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The state of Massachusetts should spend approximately $300 million over the next five years to upgrade the electronic-learning capabilities of its public schools, an advisory panel has recommended.

In a report issued this month, the Massachusetts Technology Advisory Committee said that the money should be used to help every school devise its own technology plan to make better use of computers, distance learning, and other electronic capabilities.

"The committee felt that Massachusetts has been in the forefront of technology development for a long time," said Mafia Rodriguez, a spokesman for the state's education secretary.

"Yet, there are other states that are ahead of us in getting [our] classrooms on line."

The recommendations were based, in part, on proposals contained in a similar report prepared under the sweeping reform effort under way in Kentucky.

Massachusetts' committee on educational policy, an oversight board, considered the recommendations after a hands-on session with equipment at Wareham High School, the first school in the state specifically wired to accommodate electronic-learning techniques.

But officials said that the economic recession makes it unlikely that the recommendations will be implemented systematically in the near future.

Workers in institutions for emotionally disturbed children in New York State may be relying too heavily on physical force--such as putting children in straitjackets or locked "time out" rooms--to control children's disruptive behavior, according to a new report by a state panel.

In its review of 850 child-abuse complaints filed during a three-year period, the New York State Commission on Quality of Care for the Mentally Retarded found that nearly one-fourth of the reports involved allegations that children were being inappropriately restrained or secluded. In more than half of the complaints alleging physical abuse, workers were trying to control problem behavior in children.

The report found that the majority of the incidents took place when children were not taking part in structured activities or after 5 P.M., when the primary therapist was off duty.

"There are a lot of ways of dealing with children to calm them down and deal with an explosive situation short of physical restraint,'' said Clarence J. Sundram, the panel's chairman. "Most of these incidents occurred after hours when child-care staff were essentially on their own trying to control children."

The study also found that nearly half of the complaints involved children who were "repeat" victims, meaning that they had been involved in more than one alleged incident.

The Arkansas State Board of Education has rejected a proposed consolidation of two all-white school districts in Jackson County that do not share a common border.

Although the Jackson County Board of Education approved the merger request from the Grubbs and Swifton districts, the state board later denied it for several reasons, according to Nancy M. Wood, the board's chairman.

The consolidation would "not foster desegregation," Ms. Wood said, nor were the schools "proposing a strong enough curriculum to make the merger worthwhile."

According to Swifton's superintendent, Glenn D. Fugett, the two districts proposed the consolidation for "economic reasons" and because both are in "small towns" that share a similar character.

For the past two years, Mr. Fugett said, Swifton has attempted to unite with the neighboring Tuckerman district, whose enrollment is 10 percent to 15 percent black, but the two districts could not agree on what schools might be eliminated or annexed as a result.

The state board has referred the matter to the state legislature's desegregation oversight committee for review.

Vol. 11, Issue 23

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