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The American Bar Association last month urged major reforms in the legal system to a create a more effective "safety net'' for children in crisis and to offer more free legal aid to at-risk children and families.

The report was prepared by a task force formed after the 1992 Los Angeles riots to study potential bias in the legal system and recommend better strategies for serving poor, inner-city youths.

Attorney General Janet Reno, who served on the working group before her Cabinet appointment, strongly endorsed the report at a news conference last month.

The report maintains that thousands of children and families have become "enmeshed'' in an overburdened judicial system that is not meeting their legal needs and that has failed to take preventive and corrective steps to forestall social problems affecting children.

The group's main recommendations center on reorganizing and better funding family courts to address family issues more coherently, insuring that children entitled to counsel get "competent'' legal representation, and encouraging lawyers to donate free legal services to children in need.

The report also calls for reforms in the child-welfare system; further investments in health, education, housing, and family-support initiatives; and stricter gun-control laws.

Information on ordering the report, "America's Children at Risk: A National Agenda for Legal Action,'' is available from the Center on Children and the Law, American Bar Association, 1800 M St., N.W., Suite 200, Washington, D.C. 20036.

The final report of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's gender-equity task force leaves it to individual colleges and universities to achieve gender equity in their athletic programs.

"While this report ... attempts to provide a definition of and steps to the achievement of gender equity in intercollegiate athletics, it is the responsibility of individual colleges and universities to pursue that goal earnestly,'' notes the report, which was released last month.

Among the 13 guidelines it outlines, the task force recommends that institutions strive for male and female athletic-participation rates that are "substantially proportionate'' to the numbers of male and female students enrolled.

The panel also recommends that institutions refrain from reducing their revenue-producing programs as a way of funding female athletics. Implicit in the guideline is the conflict over football, which typically gets a disproportionate share of resources and for which there is no comparable women's sport.

The report will be forwarded to N.C.A.A. officials for action.

A major regional chain of grocery stores has agreed to pay a total of $16.2 million to settle claims that it violated federal child-labor laws and laws regulating unpaid overtime and the minimum wage, the U.S. Labor Department announced last month.

The settlement by Food Lion Inc. of Salisbury, N.C., is the largest ever by a private employer charged with violating the Fair Labor Standards Act, the department said.

The most widespread problem at Food Lion was unpaid overtime, according to federal officials.

Officials said that 16- and 17-year-olds also were illegally operating power-driven paper balers and that minors were working too many hours or during times of day not permitted by federal law.

Under the settlement, the company, which did not admit any wrongdoing, agreed to conduct internal audits and to prepare quarterly reports for the Labor Department for the next three years.

Vol. 13, Issue 01

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