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Gov. Pedro Rossello of Puerto Rico has signed a law giving English equal standing with Spanish as the official language of the island territory.

Governor Rossello, whose New Progressive Party favors statehood for Puerto Rico, signed the measure into law last month as his first legislative act in office.

"We had to do this for you, for the future of Puerto Rico,'' Mr. Rossello told an audience of schoolchildren as he signed the measure.

The new law establishes English as the second official language of the island and allows it to be used interchangeably with Spanish in Puerto Rico's government.

Spanish will remain the primary language used in the island's schools.

The new law also repeals a 1991 measure establishing Spanish as the sole official language of the island. Rafael Hernandez Colon, the former Governor who ratified that measure, had advocated keeping the island a commonwealth of the United States.

Governor Rossello and the New Progressive Party, both of which swept to power in November, are urging the island's residents to vote for statehood in a referendum to be held this year.

The island's residents, now numbering 3.6 million, became United States citizens in 1917 but have remained divided on the question of whether the island should be an independent country, the 51st state, or remain a commonwealth, as it has been since 1952.

The linguistic status of Puerto Rico, where most residents speak only Spanish, has complicated the statehood debate on the island as well as a debate on the mainland over whether to establish English as the official language of the United States. (See Education Week, Oct. 18, 1989.)

Responding to a flood of calls from the public, a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court judge has issued an order assuring the public that no final decision has been reached in Philadelphia's school-desegregation case.

Judge Doris A. Smith late last month issued an order to "unequivocally notify'' all parties concerned that the court has merely taken into consideration, and has not yet acted on, a report by a court-appointed settlement team containing recommendations "for achieving maximum desegregation'' of the city's public schools.

The order said the court had received an "unwarranted avalanche'' of telephone calls from citizens who erroneously believed, based on newspaper accounts, that the court had ruled in the case.

Judge Smith also modified a December order sealing all records in the case, stating that now only the settlement team's report and the attachments to it would remain sealed.

The settlement team's report calls for mandatory busing within the city as well as voluntary integration efforts involving suburban schools. (See Education Week, Jan. 20, 1993.)

Recent reports in local newspapers have named the schools recommended for busing in the settlement team's report.

Early this month, more than 1,500 angry parents at a community meeting in the northeast part of the city vowed to defy any effort to bus their children to predominantly black schools.

The Los Angeles Board of Education has toughened its weapons policy by mandating that any student caught with a gun on campus be expelled.

The board acted last week in response to the accidental shooting that killed one student and wounded another in a district high school last month. In the wake of the shooting, the district began randomly using metal detectors at high schools and middle schools. (See Education Week, Jan. 27 and Feb. 3, 1993.)

In the past, the district committee that decides on weapons-related expulsions had the option of recommending reassignment of students under age 16 to alternative schools.

Under the new policy, any student carrying any sort of gun, or even a realistic replica, will face expulsion for the rest of that semester and the next.

Nearly 100 students were expelled last school year for carrying weapons on school grounds, officials said.

Expelled students may apply for readmittance after that time, officials said.

Vol. 12, Issue 20

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