BALTIMORE (CWN) - A federal judge on Monday revoked a lower court order that allowed two expelled students to return to a Catholic high school even as their case moved toward trial in a federal court.

      St. John's Literary Institution at Prospect Hall in Frederick, Maryland expelled two black students, Allison Mathis and Damien Wilkins, from the exclusive school after they were found allegedly kissing and fondling each other in a school hallway. The two juniors sued the school, saying they had been subjected to racial discrimination and that their enrollment contract had been breached. The school replied that the students had violated Catholic moral standards as well as the students' rules of conduct.

      Frederick County Circuit Court Judge Mary Ann Stepler had ordered the school to readmit the students pending resolution of the lawsuit, but David Grove, the school's attorney, said the federal reversal of the order was necessary to maintain control over discipline. After Stepler's original order on February 26, Wilkins was able to play in the school's final basketball game, allowing the school to maintain its unofficial standing as the top-ranked high school basketball team in the country. Wilkin's father is Orlando Magic basketball player Gerald Wilkins. Mathis' mother is the daughter of Gannett News Service White House correspondent Deborah Mathis.

      The controversy began on February 6 when a teacher found the students in a hallway after school hours, engaged in sexual activity. The students later admitted to school officials that they were kissing and fondling each other, but were not about to engage in intercourse as charged by the teacher. Their parents said the children were being punished for what they might have done, but officials said the conduct admitted to is enough for disciplinary action.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT:To subscribe to Catholic World News Service, available daily by e-mail, click here .

March 26, 1998 volume 9, no. 61         DAILY CATHOLIC