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Funded by a large donation from a local businessman, Boston's school officials have begun a massive public-relations campaign designed to improve the public image of the city's public schools.

The campaign, which began this month, will publicize the accomplishments of the public schools through billboard displays at 30 locations throughout the city. The space was donated by Ackerly Communications of Massachusetts Inc., one of the largest billboard advertising firms in the state.

In addition to the sites in Boston, the billboards will also be displayed in several other cities throughout the country. The first series of billboard displays features the Boston Latin School's five-member chess team, which won the national championship last spring.

"We've taken a beating from the media in the past and so we thought that maybe we should point out some good things," said Ian Forman, spokesman for the city schools.

In another public-relations effort, school officials have developed a pamphlet for distribution to parents to inform them of the new citywide curriculum objectives, which were instituted this year.

"It's a good public communications effort that has never been done in the past," Mr. Forman said of the parents' guidebook. "The system hasn't been perfect in the past in communicating with parents."

The Oakland, Calif., school board has voted unanimously to reject a curriculum prepared by a federal agency that outlines how to survive a nuclear attack.

"It is the greatest immorality to perpetuate these nave plans," said J. Alfred Smith, a board member, reflecting the Oakland board's skepticism over whether it is possible to survive a nuclear blast.

Added Barney Hilburn, another board member, at a meeting earlier this month: "Let them [the federal government] give us the money they are spending on this curriculum to teach children reading, writing, mathematics, and how to think."

The disputed curriculum is part of a broad effort by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to familiarize students from kindergar-ten to 12th grade with ways of reponding to a range of natural and man-made disasters.

The curriculum is being tested in 22 states. So far, board members say, Oakland is the first district to reject the materials.

The teacher's resource manual for the curriculum offers this advice: "If there should be a nuclear flash--especially if you feel the warmth from it--take cover instantly in the best place you can find. If no cover is available, simply lie down on the ground and curl up."

A Lenexa, Kan., church is suing the Shawnee Mission school district to gain the right to lease school facilities for religious services.

The Country Hills Christian Church--which has no buildings of its own and rents space in a day-care center for Sunday services--wants to be able to lease space in a district elementary school for special occasions, such as Easter, when it needs a larger building.

The suit against the district, the school board, and the superintendent was filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City. The plaintiffs ask for use of the school at times when no classes are scheduled.

The district currently has a policy that allows churches to use schools for religious services only in the case of "a dire emergency," said David Westbrook, a district spokesman.

That policy is a modification of an earlier ban on church use of schools for any reason. "The board wanted to demonstrate responsiveness to the community's institutions," Mr. Westbrook said of the change.

The church is seeking an injunction that requires the district to lease facilities to the church on the same basis as other local groups.

Wilkes C. Robinson, president of the Gulf and Great Plains Legal Foundation, a nonprofit legal group based in Kansas City that "resists overreaching government action," said he will use the case Widmar v. Vincent as the major precedent.

In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of an evangelical student group from the University of Missouri at Kansas City to hold prayer meetings on campus.

The court said that the University of Missouri system's policy of denying the use of campus facilities to the group violated the system's ''open forum" policy.

Vol. 02, Issue 08

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