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Educators at Hamilton Heights Middle School in Arcadia, Ind., are giving students a one-time voucher allowing them to skip any homework assignment if they spend the evening with their parents. "What we really hope is that it happens once," principal Chris Walton said, "and then parents and students say, "Hey, that's kind of neat, let's do it again" - without a voucher, of course.

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High schools in Sweden are on notice to keep students from bullying each other. A court in Karlstad has awarded more than $30,000 in compensation for "lost education" and legal expenses to a woman who dropped out and fled her town because classmates taunted her mercilessly as an "outsider." School authorities, the court ruled, did little to stop the harassment.

FCC offers tips on choosing long-distance phone service

Flooded with reports from people feeling confused or misled, federal regulators are taking a hard look at ads used to tout telephone long-distance plans and "dial-around" services that allow consumers to bypass their normal long-distance service providers. The Federal Communications Commission has received 3,000 complaints about long-distance ads and marketing since January 1998. Consumers now have more options, but there's greater potential for confusion, officials say. Here are tips from the FCC on how to avoid spending more than you should:

* Understand your calling patterns. If you rarely make long-distance calls, you might want a dial-around service or a plan with no monthly minimum.

* Ask long-distance providers about promotions they're running and compare them with those offered by other firms.

* Read the fine print in ads.

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* Ask if there are monthly, minimum, or per-call fees in addition to per-minute rates.

* Be careful about comparing rates in ads, such as those that offer 50 percent off a carrier's "basic" rates. These are often not the lowest rates available.

* Check monthly bills carefully.

- Associated Press

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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