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School counselors have a duty to inform parents when they have knowledge that a child has made suicidal statements, Maryland's highest court has ruled.

In an Oct. 29 opinion, the Maryland Court of Appeals said school counselors in Montgomery County may have breached a common-law duty when they failed to inform the parents of a 13-year-old middle school student that the child had threatened suicide in 1988.

The pupil told friends that she intended to kill herself. Her friends reported the threat to a school counselor, but the girl denied making it when two counselors questioned her. The girl later died in an apparent murder-suicide pact with a student from another school.

The girl's father sued the Montgomery County school district, alleging negligence on the part of the school counselors for failing to inform him of his daughter's suicide threat.

A state trial court dismissed the suit on a summary judgment, but the state's high court reinstated it.

"Considering the growth of this tragic social problem," the court said, "we hold that school counselors have a duty to use reasonable means to attempt to prevent a suicide when they are on notice of a child or adolescent student's suicidal intent."

The U.S. Justice Department has appealed a federal district court ruling that upheld the Virginia Military Institute's males-only admissions policy.

The department is asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., to overturn a decision made by U.S. District Judge Jackson L. Kiser last June. Judge Kiser upheld the all-males policy on the grounds that it diversified the state's higher-education system.

In its appeal, the federal government argues that the V.M.I. admissions policy "violates the equal-protection guarantee of the Fourth Amendment by excluding women from obtaining a benefit available to men." Such discrimination should not be allowed at a state-supported institution, it says.

The Justice Department sued the Lexington, Va., school in 1989 after receiving a complaint from a woman who unsuccessfully sought admission to the school.

A local grand jury has indicted three employees of South Carolina Educational Television for allegedly stealing electronic equipment and improperly obtaining service contracts.

The indictments, handed down this month by the Richland County grand jury, charge that the men either stole electronic equipment that should have been installed in the state's public schools or that they improperly obtained contracts for their own benefit.

The grand jury indicted James David Anderson Jr. for allegedly stealing equipment valued at more than 10,000 between 1981 and 1988; Thomas Edward Bailey for allegedly stealing more than $25,000 in equipment during the same period; and Fred Smith for allegedly using his influence with the network to secure contracts worth several thousand dollars for T&C Electronics, a company that he owns.

The theft charges carry maximum penalties of 10 years in jail and a $10,000 fine. The misdemeanor charge leveled against Mr. Smith is punishable by 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

County Solicitor Dick Harpootlian said the men were expected to be arraigned on the charges late last week.

Kathy Gardner-Jones, a spokesman for the educational-television network, said that the men have been suspended from their jobs and that the network is "participating fully with the investigation."

A Virginia-based dairy cooperative convicted this fall of conspiring to rig bids on school milk contracts in the state has been fined $1.1 million.

U.S. District Judge John A. MacKenzie set the fine against Marva Maid Dairy this month after rejecting the government's request for a $2.8 million fine, double the amount the government contends was lost to the schools as a result of the conspiracy.

The government contended that the firm had conspired with Pet Inc. to divide the school milk business for several Virginia school districts. Pet pleaded guilty to the charges and was fined $750,000. A jury convicted Marva Maid in September on a bid-rigging charge and two counts of mail fraud.

Marva Maid, which represents more than 1,300 dairy farmers in five mid-Atlantic states, and four other dairies also face a civil suit brought by Virginia's Attorney General, Mary Sue Terry, on behalf of 35 districts in the state.

The federal charges against Marva Maid grew out of a U.S. Justice Department investigation of dairies in at least 16 states. More than 50 companies and executives have been charged as a result.

Vol. 11, Issue 13, Page 2

Published in Print: November 27, 1991, as State News Roundup
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