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N.J. May Bar Channel One; R.I. Lifts Ban

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Rhode Island has effectively ended its three-year-old ban on Whittle Communication's Channel One, but the controversial high-school news show faces possible banishment from public schools in New Jersey.

Rhode Island's legislature passed a bill last month allowing "the display of electronic news or educational programming supported by commercial advertising'' in the public schools of Pawtucket. State officials predicted that the law will effectively be applied to all public schools in the state.

When Channel One was first proposed three years ago, the state's education commissioner interpreted state law as barring advertising in public-school classrooms. The decision made Rhode Island one of only two states to formally ban Channel One. The other is New York, whose ban continues.

California's superintendent of public instruction, Bill Honig, has threatened to withhold state funding from schools that sign up for Channel One. Nevertheless, some 80 public schools have defied Mr. Honig and contracted for the program, according to Whittle.

A state judge has scheduled a trial for September on the state's lawsuit seeking to enforce the ban against a San Jose high school.

In Rhode Island, Pawtucket school officials pushed for the law allowing the show because they believed the news program would be beneficial to students.

In New Jersey, meanwhile, an aide said Commissioner of Education John Ellis will decide by Aug. 7 whether to accept the conclusion of an administrative law judge that the use of Channel One violates the state's compulsory-attendance law.

The New Jersey Education Association joined with a Trenton parent in challenging the Trenton district's use of the news program. The administrative law judge recommended on June 22 that the district's contract with Whittle be canceled because it makes students a "captive audience'' and the time devoted to advertising during the shows violates the state's constitutional obligation to provide "a thorough and efficient education.''

Mr. Ellis may adopt, alter, or reject that ruling. If he adopts it, Whittle's contracts with some 250 public schools in New Jersey would likely be threatened.

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