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SHORT TAKES

DOUBLE IDENTITY
The new kid at Grant High School in Portland, Ore., seemed to be a model student. Deandre Deangelo made the honor roll and sang in the A Cappella Choir. But appearances can be deceiving. In December, police discovered Deangelo was actually a 31-year-old fugitive named Michael Backman -- who had already graduated in 1986 from the same high school. Detectives said Backman's baby face allowed him to pass as a 17-year-old. An anonymous tip led to his arrest on outstanding theft, forgery and parole violation charges. So why would anyone want to go back to high school anyway? Backman told detectives it was his chance to start over, get an education and go to college.

KICKING THE HABIT?
For the second straight year, teens' use of alcohol and drugs has held steady, according to a new government study. That's good news, said government officials, because for years, teen drug and alcohol use was on the rise. The 1998 survey quizzed eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders about their drug, alcohol and cigarette use. Among younger students, drug use actually went down slightly: Twenty-one percent of eighth-graders reported using any type of illegal drugs, compared to 23.6 percent in 1997. Thirty-five percent of 10th graders said they did, down from 38.5 percent. (Drug use among high school seniors was about the same as the year before.)

BIRDS AND BEES
Only 7 percent of American teens learn about sex from their parents, according to a recent Time/CNN poll. So, for many kids, by the time their parents get around to explaining sex, it's too late -- kids already know the facts of life, many experts say. A new theory urges parents to have the "big talk" by the time a child is 8.

A SAFE PLACE TO HANG
President Clinton announced he wants to triple the amount of federal money spent on after-school programs to $600 million. The programs are designed to provide a safe place for kids when their parents are at work and to keep kids out of trouble. The Clinton administration estimates more than 28 million school-age children have two parents who work, and at least 5 million are left home alone after school. Studies have shown that half of violent juvenile crimes occur between 2 and 8 p.m., and that kids are more likely to experiment with drugs, alcohol and sex if they're unsupervised.

JUSTICE FOR ALL
If an abused child dies, the person involved should be charged with murder, President Clinton said recently. During a White House ceremony, Clinton unveiled a plan that would make it easier for federal prosecutors to charge felony murder in such cases, without having to prove the act was premeditated. Clinton said it was "time to ask why a bank robber who unintentionally kills an innocent bystander can be charged with felony murder but a repeat child abuser who unintentionally kills a child cannot be."

-- Knight Ridder

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