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A federal district judge in Arkansas has ordered the Van Buren school district to ensure that a high-school band director does not resume holding voluntary prayer sessions for band members before football games.

U.S. District Judge H. Franklin Waters issued an injunction on March 9 following a trial in which he heard testimony about prayer sessions during the 1985 football season.

According to a lawyer for the district, the dispute began two years ago, when the first-year band director told members that he was beginning a "new tradition'' of voluntary prayer before football games.

Doug Carson, the lawyer, noted that band members were required to perform at games as part of a course, but were allowed to excuse themselves from the prayer sessions. He also said the band director had initiated the prayer sessions without authorization from the district's superintendent or school board.

Although the director voluntarily ceased the prayer sessions shortly after they began, Jennifer Steel, a senior on the band, filed suit seeking a permanent injunction against the practice. In his ruling, Judge Waters held that the prayers violated the First Amendment's prohibition against government establishment of religion.

The judge ordered the Van Buren board to pay Ms. Steel's lawyer's fees, Mr. Carson said. He added that the board had not yet decided whether to appeal the ruling.

Archbishop James A. Hickey of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington has released a "master plan'' for elementary education that includes raising teacher salaries, building new schools in suburban locations, and creating a broader-based financing system for parochial schools.

The plan is based on a two-year study of the archdiocese's 87 elementary schools in the District of Columbia and five Maryland counties. Archbishop Hickey said that the study had been undertaken because "enrollment was sliding, teacher pay and retention was substandard, and many parishes were no longer able to finance their schools.''

"We were faced with the irony that our own families were becoming disenchanted with Catholic schools at the same time families of other faiths were clamoring to place their children in our schools,'' he said in a statement released with the study on March 12.

About one-fourth of the 22,388 students in the archdiocesan schools are non-Catholics. Of the system's 1,356 teachers, 15 percent are non-Catholic and all but 17 percent are lay people.

The Archbishop said that the present teacher-salary range of $10,550 to $15,897 would be increased by the 1990-91 school year to a minimum of $15,447 and a maximum of $24,909.

Tuition will remain the same under the plan, with Catholics paying an average of $765 a year and non-Catholics paying $1,138. However, parishes without elementary schools will now be required to help support the nearest parochial school.

No schools will be closed, the Archbishop said, but four new schools--the first to be built in the archdiocese in 20 years--will be constructed by 1994 in the growing Maryland suburbs.

Junior-high-school students in Lincoln, Neb., will no longer be asked to write their own eulogies and epitaphs, after parents complained that the optional assignment was too depressing.

The assignment was one of 24 supplemental exercises included in the district's curriculum guide for teachers of 7th-grade health-education classes in the city's nine junior high schools. As part of a unit on mental health, the guide suggested that students write a passage describing what they would like to have said at their funerals and written on their tombstones.

"We just didn't think that this was appropriate,'' said Sharon Zamrzla, a parent who led the fight to have the assignment discontinued. "There are so many suicides going on.''

Dean Austin, director of the district's health-education program, said the activities in the teachers' guide were designed to help students sort out their feelings about themselves. District officials decided to drop the exercise, he said, after concluding that it didn't "link into the major concept we were trying to examine.''

The district is currently revising its entire health curriculum, Mr. Austin added.

A church-operated school in Goldsboro, N.C., has been ordered to readmit a 17-year-old girl expelled two months before graduation for modeling swimsuits in a department store's fashion show.

Wayne County Circuit Judge James Llewellyn ordered the Goldsboro Christian School to readmit Machelle Outlaw, a senior who was expelled from the school on March 11.

The girl's parents filed suit against the school on her behalf because they were not notified that school officials were considering expulsion, according to Tim Haithcock, a lawyer representing the family.

According to Ms. Outlaw, Reginald Kingsley, the school's principal, and the Rev. Tom Harper, pastor of the Second Baptist Church, with which the school is affiliated, told her that they had received reports she had modeled bathing suits in a department-store window. She maintains that she modeled the suits in a secluded area of the store, along with other teen-age models.

The two officials told her she was being expelled for "revealing her body'' in public, according to Mr. Haithcock.

School officials had no comment on the expulsion.

The Goldsboro Christian School was the focus of a 1983 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that tax exemptions can be denied to church-related academies and colleges that discriminate on the basis of race. The school, which had refused to admit blacks, changed its admissions policy after the court ruling.

Prince George's County, Md., school officials have suspended 52 students and will recommend that 5 of them be expelled for planning and participating in a random attack on students at a Montgomery County, Md., high school.

A spokeman for the suburban Washington district said officials were enforcing a six-month-old rule against "acts of gross misconduct'' by students off school grounds.

The spokesman, Brian J. Porter, said that students from High Point High School had left the school together and driven to Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring, Md., 10 miles away. The incident took place inside Sherwood High, shortly after classes had ended for the day.

Mr. Porter said the Sherwood students were punched and shoved, but the most serious injury was a split lip. No students were arrested.

The fracas was apparently an act of revenge for an attack against two popular High Point athletes the previous weekend at party attended by some students from the other school, Mr. Porter said. The Sherwood students hurt in the March 10 fight, however, had no connection with the earlier conflict.

"It was an enormously stupid thing to do,'' Mr. Porter said. "They purposely went out their way to do this.''

He added that the attack "has a Rambo-like quality about it, which I find quite disturbing.''

Two Bridgeport, Conn., high-school students were apprehended this month after carrying semi-automatic handguns and seven rounds of ammunition into their school.

Elias Romero, 16, was arrested and charged with carrying a pistol without a permit, and an unidentified 14-year-old student was turned over to juvenile authorities, after another student at Warren Harding High School saw them with the guns and notified a security guard, according to James A. Connelly, the city's school superintendent.

The school board is expected to vote in the next two weeks on whether to expel the students from school, Mr. Connelly said. Under state law, he said, school boards can expel students age 16 or older, and refuse to provide them with alternative schooling, if they are caught with dangerous weapons on school property. Students under 16, if expelled, must be provided with alternative education.

The incident marks the third time this year that Bridgeport students have been found with guns on school property, Mr. Connelly said. In both prior incidents, the students involved were expelled.

"There has been an increase in drug trafficking in Bridgeport and in this part of Connecticut,'' Mr. Connelly said. "A lot of weapons have become available because of that.''

Vol. 06, Issue 26

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