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Officials of the Dade County public schools last week reported some good news and some bad news about crime in the schools.

On the bright side, the incidence of assaults, breaking and entering, and vandalism reported during the first six months of the school year declined by more than 20 percent compared with the same period of time last year.

"We are very encouraged with what our students, teachers, and administrators are doing to improve discipline," said Leonard Britton, the school superintendent.

However, school officials report, the number of incidents involving weapons and narcotics increased during the same period.

Dade County officials credit their "all-out effort" to fight crime in the schools with both the drop in some crimes and the increase in others. The decrease in crime, they say, occurred because schools have more security personnel, stiffer discipline programs, and a chance to participate in such programs as Youth Crime Watch and Safe Schools. In addition, the Florida legislature last year provided a special $2.5-million allocation for crime reduction in the schools.

The increased numbers of weapons and narcotics violations are the result of the greater emphasis now being placed on the detection of drugs and weapons, according to Eugene McAllister, director of the Special Investigative Unit.

The release of the report coincided with the death of Francisco R. Walker, a Miami middle-school teacher who was stabbed while trying to apprehend an intruder. He was the first Florida teacher to be killed while carrying out professional duties.

Mr. Walker's death, Mr. Britton said, "outshadows everything else, regardless of the numbers."

In Boston, however, recently released figures for the 1980-81 school year show no significant change from the previous year.

During the 1980-81 school year, Boston school officials confiscated 268 dangerous weapons, including knives, meat cleavers, Mace, clubs, handguns, chains, razors, stilettos, and daggers.

According to Ian Forman, a spokesman for the district, there were 53 assaults with dangerous weapons in the schools last year, 259 armed and unarmed robberies, seven stabbings, and 154 physical assaults on employees.

Mr. Forman said there was "minimal change" from the previous year's crime figures.

As of Jan. 8 of this school year, the most recent day for which figures are available, there have been 18 assaults with dangerous weapons, 165 armed and unarmed robberies, and 47 assaults on staff members.

Lakeview Elementary School in Lincoln, Neb. will suspend instruction in art, mathematics, and physical education for an entire week next month so that its more than 500 students can concentrate on that most basic of skills: reading.

Even Dan Navratil, the school's principal, will trade some of his routine duties for a good novel--perhaps something appropriate such as War and Peace, he said.

"We do too much to make reading a chore," Mr. Navratil said. "If they can't read, they can't learn math or other subjects. After being forced to read in school, people simply don't read after they graduate."

To help make reading exciting during "World of Words" week, comic books, coloring books, and classics will fill the gymnasium; children can curl up in a corner with their favorite volumes.

The school has also planned storytelling sessions and visits from public officials, local celebrities, and writers, including the author and illustrator Lilian Hoban.

"The week is just the beginning," the principal said, of an effort to promote interest in lifelong reading.

The Shame of the Schools, a series published last fall by The Philadelphia Inquirer on that city's troubled school system, has been reprinted in a 60-page tabloid.

The series--which evoked praise from many citizens' groups and outrage from the school administration--is the result of a year-long investigation by three reporters.

Examined in detail are the 224,000-student system's financial practices (including its comparatively low expenditures on books and classroom supplies).

Other stories allege mismanagement and widespread patronage in the system; neglect of school buildings; and disregard for academic achievement, particularly among low-achieving students.

Copies of the 60-page reprint are available for $1 (to cover postage and handling costs) from Ron Vellozzi, 5th floor, 400 N. Broad St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19101.

Vol. 01, Issue 19

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