Trouble in Maryland Boot Camps

Alleged Abuses Bring Temporary Closure

The guards were supposed to be the good guys, helping to turn around teenage offenders sent to Maryland's boot camps. But it didn't work that way.

The facilities in Western Maryland have been closed temporarily, the state's secretary of Juvenile Justice and four other top officials have lost their jobs, and some guards are under a criminal probe after investigators concluded that teenagers routinely had been beaten and abused.

The guards engaged in "unconscionable abuse of authority" and there was a "complete breakdown" in the Juvenile Justice Department's chain of command, said Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

But Townsend, a Democrat who oversees the state's criminal justice system, said she still thinks that military-style boot camps are a good idea and that they should continue once reviews are completed.

Just in Time for Shopping

6,000 Unionized D.C. City Employees Get Bonuses

Almost 6,000 unionized D.C. government workers are no doubt in a festive frame of mind, after getting $1,700 checks from the city just days before Christmas.

The bonuses weren't really a gift. They were required under the current contract, which requires the city to compensate unionized workers if the city runs a surplus.

But all the same, the extra cash is much appreciated. "I thought I was going to have to tell my kids that Santa Claus didn't make it to the bank," said city employee Miranda Gillis.

The deal was a nail-biter to the end. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) and his team had battled for weeks with the D.C. Council, whose members contended that his first plan to pay for the bonuses was fiscally irresponsible.

Across the Region

Budget Surplus; Civil Rights Suit; Party Fizzles

* Who wants to be a billionaire? Thanks to the soaring economy, Maryland is expected to reap a budget surplus of nearly that amount this year, and now almost everyone is looking for a piece of the pie. Republicans have called for more tax cuts, but Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) wants to pour the money, estimated at $925 million, into school construction, transportation projects and other one-time needs that wouldn't leave the state in the hole if the economy sours.

* A toy store chain has been slapped with a civil rights suit for routinely rejecting personal checks in several mostly black neighborhoods in the Washington-Baltimore area. A company spokesman says KB Toys stores that got a lot of bad checks stopped taking them altogether, including some mostly white communities in other states. But some shoppers are furious. "Something told me they wouldn't do this if I were in a white neighborhood," said Avis E. Buchanan, whose check was rejected at a KB Toys store in Forestville.

* One of the two Arlington boys charged with putting soap in their teacher's drinking water has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. The Randolph Elementary School fifth-grader is set to be sentenced next month, after pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault and battery. The other 10-year-old still faces a charge of trying to kill or injure the teacher, a felony.

* If only it could scrounge up a few billion, a panel of Northern Virginia's top political leaders would know just what to do with it: Build two bridges over the Potomac; extend Metro to near the Potomac Mills discount mall; build an outer beltway from Stafford County into Maryland. The bipartisan Northern Virginia Transportation Coordinating Council hopes the General Assembly will consider the 20-year plan when it convenes in January.

* For the second time in recent years, Maryland's top-grossing lobbyist has been indicted. Gerard E. Evans is charged with scheming, with Del. Tony E. Fulton (D-Baltimore), to defraud Evans's clients of more than $400,000. Both men deny the allegations. Evans's predecessor as top moneymaking lobbyist, Bruce C. Bereano, was convicted of mail fraud about five years ago.

* It's tough being a baby in the District, a new study shows. The Annie E. Casey Foundation says D.C. infants are more likely to be born prematurely and underweight than in most other U.S. cities. And nearly two out of three babies in the nation's capital were born to unwed mothers.

* Low-income Hispanics are often denied equal access to Maryland's judicial system because of language barriers, discrimination and legal restrictions based on immigration status, two groups concluded after a three-year study. A spokesman for Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) says the governor will investigate the allegations by the Public Justice Center and Casa de Maryland.

* This New Year's bit is getting old, it seems. One of Washington's fanciest millennial bashes was called off after the $500 and $2,000 tickets failed to sell. The Who's Roger Daltrey was to headline the "America's New Millennium" gala at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. Other splashy events have been scaled down or called off in cities across the country.

-- Erica Johnston

Even More From Monica

Lewinsky Testifies in Maryland Wiretapping Case Against Tripp

Almost two years after Monica S. Lewinsky arrived in the public's consciousness, the former White House intern was back in the Washington area last week, testifying for the first time in a public courtroom appearance.

But she wasn't being grilled about former paramour President Clinton; it was her former confidante Linda R. Tripp whom prosecutors were interested in. Tripp has been indicted on two charges, and Lewinsky took the witness stand in a Howard County courtroom to boost Maryland prosecutors' case that Tripp illegally taped a phone conversation with her.

Lewinsky, now 26, was calm and confident during 75 minutes of questioning. Tripp was nowhere to be seen. But her 25-year-old son, Ryan, was in the fourth row.

Tripp's attorneys are trying to have much of the state's evidence excluded from her trial. They say Lewinsky and other prosecution witnesses learned about the recording from former independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's office after Tripp began cooperating under a grant of immunity. Evidence obtained from someone who has been given immunity cannot be used against the person in court.

But Lewinsky testified that she vividly remembered, without any help from Starr's office, the call that turned her affair with Clinton into a public spectacle.

"I was pretty upset," Lewinsky testified, when asked what she thought as she read a transcript of the call in the Feb. 2, 1998, issue of Newsweek magazine. "In this issue, there was the transcript of . . . my conversation with Linda Tripp from Dec. 22, 1997, and I think that was pretty frightening to me."

The date is key because it would mean that Tripp taped the call after prosecutors say a lawyer warned her it was illegal to do so without Lewinsky's consent.

And then Lewinsky was gone, whisked out of Ellicott City and on a flight to New York. Tripp, for her part, is set to go on trial Jan. 18.

For Montgomery Kindergartners, It's Time to Get Serious

School Board Backs More Reading, Writing and Math, Less Music and Art

Hey, kids: No loafing! Get to work! Even if you are only 5!

Citing higher expectations and the importance of early childhood education, the Montgomery County Board of Education has unanimously agreed to beef up academics in a grade better known for nap time and stories read aloud.

Starting as soon as next fall, Montgomery kindergartners will spend more time on reading, writing and math, and less on music and art. The plan, spearheaded by School Superintendent Jerry D. Weast, also calls for tripling the number of all-day kindergartens in the neediest schools and shrinking the average class size to 17 students from about 20.

"The research shows that children learn early, that children are much more able to absorb concepts much earlier than we thought," Weast said. "Expensive day cares have been selling this kind of instruction for a long period of time. It's about time we provided it for all our children."

Weast says tests show that even in kindergarten, African American and Hispanic students in Montgomery tend to lag academically behind their white and Asian classmates. He says his plan will help to close the gap.

But researcher Fran Bridges said a better curriculum and a longer kindergarten day would just be a start for needy children. "The issues are much more complicated than we are ever willing to talk about," she said. "One year's worth of intervention in the lives of children whose lives are already challenged is not enough."

CAPTION: Monica S. Lewinsky leaves the Howard County Courthouse after testifying.

CAPTION: Linda R. Tripp, shown in a March photo, faces trial next month.

CAPTION: Kindergartner Emily Kong pauses during recess on the Sunderland Elementary School playground. At the Calvert County school, kindergarten became an all-day affair last month.