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SAFETY GEAR DEACTIVATED ON DOOR THAT CRUSHED BOY

A physical education teacher had deactivated a safety feature on a motorized door, then walked away on the day the device crushed a 12-year-old pupil to death, a school district investigation has determined.

Jane Bryant's physical education class had been dismissed about two minutes late on Jan. 29, the investigation found. Once the gym was empty, Bryant started the motorized door with a key, then deactivated the safety mechanism by wrapping her key chain around the key to prevent the switch from returning to the off position.

Bryant then walked into the hallway to supervise pupils between classes while the two-story-tall door closed.

Rashad Richardson entered the gym looking for a teacher to give him a late pass. Not finding one, the seventh-grader apparently tried to cross back to the other side of the gym just as the partition closed against the wall.

Superintendent Judith Pastel said the teacher's actions were common practice at the school. The school had no written policy on the safe operation of the room dividers but will now mandate teachers stay at the controls while the door is closing.

Brooklyn man slain as four
enter apartment with key

NEW YORK (AP) -- A City Council employee walking to answer a knock at his Brooklyn apartment door was fatally shot in the chest, police said Tuesday.

Charles Woods, 29, died at the scene shortly after 4 p.m. Monday but was able to give police descriptions of the four men who entered his apartment with a key. Police Tuesday were interviewing neighbors in the Gowanus Public Housing Development for any leads.

Police found keys to Woods' apartment in a paper bag outside the building and were trying to determine who put them there. Woods' roommate told police he had left his keys in the mailbox slot earlier that day. The roommate also said he had talked with one or two people near the mailbox, and police were investigating whether they took his keys.

Woods, a legislative assistant in the budget office, began working for the City Council in February 1989. He had taken Monday off and was using his computer when he heard the knock on his door, police said. Nothing was taken from the apartment, and police believe the men were startled when they found Woods there.

Two legislators push
for tough rules on mercury

ALBANY (AP) -- Two state lawmakers said Tuesday they want to impose what they called the most stringent regulations in the United States on products containing mercury.

The measure would prohibit mercury-laden items from being dumped in landfills or burned in incinerators, ban mercury in thermometers, toys and most other consumer products marketed in the state by 2004 and prohibit dentists from using amalgam containing mercury for fillings in the mouths of children under age 15 or pregnant women.

The lawmakers acknowledged Tuesday that they are uncertain of the extent of the problem their bill is designed to address.

The bill is sponsored by Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, D-Westchester, and Sen. Michael Balboni, R-Nassau County.

Mercury can cause neurological and internal problems in humans. Children, pregnant women and fetuses are especially vulnerable.

Plan would lift earnings limit
for retired teachers to return

ALBANY (AP) -- State Senate Republicans proposed a teacher retention plan Tuesday that would lift a limit on earnings by retired teachers who return to the classroom.

Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno, R-Brunswick, said the plan would help the state deal with the projected retirement within a decade of about half of the 230,000 teachers now in its classrooms.

To retain full retirement benefits, retired teachers cannot earn more than $18,500-a-year from public employment. One Senate proposal would remove that limit for former teachers who go back to the classroom.

Another proposal would provide extra pension credits for teachers who opt to stay on the job after reaching the customary retirement age of 55.

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