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The U.S. Supreme Court last week declined to review a Massachusetts law that allows school districts to exercise unusually close scrutiny over the teaching staffs and curricular offerings of private schools within their boundaries.

Officials of a fundamentalist Baptist school had argued in New Life Baptist Church Academy v. Town of East Longmeadow (Case No. 89-1118) that the law violated church members' First Amendment right to free exercise of religion and that it caused excessive entanglement between church and state.

A federal district judge had declared the law unconstitutional, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reversed that decision last year.

The Court last week also accepted a case that questions whether an award of punitive damages by a jury can be so excessive or disproportionate as to violate the Constitution's guarantee of due process of law. The case is Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Co. v. Haslip (Case No. 89-1279).

Insurance-industry officials say that the growing number of such multi-million-dollar judgments is one of the main reasons for the steep rise in liability-insurance premiums.

Attorney General Richard Thornburgh has warned that he and other senior advisers in the Bush Administration will urge the President to veto a bill that would overturn several contro8versial U.S. Supreme Court decisions on employment discrimination.

The Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee voted 11 to 5 last week to approve the proposed "civil rights act of 1990."

In a letter to lawmakers last week, Mr. Thornburgh said the bill was "unacceptable" because it would force employers to adopt rigid racial quotas in order to avoid lawsuits. The Administration is supporting an alternative bill that would nullify only two of the Court's five decisions. (See Education Week, Feb. 14, 1990.)

Federal investigators have discovered an additional 4,000 violations of child-labor laws after reviewing case files produced during a three-day crackdown on illegal hiring and work practices last month.

The new violations bring to 11,000 the number of infractions uncovered during the investigation that began March 12. That number is equal to almost half of all child-labor violations uncovered during 1989, according to a statement issued by Secretary of Labor Elizabeth H. Dole.

Most of the infractions involved teenagers who had worked more hours than or beyond the time at night permitted by federal law. Investigators also found that 1,450 teenagers age 14 to 17 were illegally employed in dangerous jobs.

The Senate last week confirmed the nomination of Robert W. Sweet Jr. to head the Justice Department's office of juvenile justice and delinquency prevention.

A number of education and juvenile-justice groups had opposed Mr. Sweet's nomination, saying that he lacked experience in the field.

Mr. Sweet most recently served as deputy executive secretary of the White House Domestic Policy Council. He formerly headed the National Institute of Education and the National Council on Educational Research.

Vol. 09, Issue 29

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