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Americans say after-school programs are key to reducing violence

ATLANTA - Seventy-five percent of adults think after-school programs could prevent tragedies such as the fatal shootings at Columbine High School, according to a survey released by the Education Department last week. In the survey of 1,100 adults, 92 percent also believed there should be some type of organized activity or place for the nation's 15 million latchkey kids to go after school. And 86 percent said after-school programs were a necessity for their community.

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"Schools might close down at 3 p.m. but children's minds don't," said Education Secretary Richard Riley, who released the survey as he entered the third day of his Southern back-to-school bus trip, which included touring troubled schools. "That's why we're asking Congress to triple funds for after-school spending from $200 million to $600 million."

ACLU sues school over Jewish holidays

CINCINNATI - A suburban school district in Ohio is being challenged in federal court for suspending classes for the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in US District Court against Sycamore School District, saying it favored Judaism over other religious faiths. Gino Scarselli, associate legal director for the ACLU of Ohio, said public schools may close on religious holidays only if they have a nonreligious reason for doing so. The school district had observed the policy of no tests and no new material on Jewish holidays because about 15 percent of the children were absent. "We have no interest in promoting any religion in the schools," said Superintendent Bruce Armstrong.

Teenage sexual activity declines

CINCINNATI - Recent surveys report that previously unprecedented rates of sexual activity among teens have started to drop. Now, less than half of all high school students have had sex. In 1998, the average age of first intercourse was 16.3, up from 15.8 in 1997, according to the Durex Global Survey. Teen pregnancies, abortions, and births also have declined, although incidence of sexually transmitted diseases remain high.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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