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Houston Trustees Cleared In Superintendent's Hiring

Houston school trustees did not violate open-meetings laws when they appointed Rod Paige, a former trustee, as the superintendent of the 200,000-student district, a federal judge has ruled.

A lawsuit filed last March by a group of Hispanic citizens and associations challenged the selection process.

Mr. Paige resigned as a trustee after fellow board members approached him about the then-vacant superintendent's job. He was appointed superintendent last February.

Mr. Paige said he was relieved by the ruling last month by U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes, which found that the board never acted as a quorum outside of scheduled meetings.

The plaintiffs said after the ruling was announced that they were considering an appeal.

School Prayers Challenged: A rural Mississippi school district will defend in court its practice of allowing students to read prayers over the intercom each day.

Lisa Herdahl sued the Pontotoc County district last month on behalf of her five children, who attend the North Pontotoc Attendance Center in Ecru, Miss.

The Mississippi chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Washington-based advocacy group People for the American Way are backing the federal lawsuit.

The prayers violate the First Amendment prohibition against any government establishment of religion, the lawsuit contends.

The suit maintains that Ms. Herdahl's children were subjected to taunts from other students because they chose to leave the classroom or wear headphones while the prayers were read. It says the district refused Ms. Herdahl's repeated requests to discontinue the prayers.

"Our religious faith is very important to me and to my family," Ms. Herdahl said. "I simply do not want the schools telling my children how and when to pray."

Jerry Horton, the district's superintendent, said the daily "devotionals" are constitutional because they are initiated by students and no school official decides what will be read over the intercom. The prayers have been commonplace for at least eight years, he said.

"I think there have been some distortions about things that have gone on," he said. "The A.C.L.U. is using this case to vilify our district."

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