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Students in Maryland may no longer need to worry about concealing cellphones and pagers or dashing behind locker doors to answer calls. The state House of Delegates recently voted to repeal a 12-year ban on the gadgets in schools, which early on were associated with drug dealers. Harsh penalties included a maximum $2,500 fine and up to six months in jail.

The Senate has yet to vote on the measure, which would leave regulation up to individual districts. Washington, D.C., and many Virginia districts impose restrictions, but with milder penalties. Supporters say the phones are a safety measure for many children, but critics say they disrupt classrooms.

N.J. loosens requirements for teachers

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TRENTON, N.J.

In a bid to increase the number of preschool teachers, state education officials relaxed requirements for those who teach 3- and 4-year-olds. The decision, which runs counter to a national trend to increase the quality of teachers, anticipates a shortage of 425 or more preschool teachers.

Under the new requirements, teachers need only have a regular elementary certificate and two years experience with preschool children. Previously, the state required a specific pre-kindergarten certificate.

Backpack rules take a load off

GENEVA, N.Y.

Backpacks are now used only to schlepp books and papers to and from home at Geneva Middle School. During school hours, students are told to carry just the books needed for a specific class, leaving others in their lockers.

Both parents and teachers had complained about backpacks. Parents were concerned about the Sisyphean loads. In one study by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, 58 percent reported seeing patients for back and shoulder injuries caused by book bags. Teachers were more content oriented. Many expressed concerns about the types of things their students might have been toting around.

Compiled from wires by Samar Farah Attention college students

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