THE REGION

6 Baltimore Schools Deemed Dangerous

Six Maryland public schools -- all Baltimore middle schools -- will be declared "persistently dangerous" by the state because of consistently high levels of student suspensions and expulsions for violent offenses, according to a state education spokesman.

Neither Virginia nor the District of Columbia has designated any persistently dangerous schools for the coming school year, according to spokesmen for their school systems.

The Baltimore schools will be cited today because, for three consecutive years, more than 2.5 percent of their students were suspended for 10 days or more or expelled, according to Bill Reinhard, spokesman for the Maryland State Board of Education. The schools are Thurgood Marshall, Calverton, Canton, Harlem Park, Highlandtown and Lombard middle schools.

Baltimore school officials dispute the state list and contend that only four of the schools, excluding Lombard and Harlem Park, deserve inclusion.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, parents of students at persistently dangerous schools have the right to transfer to a safer campus.

Vehicle Thefts Drop in Metro Lots

Thefts of cars and trucks from Metro parking lots and garages decreased 40 percent in the first six months of this year, compared with the same period in 2004, transit police said. Vehicle thefts dropped from 111 last year to 66 this year. Attempted car thefts were down 41 percent, police said.

Metro Transit Police Chief Polly L. Hanson attributed the decrease to a special auto theft unit that was created in 2003.

Gambling Ring Organizer Pleads Guilty

A 70-year-old Potomac resident pleaded guilty yesterday to money laundering and running an illegal gambling ring, admitting in federal court that for more than a year the organization had catered to gamblers in the Washington and Baltimore areas.

Alvin Kotz's gambling ring accepted wagers for almost every sporting event, prosecutors said. During football season, members of the organization met with bettors regularly at Timpano Italian Chop House in Rockville to settle bets, they said. Records seized by law enforcement agents indicated that during one week late in 2003, the organization had a profit of approximately $330,000, prosecutors said.

Kotz faces a maximum of 25 years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced in October.

MARYLAND

Drive-By Shooting Wounds Three Men

Three men were wounded last night in a drive-by shooting in front of an apartment building in the Oxon Hill area, Prince George's County police said.

Four people were standing in front of the building in the 900 block of Marcy Avenue, and three were struck just before 10 p.m., said Cpl. Kim Brown, a police spokeswoman. Witnesses told police that a gold Windstar or Chrysler van with several people inside pulled up to the building and that one person opened fire, she said.

All three victims were taken to hospitals with injuries that were not believed to be life-threatening, Brown said.

St. Mary's College to Add Scholarships

St. Mary's College of Maryland will increase the number of scholarships it offers to Baltimore students, thanks to an endowment that has grown to $1.5 million from a $100,000 donation in 2003. President Maggie O'Brien said she hopes the fund will grow to $2 million by the end of the year.

THE DISTRICT

Cars Broken Into, Stolen From RFK Lots

Three cars were stolen and 10 were broken into late Monday and early yesterday at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium parking lots, D.C. police said. The thefts come less than a month after several vehicles owned by Nationals players were victims of a similar rash of break-ins and an outfielder's car was stolen.

In the recent incidents, several of the vehicles were owned by staff members of the Nationals and D.C. United, police and stadium officials said. A television photographer's sport-utility vehicle also was stolen, they said.

District Kids Can Now Swim Free

Beginning today, the District's 32 public swimming pools will waive the $1 entrance fee for city youths 17 and younger, Mayor Anthony A. Williams announced yesterday. The fee waiver will remain in effect for the rest of the summer season, which ends Sept. 6.

"I'm pleased that the city's healthy economy makes it possible for us to waive the $1 fee," Williams (D) said in a written statement released by his office. "By eliminating the fee, we hope that even more people will come out to use the city's beautiful pools, especially with the temperature so high."

Williams is spending the week in Hawaii to attend the annual convention of the National Association of Counties.

VIRGINIA

Old Courthouse Closed by Flooding

Basement flooding forced Fairfax officials to close the old county courthouse on Chain Bridge Road early yesterday. Maintenance crews were scheduled to begin repairs last night, and it was unclear whether the building -- which houses the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court -- would reopen today.

The 5 p.m. closing canceled evening meetings and programs. The county will post updates on its Web site, www.fairfaxcounty.gov, and on the emergency information line at 703-817-7771.

Taxi Fares Go Up in Fairfax

A cab ride in Fairfax County will cost more starting today, when a fare increase requested by the taxi industry takes effect.

The initial charge will increase to $2.75 for the first one-fifth of a mile. The old fee was $2.25 for the first quarter-mile.

Each additional mile will climb 15 cents, to $1.75. The waiting-time charge will rise to $21 an hour from $18.

The Board of Supervisors approved an emergency 50-cent surcharge for five months in 2004 in response to rising gasoline prices. Today's increase is the first permanent fare increase since 2001, officials said.

"We're just a small group, maybe with a powerful idea. We don't have a clue, but we're not letting go."

-- Richard Lawrence, a member of the Northern Virginia-based Message Group, which works to defend evolution. -- B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Daniel de Vise, Steven Goff, Susan Kinzie, Lisa Rein, Lori Montgomery, Lyndsey Layton, Del Quintin Wilber, Clarence Williams and Eric Rich and the Associated Press.