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Distressing Link:

A high proportion of children born prematurely require special education when they get to school, according to new findings reported in the December issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Researchers from Cornell University Medical College found that 48 percent of 7- and 8-year-olds whose birth weights were less than 1,500 grams (about 3.3 lbs.) required some form of special education; only 15 percent of full-term children studied required such services.

Suicidal Intent:

Maryland's highest court has ruled that school counselors have a duty to inform parents when they learn that a child has made suicidal statements. The opinion states that school counselors in Montgomery County may have breached a common-law duty when they failed to inform the parents of a 13-year-old middle school student that the girl had threatened suicide in 1988.

Shopping Mall School:

Five Minneapolis-area school districts have approved a plan to develop and jointly operate an unusual public school in a new 4.2 million-squarefoot shopping mall currently under construction in Bloomington, a Twin Cities suburb. The education facility would eventually offer services from preschool through adult school for the mall's estimated 10,000 employees.

Breach Of Contract?:

Teachers in West Virginia have filed a lawsuit in federal court against the state Public Employees Insurance Agency, claiming breach of contract. The suit argues that members of the West Virginia Federation of Teachers should not be forced to pay health-insurance premiums and co-payments that their employers previously covered. Under a new benefits plan, the union argues, some teachers will pay more in health insurance costs than they received in salary increases this year.

Middle Grade Teachers:

Although most middle school teachers agree that special preparation is helpful for teaching early adolescents, fewer than one in five actually received specific training for the middle grades, according to a study by Peter Scales of the Center for Early Adolescents at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The study turned up little evidence to suggest that teacher education is changing to reflect the emerging consensus about what teachers in grades 5-9 ought to know and be able to do.

A New Drivers' Test:

Massachusetts teenagers would have to pass an academic competency test before they could be licensed to drive, under a plan proposed by Gov. William Weld. If approved by the legislature, the plan would make Massachusetts the first state to tie the privilege of driving to academic performance.

Fire And Rain:

Officials of the National Education Association are hoping that they see no more fire or rain inside the union's newly renovated Washington, D.C., headquarters. Twice since the completion of the $65 million project, the building has been evacuated. First, there was rain--at least figuratively--when a sprinkler system broke and sent a cascade of water through the lower floors. Employees were sent home, only to return to work the following Monday to learn that an electrical fire had erupted. That evacuation only lasted an hour.

No Spanish:

Joe Brown, principal of O'Banion Middle School in Garland, Texas, riled parents and advocacy groups this past fall when he banned Spanish speaking to prevent Hispanics--who make up 20 percent of the school's enrollment-- from using the language to curse at teachers. Students were subject to suspension or even expulsion if they were caught using Spanish outside of language classrooms. The ban was lifted after parents pressured the district.

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