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The New York City school system has been ordered to pay $18.8 million to a Queens youth who broke his neck leaping over a volleyball net in his high school's gymnasium.

A state court jury found the school system liable for the injuries suffered by Jose Barretto, a former Richmond Hill High School student and volleyball-team member, because his team's supervising coach stepped out of the gym before the 1988 accident.

Had the coach been there, the boys in the class would not have started leaping over the net, and Mr. Barretto, now 25, would not have suffered the injury that left him paralyzed from the chest down, his lawyer argued.

Strength in Numbers

School districts near Midland, Mich., have discovered that the state's new school-funding program may make consolidation profitable.

Administrators said this month that while the idea needs further study, a preliminary report found that combining districts in Meridian, Bullock Creek, and Coleman with the larger Midland district could raise funding levels for each district.

The new district would qualify for about $7,700 per student--a sizable increase for Midland, which now spends about $6,900 per child, and a huge boost for the other districts, whose spending hovers around $4,800.

District-Run Clinics

The Syracuse public schools are set to open New York State's first district-run school health centers.

The primary-care centers are to open this month in two elementary schools and serve a total of about 1,350 children, said Karen Hughes, the director of the program.

The clinics will be open every day, year round, and will serve the uninsured as well as those with private health insurance or Medicaid coverage.

There are 140 other school-based clinics in Buffalo, New York City, and Rochester, but they are operated by outside health-care providers.

Chicago Students 'Strike'

Chicago school officials have agreed to teach about 90 pupils at a new site in an effort to get them back into classrooms and end a hunger strike by some of their parents.

The city school board has backed a decision last month by a local school council to allow the students involved in the boycott to attend classes in a building other than the one they were assigned to.

The children originally had attended the west campus of the Daley School, but officials closed it this year after finding unsafe levels of lead and asbestos. When district officials tried to bus the students to a vacant school about 26 blocks away, their parents pulled them out of school and began protesting. They argued that the bus ride and the new school's neighborhood were dangerous.

The local school council at the Daley school last month voted to send the children to makeshift sites at the school's east campus.

Documentary Dispute

A Roman Catholic high school in Illinois and its basketball coach have filed a lawsuit against the producers and distributors of a documentary film scheduled for release this fall.

The lawsuit, filed in Cook County circuit court late last month, claims New Line Cinema and Kartemquin Educational Films placed St. Joseph High School "in a false and untrue light."

The Westchester school had granted the filmmakers access to the school over several years to produce an educational, nonprofit film about basketball, "Hoop Dreams." Later, the lawsuit claims, Kartemquin and New Line Cinema agreed to release the film for commercial use, without the consent or knowledge of the school or the coach.

Charles Lynch, the president of St. Joseph, said the movie inaccurately depicts Coach Gene Pingatore as being rough with his charges, and does not show the players' academic success.

The filmmakers admitted no wrongdoing and said the film would not be altered.

Ill. Mulls Takeover

City and school officials in East St. Louis, Ill., say they will do everything in their power to ward off a takeover by the Illinois education department.

Joseph Spagnola, the state's superintendent of education, has notified the district that it must come up with a new management plan or apply for state assistance. If it needed such assistance, the district would be managed by a three-person team appointed by the state school board.

The poor district, which serves about 13,000 students, is saddled with $10 million in debt. Local officials presented a tentative plan to state officials last week. The state board is expected to act on the takeover at its meeting this week, officials said.

Flap Over Superintendent

A group of black residents unhappy with the Fort Wayne, Ind., school districts' choice of a new superintendent filed a lawsuit recently asking that the selection process be repeated.

The complaint was filed days before the school board chose Thomas Fowler-Finn of Haverhill, Mass., to the $110,000-a-year job. A federal magistrate denied the request for a restraining order.

The plaintiffs, including a city councilman and the local president of the N.A.A.C.P., charge that the district has repeatedly excluded black candidates in recent superintendents' searches and that the board met privately to remove a black candidate from the most recent search.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Wayne. Officials said Mr. Fowler-Finn will begin work in the 32,000-student district in January.

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