the school committee in its appeal, said that local school boards are required to review private schools in their jurisdictions, but that they have "discretion to develop their own guidelines."

The Baptist school "objected to getting any approval from a secular authority," he said. Lawyers for the school are considering an appeal to the full circuit court.

About one-fourth of the school buses in the Phoenix area that were inspected by state officials had major defects, such as bad tires, leaking air brakes, and faulty brake lights and turn signals, published reports indicate. According to a story in the Phoenix Gazette last month, about one-third of the buses inspected in some of the districts surveyed by the paper had major or minor defects. Most districts surveyed had fleets in which one in four or five inspected buses had problems serious enough that state law would require they be repaired before being allowed back on the road.

Ron Griffith, who directs the state department of public safety's school-bus inspection program, said that the department does not compile such statistics, but that he believed the published accounts were correct.

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