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Rocky day

Rita English, an earth science teacher at Colonia High School in Woodbridge, N.J., wasn't expecting any surprises when she demonstrated a Geiger counter to her class this month. Then she tested a one-pound rock that set off the radiation-detection device and threw her school into a panic.

Officials evacuated the school 90 minutes later, and a hazardous-materials team came and secured the rock in a lead-lined box. Classes were canceled so the school could be tested for contamination. Parents of the students who were in the science classroom were notified to have their children bathe immediately, wash their clothes, and wipe the bottoms of their shoes.

To the relief of everyone involved, the students were never in any danger. The rock, which had been sitting in a classroom storage cabinet, was identified as pegmatite with traces of autunite, and the radioactivity level was not hazardous.

"The amount of radiation was one-thousandth of what you would receive from an X-ray," said Jerry Demenna, a scientist with Chem-Chek in Piscataway, N.J., who examined the rock.

Slow dance

High school students from Monessen, Pa., had plenty of room on the dance floor at their prom this month. Only 14 went to the May 16 event, down from 140 the year before. Twelve of those attending were members of the prom committee.

In an attempt to combat drinking and driving, Monessen Senior High School officials required students to ride a bus to the prom at the Ice Garden, about 10 miles away from the suburban Pittsburgh school. Students who wanted to rent limousines or drive their own cars decided to boycott.

As an alternative to the prom, 30 students organized a dinner at the Top of the Triangle restaurant in Pittsburgh.

The students could have asked the district school board to review the policy, but they opted not to do so, Principal Randall E. Marino said.

Sophomore Eddie Shuty decided to attend the school-sponsored prom. "I wanted to go to prom rather than a restaurant in an office building," Mr. Shuty said. "You can go to a fancy restaurant any time. You can't always go to prom."

Mr. Shuty said the event was fun despite the low attendance.

School officials plan to leave the bus rule in place for next year's prom, Mr. Marino said.


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