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Fla. District Abandons 'America First' Policy

The Lake County, Fla., school board has rescinded a controversial policy that required students be taught that U.S. culture is superior to all others.

In one of its first official acts since last month's elections shifted the balance of power in favor of moderate members, the board voted 3 to 2 to eliminate the measure that brought the central Florida district worldwide publicity. (See Education Week, 11/16/94.)

A final vote is scheduled for next month.

The new board majority acted swiftly on the so-called "America First" policy because "that was the major statement that each of the candidates made on the campaign trail," Kyleen Fischer, the new chairwoman, said.

Consolidation Challenged: A Chattanooga, Tenn., civil-rights activist and two parents have filed a lawsuit to block the voter-approved consolidation of the city's school district with Hamilton County.

The lawsuit alleges that the Nov. 8 referendum was confusing and that it misled voters with claims that it would save $5 million in property taxes. (See Education Week, 11/16/94.)

The merger would also harm inner-city black students, said James Mapp, the president of the city's branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons, one of the lawsuit's sponsors.

No court date has been set for the complaint, filed Nov. 18.

Seattle Bond Fails: The counting of absentee ballots has left Seattle just short of passing a school-construction bond.

The $332 million bond had narrowly passed at the Nov. 8 polls, but its lead dissolved last month as the absentee ballots were tallied. In the end, it garnered 59.1 percent of vote, just shy of the 60 percent super-majority required under Washington State law.

Seattle has tried, unsuccessfully, to pass similar bonds three times in the past two years. After last month's defeat, district officials said they may seek changes in state law that would enable school bonds to pass with a simple majority, or more than 50 percent, of the vote. (See Education Week, 11/16/94.)

Dade Changes Ordered: A federal judge has ordered changes in the structure of the Dade County, Fla., school board to increase minority representation.

U.S. District Judge Lenore C. Nesbitt last month accepted a settlement calling for the board to go from seven seats, all elected at large, to nine seats, all elected by ward.

Whites held five of seven seats on the board when it agreed last spring to settle the voting-rights lawsuit brought by advocates for the Miami area's minority residents. Of the nine new wards, only two will be predominantly white. (See Education Week, 05/11/94.)

Age Limits Upheld: Students with learning disabilities may not claim discrimination if they are deemed ineligible to play interscholastic sports because they exceed the age limit, a federal court has ruled.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled 2 to 1 last month that an age limit is an essential requirement and that to waive it would fundamentally alter the nature of school sports programs.

The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit by a 19-year-old high school senior from Missouri, who repeated two grades in elementary school as a result of what was later diagnosed as a learning disability. The student was not a "qualified individual" under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 or the Americans with Disabilities Act, the court ruled. (See Education Week, 11/23/94.)

While both laws allow for reasonable accommodations for the disabled, the court said the only possible answer in the Missouri student's case was waiving the age limit, which did not represent a reasonable modification.

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