Zapping the Zodiac in New Jersey

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For several weeks this year, the 1,300 students at Pinelands Regional High School in Tuckerton, N.J., began each day listening to a little advice from the stars.

Every morning, the daily horoscope from the comics page of a local newspaper was read over the school's public-address system, along with announcements. "It was just a little humor in the morning to start the day off on a high note,'' said Clement A. Crea, superintendent of the Pinelands Regional School District.

But last month, Mr. Crea reluctantly ended the practice following complaints from several parents.

"It seems they objected to the horoscopes because they were astrology-based,'' he said.

Before acting on the complaints, Mr. Crea said, he sought the advice of a lawyer for the district, who told him that "if it was going to create a public hassle, we were better off not continuing it.''

The lawyer said the astrological forecasting "could be considered by some to be a form of religion,'' according to the superintendent.

Concerned about a possible church-state conflict, Mr. Crea reluctantly asked the student council to stop reading the horoscopes.

A number of students were upset by his decision, he said, but "the smoke cleared after a day or so.''

He called the complaints "totally unfortunate.''

"The staff and the student body saw [the horoscope reading] as being purely humorous, with no serious meaning,'' he said.

"I know of no one who decided to leave school and go home once they heard their horoscope read.''

Meanwhile, teachers and students have been searching, in the superintendent's words, for "something else unique that will provide a little comic relief in the morning.''

Like reading the day's lunch menu?--R.R.

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