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School districts must provide special-education services to disabled children whose parents have unilaterally placed them in private schools, a federal court has ruled in a case involving the Montgomery County, Ala., public schools.

In his Aug. 24 ruling, U.S. District Judge Truman Hobbs ordered Montgomery County school officials to provide speech, occupational, and physical therapy to 4-year-old Jacob Tribble. The boy, who has Down's syndrome, had been in a private-school program since infancy, and his parents elected to keep him in the program because it was offered five days a week. The school district's program was offered only three days a week.

School officials had argued that, under federal special-education policy guidelines, they were not required to provide the necessary related services for the boy because his parents had placed him in the program on their own. Judge Hobbs noted that several due-process hearings called to resolve such special-education disputes have rejected the federal policy on the matter.

A lawyer for the district said school officials would ask a federal appellate court to review the decision.


The first girl to try out for varsity football for the Carroll County, Md., schools has filed a lawsuit against the district, alleging that no one had warned her of the dangers of the sport, from which she sustained serious injuries.

In the suit filed last month in circuit court, Tawana Hammond charged that the district failed in its duty to warn students of the potential for serious or disabling injuries as a result of playing football.

The complaint also seeks medical expenses that Ms. Hammond and her family incurred when she was injured during a practice scrimmage in 1989.

Moreover, the suit contends that Ms. Hammond's coach had erroneously informed her that she was covered by a health-insurance policy even though her family had not yet paid the premium.

William H. Hyde, the assistant superintendent, said the district had no comment on the suit.


A Florida grand jury has indicted the entire five-member Hernando County school board for allegedly violating the state's open-meetings law.

The grand jury did not suspend the board, however, because it did not consider the charges indications of "extraordinary malfeasance.''

The board members were charged on criminal and noncriminal misdemeanor counts. Most of the charges stem from alleged private and unannounced board meetings and telephone conversations last spring concerning the naming of the district's first appointed superintendent, Harold Winkler.

Susan Cooper, a board member who announced the indictments, said she went public with the charges to highlight alleged political maneuvering to preserve the pension benefits for the outgoing superintendent.

Ms. Cooper, who faces five criminal charges, claimed that her vote had been illegally influenced by a fellow board member, Diane Rowden.

Ms. Rowden, the board member who faces the most criminal charges--13 second-degree misdemeanor charges--downplayed her role in the controversy.

If convicted, three of the board members could be fined up to $500 and jailed for up to 60 days on each count. Two others face only fines. Arraignments for the board members begin this month.


A high school boy in Bethlehem, Pa., has the constitutional right to try out for a girls' field-hockey team, a U.S. District Court judge has ruled.

To counter years of gender inequities in athletics, Pennsylvania has permitted girls to vie for spots on boys' noncontact sports teams. But boys cannot necessarily try out for girls' teams.

John Williams, a student at the district's Liberty High School, wanted to play field hockey but the sport was not one of 10 offered to boys. The girls, who are also offered 10 sports, had a field-hockey team. When Mr. Williams was blocked from trying out for the girls' team, he sued, arguing that he was the victim of reverse discrimination.

Noting that girls had 22 teams (including the boys' teams and two that are coed) for which they can compete, compared with only 12 for boys, the U.S. District Judge E. Mac Troutman determined that girls have more athletic opportunities than do boys.

The district has appealed the decision.

It contends that girls' participation in sports could be restricted if they must compete with boys, who generally have a physiological edge.

"You are essentially knocking the female athletes back to the second-class-citizen level,'' said Stuart L. Knade, a lawyer for the district.

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