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Public school officials may not bar students from distributing religious literature merely because the materials might appear to be school-sponsored, a federal appeals court has ruled.

But the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld some rules set by the Wauconda, Ill., school district for student distribution of printed materials. The court upheld rules that limit the distribution of materials to a designated time and place in schools and that largely prohibit materials by "nonstudents.''

Two versions of the rules were challenged in 1990 and 1991 by two students who sought to distribute Issues and Answers, a religious newspaper prepared by adults, to their classmates at Wauconda Junior High School.

A federal district judge in Chicago ruled that both sets of rules violated students' First Amendment rights by treating religious literature less favorably than other speech.

In Hedges v. Wauconda Community Unit School District #118, the Seventh Circuit Court panel said a rule banning distribution of religious materials was unconstitutional.

Wisconsin Shooting: A former student at Wauwatosa West High School in suburban Milwaukee was being questioned last week in the shooting death of the school's associate principal, police said.

Dale Breitlow, 46, was shot three times in a school hallway, apparently as he asked the former student, Leonard D. McDowell, 21, to leave, police said. The school does not use metal detectors.

Mr. McDowell has a history of mental instability and trespassing at the school, police said.

Search-Policy Review: Syracuse, N.Y., school officials are re-evaluating student-search procedures following an incident in which an entire 5th-grade class was searched for $420 missing from two teachers' wallets.

Parents and a chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union complained to school officials after the search of 30 students at Franklin Elementary School last month. The 5th-grade classroom was the nearest to the room where the teachers had left their wallets unattended for about 10 minutes. But school officials had no other evidence to suggest a student from that class had taken the money, said Merrilee Witherell, the executive director of the civil-liberties group.

Truancy Evictions: The Chicago Housing Authority has approved a resolution to permit fines and possible evictions of public-housing residents whose children skip school.

The action is part of a broader effort to highlight the importance of education and foster "safe and productive'' environments in public housing, an agency spokesman said.

Under the resolution, expected to take effect in the spring, parents will be fined $15 the first time a child is truant, $25 the second time, and $50 the third time. After the third offense, the parent could be prosecuted and the leaseholder could be subject to eviction.

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