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A proposed District of Columbia ballot initiative that would require school officials to allow student-initiated prayers is being challenged in a lawsuit filed last week by the American Civil Liberties Union and People for the American Way.

The District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics, which must consider whether proposed measures would be unconstitutional, decided last month that the initiative effort could proceed. Charles Ballard, a local teacher and community activist who is promoting the measure, must still gather petition signatures from 16,500 registered voters by July 11 for the measure to appear on the November ballot. (See Education Week, April 27, 1994.)

The lawsuit, filed May 16 in superior court on behalf of 20 Washington residents, argues that the student-led, nonsectarian prayers authorized by the initiative would be clearly unconstitutional and asks that the board be barred from accepting the initiative.

Board Backs Student Press: The Dade County, Fla., school board has approved a policy that provides student publications with stronger protection against interference by school administrators.

The new policy, recommended by a task force of students, teachers, and administrators, bars school principals from any prior review of student publications. The task force was created after several recent incidents in which principals were accused of ordering changes in high-school-newspaper stories. (See Education Week, Feb. 2, 1994.)

The district's previous policy on student publications, which encouraged full press freedom for student journalists, was considered one of the most liberal in the nation. The new policy, approved unanimously by the board on May 11, makes clear that principals are prohibited from reviewing publications.

Restructuring List Grows: The Los Angeles board of education voted last week to add 53 schools to those that are implementing the reform recommendations made by the Los Angeles Educational Alliance for Restructuring Now, known as LEARN.

LEARN's plan, which the school board has adopted, calls for improving student achievement by decentralizing decisionmaking authority, improving curriculum and assessment, increasing parental involvement, and holding educators accountable for results.

The 53 new schools join 34 schools selected last year for restructuring. The list includes four high schools, six alternative high schools, four middle schools, four preschools, and 35 elementary schools throughout the district. (See Education Week, June 9, 1993.)

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