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Arizona Governor Vetoes Controversial Pupil-Rights Protection Bill

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Gov. Bruce E. Babbitt of Arizona late last week vetoed the first bill based on the controversial federal Hatch Amendment to be passed by a state legislature.

Secretary Bennett comments onHatch Amendment, page 12.

The Republican-controlled Arizona House and Senate passed the "pupil-rights protection" bill last week, after the Senate substituted an amendment that softened and generalized the original legislation's provisions.

The initial bill, passed by the House, was identical to the federal amendment, which bars schools from involving children in certain federally sponsored programs of research or psychological testing without parental consent.

The Hatch Amendment applies to all federally supported programs, while the Arizona legislation would apply to all state-supported programs.

Veto Expected

Jim West, a spokesman for Governor Babbitt, a Democrat, said the Governor had indicated that he would veto the bill.

"The Governor's feeling is that the legislation is an effort to usurp control of local school districts," Mr. West said.

The new bill states that "no instruction in a common school or a high school may include administration of any test containing any questions about pupils' or their parents' personal beliefs or practices in sex, morality, or religion."

Like the federal Hatch Amendment, the bill states that "test" means "any test, psychological inventory, survey, examination, or6role-playing technique."

The bill contains some exceptions, including tests that are approved by the local school board following at least one public hearing or are based on textbooks or other instructional materials specifically approved by the school board. In either case, a student may still be exempt from the test with written permission from a parent or guardian.

The bill also allows parents or guardians access to all materials, including textbooks and films, used in the classroom.

The legislation does, however, permit school officials to inquire about suspected child abuse or "any other acts prohibited by law."

Teachers' Opposition

The Arizona Education Association and the state parent-teacher organization among others, lobbied heavily against the bill.

"We felt it was unnecessary," said Nancy Whitaker, political-action program manager for the aea, the state affiliate of the National Education Association. "We already have the Hatch Amendment, which is being abused."

Representative James Cooper, chairman of the House education committee and sponsor of the bill, said he felt the bill was necessary because "federal laws aren't that well known. I doubt one in 100 knew about the law until I brought it up."

Other States Involved

People for the American Way, a group belonging to a coalition of about 22 organizations opposed to the federal law, estimates that similar legislation has been introduced in at least 10 other state legislatures. North Dakota lawmakers defeated a similar bill in March.

The civil-liberties group said in a newsletter that the Arizona bill and similar legislation in other states "give the fundamentalist critics of the public schools yet another device to utilize to oppose those programs to which they object--from sex education and the teaching of evolution to drug and alcohol prevention and discussions about nuclear war."

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