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Calif. Bill Allows Students To Wear Religious Knives

The California legislature has approved a bill that would allow Sikh students to wear symbolic religious daggers to school despite anti-weapons policies.

The daggers, known as kirpans, are at the heart of a case in which a Sikh family with three students has sued the Livingston, Calif., school district over its weapons ban. A federal judge ruled for the district, and the case has been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. (See Education Week, June 8, 1994.)

Sponsors of the bill say it would promote religious tolerance. The bill says the kirpans must be kept in their sheaths and under students' clothing.

The Assembly passed the bill Aug. 25 on a 44-to-24 vote. The Senate passed it unanimously on Aug. 29 and sent it to the governor.

Welfare Debate

A proposed overhaul of the welfare system in Massachusetts is likely to be taken up again this fall after Gov. William F. Weld's veto of the legislature's first effort was narrowly sustained.

Governor Weld vetoed the legislature's plan in July, saying it did not go far enough. It called for a cap on benefits and possible cuts for recipients who refuse to sign up for job training or education.

The Governor wants all able-bodied welfare recipients to get a job or perform 25 hours a week of state-funded community service within 60 days of going on welfare.

Lawmakers nearly overrode the Republican Governor's veto last month, but two liberal Democrats provided the decisive votes.

Since that time, some lawmakers have negotiated with the Governor, while others have called for a new override vote. The issue may not be taken up again until after the Sept. 20 primary election.

Anti-Strike Law

Michigan teachers have filed a legal challenge to a law that limits the bargaining power of teachers' unions.

The law, which would take effect next spring, would fine unions $5,000 a day and teachers a day's pay for each day of a strike. The law also puts some issues off-limits for collective bargaining.

Officials of the Michigan Education Association filed suit in Wayne County last month, arguing that the bill illegally strips teachers of their bargaining rights. The state A.F.L.-C.I.O. is also challenging the law.

Dissection Ban

A new state law bars New York elementary and secondary school students from performing harmful experiments on live vertebrate animals.

The law specifically bars tests that result in the death of such animals or expose them to toxic chemicals or extreme temperatures.

The law permits students in the 10th through 12th grades who are pursuing accelerated coursework to conduct such experiments with approval from the state education department. It also provides that students who object to dissecting animals may choose alternative coursework without penalty.

Quake Readiness

Earthquake drills and emergency planning must become higher priorities for schools to avert tragedies and ward off lawsuits, a task force told California lawmakers last month.

They warned that a quake during school hours could endanger thousands of children, and recommended equipping schools with emergency supplies, securing loose classroom objects, and drilling teachers on rescue techniques.

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