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Gov. John Engler of Michigan has signed one of the first state laws in recent years to relax, rather than tighten, legal curbs on how much force teachers can use on students.

While the measure, approved last month, bars corporal punishment, it allows teachers to "use reasonable physical force upon a pupil as necessary to maintain order and control.''

The bill had been delayed in the legislature as a result of disagreements over the phrase "maintain order and control.'' Once that language was clarified, however, the measure passed easily.

The compromise measure stipulates that teachers may need to use force for self-defense or defense of another; to prevent a student from inflicting self-injury; to quell a disturbance that threatens physical injury; to obtain possession of a dangerous object; to protect property; and to restrain or remove a disruptive student.

Teachers' unions had supported the measure, complaining that the state's existing corporal-punishment ban prevented them from controlling rowdy students.

The Alaska legislature last week overrode Gov. Walter J. Hickel's veto of a bill giving public-school teachers a permanent right to strike.

The measure was enacted into law over the Governor's objections with the required two-thirds majority of a joint session of the legislature.

The bill made permanent a two-year-old law, slated to expire in June, that permitted teachers to strike.

In vetoing the bill last month, Governor Hickel said he supported teachers' strike rights. But he said he objected to the bill because it would deny school boards the right to lay off tenured teachers during tough economic times.

"There is a basic flaw in the system when tenured teachers can't be laid off even if a school district doesn't have the money to meet payrolls,'' the Governor said.

Idaho students will no longer have to attend a minimum of 90 percent of their classes in order to graduate, under a bill passed by the legislature last week repealing the state board of education's eight-year-old attendance requirement.

Backers of the bill said the rule had not caused any improvement in student attendance or performance.

Wisconsin officials have dropped the contract of a firm that issued a report critical of the state's Learnfare program.

The study of the program, which links welfare benefits to school attendance, was being conducted by the Employment and Training Institute at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.
The report said that absences and dropout rates have remained high under Learnfare. It drew criticism from state officials, who cast doubt on its methodology and objectivity. (See Education Week, Feb. 19, 1992.)

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