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Meningitis Outbreak Forces Immunizations in Minn. District

Health officials have immunized about 9,000 people, including all schoolchildren in grades 7-12, in Mankato, Minn., following an outbreak of spinal meningitis that sent six people to the hospital and contributed to the death of a student.

A Mankato West High School sophomore died Feb. 3 after the disease entered his bloodstream. The boy had not developed meningitis but was sickened by the bacteria that causes it--a condition that leads to most meningitis-related deaths, a state health official said last week.

Meningitis is a bacterial infection of the lining of the brain and the spinal cord that is most often transmitted through contact such as kissing and sharing food.

David Dakken, the acting superintendent of the 7,400-student district, said he hoped the free immunizations would help stop the spread of the disease, which was first diagnosed on Jan. 27.

Costly Contamination

Utah has fined the Salt Lake City school district $5,000 because a high school auto-shop teacher dumped a 50-gallon can of hazardous solvent down a storm drain.

The district has already spent more than $21,000 to clean up the spill and has begun a state-ordered hazardous-waste training program for district officials.

The teacher was suspended after the incident last spring but has been reinstated. A district investigation showed that he tried to have the solvent removed to a hazardous-waste site and was told--incorrectly--that the chemical was not dangerous.

Cuts at the District Level

The schools chief in Boise, Idaho, has announced plans to cut at least 10 full-time positions from the district's central administration.

Superintendent Tony Dennis estimates the cuts will trim about $500,000 a year from the district's budget, officials said last week. The cuts are part of his efforts to reorganize the 26,500-student district.

Kathy Hurley, the president of a local parents' group, welcomed the changes, saying they would give parents and teachers more control.

Relaxing the Curve

A committee of parents, teachers, and administrators has proposed lowering the grading scale in a southern Virginia district to allow students to compete better with neighboring districts that have less rigorous policies.

The value of an A in the Hampton public schools is several points higher than in surrounding districts. Hampton students must score a 95 or better on an exam to receive an A, while students in nearby districts need only a 90.

The Hampton committee suggested this month lowering the cutoff for an A to 93. A grade of B would go from 87 to 85 under the plan, and the minimum score for a C would drop from 78 to 75.

Kenneth Gray, the district's director of secondary education, said colleges often overlook differences in schools' grading policies when reviewing transcripts.

Miss Pittman Returns

School officials in Conroe, Tex., have reinstated The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, which had been removed from classes after some black parents complained about certain language in the novel.

A review committee of teachers, administrators, librarians, parents, and a student found that the book was appropriate for 7th graders. The committee, which was appointed last month after parents complained of racial slurs in the 1971 novel by Ernest Gaines, suggested that students who object to the book be given the option of choosing a different one.

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