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Ill. Officials Stand Firm on Expulsions

November 16, 1999

DECATUR, Ill. (AP) _ School officials on Monday held firm against further compromise in the expulsions of six students involved in a brawl, despite the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s threat to step up the confrontation if they don’t.

Jackson threatened to cross police lines and risk arrest Tuesday if the school board doesn’t agree to let the students return to regular school in January, providing they maintain good grades and behavior in alternative school.

The school board planned to hold an emergency meeting, perhaps as early as Tuesday, but members don’t want to consider Jackson’s proposal, said Jan Mandernach, the board’s vice president.

``This was a very violent act, and our concern is that we keep our school safe for children,″ Mandernach said.

The board expelled the students for two school years after a brawl in the stands at a football game Sept. 17. A seventh student withdrew during expulsion hearings. The students are black, but Jackson has said it was not a question of racism but whether the students were treated fairly.

Jackson said the expelled students are not attending alternative school and should not until the board promises that good behavior and grades will earn them a return to regular classrooms in January.

At a church rally that drew about 400 people Monday night, nearly everyone _ including the students involved _ stood when Jackson asked who was willing to be arrested.

``Let’s get ready to rumble,″ the Rev. James Meeks said at the rally. ``It’s time to put our bodies where our minds have been.″

On Sunday, Jackson led about 2,000 people on a march in this blue-collar city. He organized a similar one a week earlier.

Decatur Superintendent Kenneth Arndt said the fears of parents and students kept Monday’s attendance to between 40 percent and 50 percent. He vowed schools would remain open Tuesday, despite Jackson’s planned protest.

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