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Counselors To Help L.A. Students Deal With Issues Raised by Trials

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The Los Angeles school board has approved an effort to bring community and civil-rights groups and others into schools to help students deal with the issues raised by two court cases related to last year's riots.

Opening statements were expected last week in the federal civil-rights trial of four white police officers accused of beating the black motorist Rodney King after a high-speed automobile chase March 3, 1991.

The virtual exoneration of the officers in a criminal trial last year sparked the days of rioting and looting that devastated parts of the city.

Meanwhile, the trial of several members of minority groups who allegedly beat a white truck driver, Reginald Denny, during the riots is in its early stages.

A board member, Warren T. Furutani, proposed the initiative because of "enormous concerns'' about how the public might react to verdicts in the two cases. He also cited the role that young people, who were among those involved in the mayhem following the verdict in the King case last spring, could play in "healing Los Angeles.''

The board agreed last month to have the groups help prepare students before the verdicts "with discussion, debate, and information to better understand and deal with all the related issues and responses.''

The groups are to work in partnership with teachers and school administrators "to increase understanding, diffuse tensions, and promote harmony,'' the board resolution said.

The cost and funding of the coordinated venture in the financially strapped district remains unclear.

Representatives of two of the groups invited to participate in the effort--the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Anti-Defamation League, a division of B'nai B'rith--said last week that they had not yet heard from the district.

The task of reaching the district's more than 640,000 students is a monumental one, they noted.

Options for carrying out the program include training school staff members, involving parents, and setting up peer conflict-resolution programs, said Genethia Hayes, the assistant executive director of the S.C.L.C.

Other organizations that supported the resolution were the Asian Pacific Legal Center and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.--M.L.

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