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Take Note: Courtroom to classroom

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The media have rushed to the aid of educators in recent years with special materials about such fast-moving events as the collapse of the Soviet Union and the war in the Persian Gulf. Now two organizations have come up with products designed to help schools teach about another headline-grabbing, if less epochal, event: The murder trial of O.J. Simpson.

As the trial finally began last week, educators were getting help from the American Bar Association and the Court TV cable network.

The A.B.A. has published a 16-page guide to Mr. Simpson's case that is designed to advance students' understanding of the criminal-justice system.

"When the O.J. Simpson case came up, we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to provide materials," said Seva Johnson, the editorial director of youth publications at the A.B.A. "This is such a famous trial that we knew teachers would have to cope with it in their social-studies classrooms."

The guide explains concepts such as reasonable doubt and circumstantial evidence. The association has distributed about 1,600 copies nationwide and is printing more, she said.

"On Trial in California: The O.J. Simpson Case," is available for $5 from the a.b.a. Special Committee on Youth Education for Citizenship, 541 North Fairbanks Ct., Chicago, Ill. 60611-3314; (312) 988-5735.

Court TV's Teaching Aid is More High-Tech.

The cable channel has produced a computer-software program that explores the subject of dna evidence, gives backgrounds on the prosecution and defense lawyers, and provides maps of the crime scene and of Mr. Simpson's estate, complete with a graphic showing where the infamous bloody glove was found.

Court TV is working on a second software disk about the case, said Susan Abbey, the network's special-projects director.

The first program is available on the America Online, Prodigy, or Compuserve commercial on-line services, or they can be obtained by calling Court TV's educator hot line: (800) 333-7649.

--Mark Walsh

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