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A 17-year-old Massachusetts student charged with murder in an off-campus incident must be allowed to attend high school because school officials did not follow proper procedures in suspending him, a state appeals court judge has ruled.

The decision to allow Stephen DiRenzo to return to Rockland High School angered district and state officials.

"I find it disgraceful that the rights of one student may be allowed to supersede the rights of all other students," the state's secretary of education, Piedad F. Robertson, said in a written statement.

Mr. DiRenzo is one of six teenagers accused of beating to death a 22-year-old man outside a Rockland sandwich shop in February. He is free on $25,000 bail.

Rockland school officials have indicated they will appeal the judge's ruling.

Trouble for Truants

Fed up with student truancy, several districts around the country are cracking down on those playing hooky--and, in some cases, on their parents.

In Dade County, Fla., school officials this academic year are putting a priority on the youngest school-skippers.

Four elementary schools with higher-than-average absenteeism have been targeted for a pilot program run with the state attorney's office, said Henry Fraind, a school spokesman. Five unexcused absences will prompt a review of a child's school records and could mean a meeting between parents and officials. If that fails, the parent could face criminal charges.

Under a newly expanded program in Houston, parents of middle school students who skip school may hear police knock at their doors the evening after the children are truant.

School officials in Lawrence, Mass., for the first time this fall will report students' low attendance to the state department of public welfare and the local housing authority--possibly leading to diminished welfare benefits and evictions from public housing.

No Vacancy

Administrators for the West Contra Costa school district in California will appear in court this week to explain why they have deemed certain elementary schools too full to take any more children.

A group of families in the district east of Oakland is seeking an injunction in Contra Costa County Superior Court, arguing that the school has denied their children admittance and left them on their own in finding another school.

The district has recommended home schooling for children who can't reach another school while they are on a waiting list. The lawsuit seeks the immediate enrollment of all eligible children and extra schooling to make up for any lost time.

Student Killed

Police were investigating last week the fatal shooting of a Los Angeles student during an apparent gang-related argument.

Rolando Ruiz, 16, a student at Hollywood High School, was reportedly walking in front of the school Sept. 7 when three young men approached him, and a fight began. Mr. Ruiz was shot in the chest and collapsed to the ground as his assailants fled.

Principal Jeanne Hon rushed to Mr. Ruiz to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation, but when she reached him he was already dead.

The incident happened just hours before Superintendent of Schools Sid Thompson was to unveil a crime-prevention program that increases community-watch efforts and police patrols around Los Angeles schools.

No arrests had been made last week, police said.

Sikh Students Return

Under court order, a family of Sikh children re-entered their California school last week wearing the ceremonial knives that had forced them to miss last semester and the start of this year.

A federal judge ordered the children's return Sept. 9, following a legal stalemate between their lawyer and Livingston Union School District officials, who believed the knives--central to the Sikh religion--posed a safety hazard. (See Education Week, Sept. 14, 1994.)

The knives, called kirpans, must be dulled, sewn into sheaths, and worn under clothing, the court order said. They are also subject to inspection by school officials.

Hiring Concerns Addressed

Boston University, which manages the Chelsea, Mass., school system, has hired two Hispanic administrators for positions that members of Chelsea's Hispanic community had complained were left vacant for too long.

The newly hired high school principal and the new director of bilingual education can speak both Spanish and English.

About 60 percent of the 4,228 students in the district, which the university began managing in 1989, are Hispanic.

Longstanding tensions between the Hispanic community and the private university escalated last spring when a predominantly Hispanic parents' group called for the state commissioner of education to appoint a mediator to work with the two groups. (See Education Week, June 15, 1994.)

Chicago Board Shakeup

Mayor Richard M. Daley has replaced two Chicago school board members regarded as the leaders of the board's rival factions.

In a move described as likely to quell controversy on the board while expanding his influence over it, Mayor Daley omitted the two board members from the list of nominees that gained City Council approval last week.

Dropped were Florence Cox, a former board president who led the 15-member board's minority faction, and Stephen Ballis, who headed the board's majority bloc.

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