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A federal district judge last week agreed to allow restricted use of 4 of the 44 textbooks he had banned from Alabama's public schools for unconstitutionally promoting the "religious belief system'' of secular humanism. (See Education Week, March 11, 1987.)

U.S. District Judge W. Brevard Hand ruled March 17 that teachers could continue to use the following home-economics books for the remainder of the school year: Caring, Deciding and Growing; Homemaking: Skills for Everyday Living; Teen Guide; and Today's Teen. The state board of education had sought such permission for all of the affected textbooks.

Police in three states have reported a rash of attempted and successful "copy cat'' suicides following the widely publicized suicides this month of four teen-agers in Bergenfield, N.J. (See Education Week, March 18, 1987.)

According to press reports, 11 young people in New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Illinois have killed themselves by carbon monoxide poisoning since the March 11 incident.

Last week, a 20-year-old woman and a 17-year-old male attempted suicide by breathing automobile-exhaust fumes in the same garage where the four teen-agers were found, police spokesmen said. Hours earlier, police said, a 20-year-old died in the same manner in nearby Clifton, N.J..

Louis Goetting, the Bergenfield borough administrator, said last week that local officials were continuing to operate a 24-hour suicide hotline, and had set up suicide-prevention and counseling programs at four area churches.

Federal officials have begun proceedings that could lead to the loss of $9 million to $13 million in special-education funds for Chicago's public schools.

The U.S. Education Department's office for civil rights is charging that the city's school officials have failed to devise a plan for the timely testing and placement of handicapped students. In a complaint mailed March 6, the office formally notified the school district of its intent to take the matter before an administrative law judge, an O.C.R. official said last week.

Last March, the office found that 78 percent of Chicago students referred for special-education evaluations were not being assessed within the 60-day limit specified by federal law. It also found that 41 percent of the children who needed special-education services did not receive timely placements.(See Education Week, Sept. 17, 1986.)

Robert Saigh, a spokesman for Chicago district, said the notice came as "some surprise'' to administrators, who he said have been making "steady progress'' in developing a plan to correct the problems. City and state school officials have 20 days to respond to the complaint.

Louisiana's budgetary problems, which have already caused a sharp drop in the state's proposed expenditure on education next year, are far more dire than the projections made by Gov. Edwin W. Edwards's office, according to MarkDanner, the state's departing legislative fiscal officer. (See Education Week, Jan. 28, 1987.)

In an address this month before the Baton Rouge, La., press club, Mr. Danner said that the state's proposed budget for fiscal 1988, which the Governor was scheduled to release last weekend, might produce deficits as high as $350 million to $400 million. He said that while education has been a stated priority of the Governor, it still faces stiff cuts.

"We don't seem to have our act together,'' he said. "We say one thing and do something else.''

The New York City board of education, citing the potential for conflicts of interest, voted late last week to prohibit its employees, including teachers, from serving on any of the city's 32 community school boards.

The board's vote followed mounting criticism of the city's decentralized system of school governance by the central board's president, Robert F. Wagner Jr., and other political leaders. (See Education Week, March 4, 1987.)

Both the New York City School Boards Association, which represents the community boards, and the United Federation of Teachers have questioned the central board's authority to impose such a restriction on its employees.

A group of black parents in Senatobia, Miss., agreed this month to end a three-week-old boycott of the public schools after the district's school board said it would hire a black associate superintendent and a black guidance counselor.

About 600 black students stayed home during the boycott, which was precipitated by the school board's hiring of a white assistant superintendent over the protests of members of the black community. (See Education Week, March 4, 1987.)

A boycott of white merchants in the area will continue, said the Rev. Michael Cathey, a spokesman for the group.

The Chamber of Commerce of Prince George's County, Md., is creating a summer job bank for teachers as an aid for recruitment and retention.

The idea was first proposed last year, when the county drew national attention by offering a package of benefits for new teachers ranging from a month's free rent to discounts at restaurants. (See Education Week, April 2, 1986.)

The chamber will try to line up 500 summer jobs before the school year ends, a district spokesman said. New and current teachers will be permitted to apply on a first-come, first-served basis.

More than 250,000 high-school students have signed a petition urging President Reagan to hold a nationally televised forum on nuclear-arms issues, according to a private-school teacher promoting the project.

Dale DeLetis, a teacher at the Milton Academy in Boston, said in an interview this month that students from 850 high schools have joined the petition drive, which seeks an airing of opposing views on the issue by the President and four arms-control experts. (See Education Week, Oct. 8, 1986.)

The project, called the National Forum, was organized by students and teachers at the school last fall.

Vol. 06, Issue 26

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