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High-school students in New Orleans have begun a petition drive to encourage the Louisiana legislature to pass a law that would exempt students from having to dissect animals in science classes.

The students, many of whom attend Benjamin Franklin High School, launched their effort last month in the hope of convincing legislators that Louisiana should follow a precedent established by the state of California.

Under the California law--the first of its kind in the nation--students may be excused from dissection without penalty, but generally make up the work with a comparable activity.

Officials for California's education department note, however, that the law has not led to any exodus of students from dissection.

The effort in Louisiana apparently is not connected to a national effort undertaken by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a Washington D.C.-based animal-rights group, to apply pressure at the "grassroots level" to have dissection banned from curricula across the country. (See Education Week, Feb. 20, 1991.)

The American Medical Association has publicly criticized that effort as "anti-science."


The Fairfax Christian School of Vienna, Va., has finally opened, after a nearly three-year struggle with the county government over permits and zoning.

The school, run by Robert L. Thoburn, a former state delegate and the head of one of Northern Virgina's wealthiest and most politically active conservative Christian families, held classes in its new three-building campus on April 22. A judge ruled in 1988 that the Thoburns did not have permits to operate a school on a 29-acre site that was zoned for residential use, and that the buildings did not meet school safety standards.

The Thoburns filed suit, charging that county officials harassed and discriminated against them because of their religious beliefs. A federal district judge dismissed those claims.(See Education Week, May 23, 1990.)

The county later approved the site for the school, but took 19 months to approve a site plan for the buildings, according to John M. Thoburn, project manager of the school. The cost to renovate the buildings to meet county regulations was $1 million, he said.

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