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New York City's elementary-school libraries are in a "dismal state" because of inadequate funding and restrictive personnel regulations, a local public-policy advocacy group called Interface has charged in a new report.

The report notes that the district spends $4.69 per pupil--less than half the state average--for elementary libraries, and that collections of books and audio-visual materials are "abysmally outdated and disorganized."

In addition, it argues, local licensing procedures and a lack of qualified library-science graduates have hampered the district's ability to hire librarians. As a result, it found, 17 percent of the city's 627 elementary-school libraries are closed, and only 15 percent are operated by certified librarians.

The group urged the district to expand to all schools a program, known as "Library Power," aimed at upgrading 100 elementary-school libraries. That $7.5-million program is sponsored by the Board of Education and the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund.

A high-school senior in Polo, Mo., whose parents charged that she has been discriminated against because of her religious beliefs has been reinstated to the cheerleading team and will be shielded from religious harassment, as a result of a pretrial agreement in a suit filed in federal court.

The parents of Jamie L. Carroll filed suit in U.S. District Court in Kansas City against the Polo Board of Education, charging that school officials have refused to excuse their daughter from classes and activi


ties so that she can attend religious observances, including the seven annual Sabbaths recognized by her faith. The family belongs to the Remnant Church of God.

Jamie has served as captain of the cheerleaders, but the squad's sponsor earlier this year announced that the only excused absences from cheerleading would be for illness or medical appointments.

The lawsuit claims officials knew Jamie would be the only member of the cheerleading squad affected by the new rule.

The agreement was worked out by the two parties and Judge Joseph E. Stevens Jr.

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit against the Kenton County, Ky., school district over a weekly religious-instruction class provided to public-school students.

The suit was filed Oct. 26 in U.S. District Court in Covington, Ky., on behalf of Benjamin Klein, a 4th-grader at Park Hills Elementary School. The suit charges that children such as Benjamin who choose not to attend the religious classes are not offered any alternative instruction.

The classes are taught at a nearby church as part of an effort in Covington to provide all public elementary-school students with a nearby religious-instruction class.

Benjamin's parents have unsuccessfully requested that the school board stop the religion classes. The suit seeks an injunction to stop the classes, plus damages of $140,000.

The state of Arkansas has requested that a suit filed by black parents seeking to consolidate their school district with two predominantly white ones be dismissed.

Parents of students in Camden filed suit in federal court last December, contending that state policies and local zoning regulations have contributed to segregation in the Camden schools, where about 70 percent of the students are black.

The plaintiffs seek consolidation with the neighboring Fairview and Harmony Grove districts, where about three-quarters of the students are white.

Among the defendants named in the suit are Gov. Bill Clinton, the state board of education, and the state education department.

On Oct. 31, the state filed a general denial of the suit's allegations, said Sharon C. Streett, a staff lawyer for the department of education.

If the case is not dismissed, Ms. Streett said, she does not expect it to reach trial until next summer. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Feb. 1.

The Association of Brownsville Educators has sued the school district over a reduction in health-insurance benefits that the union claims is a violation of teachers' contracts.

The district, which is $6.1 million in debt, voted in September to reduce the health plan's benefits to cover 60 percent of the first $10,000 in medical expenses. Previously, the district had covered 80 percent of the first $5,000 in expenses.

Employee deductibles also were raised from $200 to $500 under the new policy, which took effect Nov. 1. The lawsuit, filed in state district court Oct. 26, was joined by the Texas State Teachers Association and National Education Association.

Ronnie Zamora, a spokesman for the district, said the school board decided to hold the line on its health-care costs by cutting the coverage to avoid incurring another $2.1 million in debt.

But Brad Ritter, director of communications for the Texas State Teachers Association, said, "We're saying they need to find a way to pay for the things they've contracted for."

Los Angeles County officials need not consider the impact of new development on local school enrollments when weighing the benefits and drawbacks of such building, the county's lawyer has told the board of supervisors.

The opinion contradicts what County Counsel De Witt W. Clinton advised last June, when he told the board it could reject zoning changes for developments that may cause overcrowding in neighboring schools.

The change in opinion, which dismayed some educators, came as a result of Mr. Clinton's reassessment of a November 1988 state appeals court ruling.

That case, Mira Development Corp. v. the City of San Diego, gave the city council the power to deny zoning changes because of their projected effect on public services, Mr. Clinton said. But it did not specifically give councils the right to reject them based solely on their effect on school districts.

Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley has launched a new anti-gang program in which 500 adult volunteers will work with children living in public housing projects.

The program will be operated by the city under a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The goal is to link adult volunteers with children living in five housing projects that were selected as having the worst drug and crime problems, according to Gloria Clark, of the city's Youth At Risk unit, which will direct the program.

The Youth At Risk unit coordinates anti-gang efforts throughout the Los Angeles area.

The volunteers will be trained to serve as "mentors" to youths ages 8 to 14, and will offer counseling, friendship, financial support, or tutoring, depending on the volunteers' needs and skills.

As part of the plan, the city will also contract with community organizations to provide after-school education, child-care services, and sports activities.

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