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Biology students in a small Illinois school district must be told that there are alternative explanations for the origin of life, under a new policy adopted by the local school board.

"If evolution is brought up, then the teacher will inform the students that there is another theory called creationism," said Norman Durflinger, superintendent of the 2,900-student Morton Community Unit School District 709.

Mr. Durflinger said information about6creationism--which holds that biblical descriptions of the creation of the earth and humanity are literally true--will be approved by a curriculum-review board and made available to students in the library of the district's only high school.

The new policy was adopted after a school-board member, Jim Widerkind, argued earlier this month that three evolution-based high-school biology textbooks adopted by the district slighted the religious views of the majority in the community.

Mr. Durflinger added that the new policy does not put the teaching of creationism on a par with instruction in evolutionary biology.

"I would not say that there would be anywhere close to an equivalency," he added.

But Eugenie C. Scott, the executive director of the California-based National Center for Science Education, a nonprofit group that monitors the national debate about the teaching of evolution, said the development is troubling because of its wider implications.

She noted that one of the textbooks adopted in Morton, Biology, published by Prentice-Hall, also was adopted last fall by the Texas Board of Education, which sought to encourage the presentation of evolution as an inextricable strand of the study of biology.

"What I'm really watching is the effect on textbook publishers," she said. "Will they look at all the little Mortons out there and conclude that they will not be able to sell such a book?"

Frustrated by his continual clashes with education policymakers, Mayor David N. Dinkins of New York has proposed enlarging the city's board of education from 7 to 11 members by adding four mayoral appointees.

Last week, Mr. Dinkins told a state panel studying the city school system's governance that, given the fact that voters hold the mayor responsible for school performance, he should have more control over board decisions. The Mayor's statement reversed a long-held position favoring board independence.

Currently, five members are appointed by the city's five borough presidents with two others appointed by the Mayor. Mr. Dinkins told the panel that the borough presidents should continue to appoint one member each.

The panel has tentatively recommended that the board be enlarged to nine members, with four selected by the Mayor.

The Mayor's statements came the day after his hand-picked board chairman, Gwendolyn C. Baker, was forced by the board to hire a woman she had previously dismissed as the board's legal counsel. The 4-to-3 vote to hire Mary C. Tucker was seen as an embarrassment to the Mayor.

A federal district judge has dissolved a consent agreement between the Cobb County, Ga., school district and the U.S. government governing the hiring of women and minorities.

U.S. District Judge Marvin H. Shoob, in a short statement late last month, agreed with a motion to terminate the 10-year-old agreement, a school spokesman said.

The agreement came in a lawsuit brought against the district during the Carter Administration in the late 1970's. The government's suit contended that the school district had discriminated on the basis of race and sex in hiring.

Under terms of the agreement, the school district had taken steps to hire black teachers and promote women to administrative positions, Sylvia Eaves, the district's lawyer, said.

In a move usually made by private companies, the University of Pennsylvania has established a $1-million fund intended to pick up the financial slack for potentially college-bound West Philadelphia public high-school students.

Moreover, it is only the beginning of a larger, citywide effort. The goal is to increase the core endowment to $15 million by 1993, according to Helen Cunningham, director of the College Access Program for the Philadelphia school system and administrator of the fund.

The program, named the Philadelphia Scholars Fund, was made possible by gifts from a Penn trustee, John Neff, and the CoreStates Financial Corporation to give "last dollar" scholarships for students attending any two- or four-year college.

In a pilot run last summer, 60 students were given grants of up to $1,000 each for such costs as room deposits, books, and transportation, Ms. Cunningham said, and next year the limit will be raised to $2,000.

Even such a relatively small amount of money can be important, Ms. Cunningham said. "For kids who have come very late to the idea of going to college," she said, "if they can't pay something like the room deposit, [they may] give up."

A Texas woman who made a "promise to God" never to cut her son's hair has won a temporary restraining order against the school district that suspended him for his below-the-shoulder hair.

A judge in the state's 275th District Court was to determine last week whether to make permanent the order that allowed 4-year-old Joshua Garcia of Pharr, Tex., to return to his prekindergarten class at Carnahan Elementary School earlier this month, said the family's lawyer, Aaron Pena Jr.

Joshua's mother, Sandra, has refused to cut his hair, Mr. Pena said, because of a promise, or "promesa," to God that she6would not do so if he survived the cancer with which he was stricken as a baby. The vow must stand as long as the boy is under a doctor's care, as he is now, Mr. Pena said.

By keeping Joshua out of school, the district is violating several of his constitutional rights, including freedom of religion, Mr. Pena contends.

Officials in the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District are "caught in the middle" between their sympathy for the parents and their desire to prevent other students from abusing the policy, said Margie McCarthy, a spokesman.

The Garcia case is the first major challenge to the two-year-old policy, she said.

A Texas appeals court has ruled that school districts can hire their own firm to collect delinquent taxes if they are not satisfied with the work of their county tax-assessment office.

The decision will allow the North East Independent School District in San Antonio to break with the delinquent-tax lawyers retained by Bexar County. The district also will claim delinquent-tax penalties that had been withheld by the county, school officials said.

In an earlier ruling, a state judge had also ruled that taxing units such as the school district can set their own policy on discounts for early tax payments.

A girls' high-school basketball coach has sued the Fairfax, Va., school district for $2 million, charging that she was unfairly suspended last December after several parents complained she was too aggressive and gave more playing time to her favorites on the team.

Traci Schneeweis, whose Robinson High team won the state AAA championship last season, also asks that she be immediately reinstated to her coaching position.

The federal suit names Rocky Jacobs, a deputy superintendent; Allen Leis, an assistant superintendent; William Jackson, the school's principal; and Kohann Whitney, the school board's chairman.

The suit charges that Mr. Jackson violated district policy when he failed to give Ms. Schneeweis written notification of the reasons for her suspension. The coach was also denied an appeal to the school board, the suit says.

A school-board spokesman said the district's personnel policy does not require written notice or an appeals process when a coach is suspended or replaced.

Vol. 10, Issue 22

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