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State Journal: Exceptions; Fingerprints

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Following the "zero tolerance" trend--and a federal mandate--Louisiana lawmakers last year voted to require that students who bring firearms onto school property be expelled for a year.

But some advocates of gun rights added a provision exempting students who bring guns to school for a school class, like riflery. The law would aslo ban expulsions of students whose guns are "stored in a properly parked student vehicle in the absence of circumstances evidencing intent to utilize them in a criminal manner."

"The reasoning was, maybe the kid had been out squirrel hunting and forgotten about the gun in his pickup," said Winfred Sibille, the chief lobbyist for the Louisiana School Boards Association. "They were good intentions, but it's going to make it very difficult for us to enforce." It might also cause the law to fall short of federal requirements. (See Education Week, Oct. 11, 1995.)

The school board for St. James Parish, a 4,500-student district midway between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, earlier this month passed a resolution calling on the legislature to strike the exceptions. And Mr. Sibille said he expects a vote on the issue at the state association's annual meeting in late February.

"Everybody's been complaining about it," said John D. Boughton, the superintendent in St. James Parish. "It just seems like a pretty dangerous situation."

Teachers seeking state certification in Idaho will have to be fingerprinted and pass a criminal-background check if the legislature approves a plan from state Superintendent Anne Fox.

But Gary Schroeder, the chairman of the Senate education committee and a fellow Republican, thinks it's an intrusion on individual freedom.

"Are we going to fingerprint hunters before they get a hunting license?" he asked. "Are we going to fingerprint farmers before they get their subsidy check?"

"Dr. Fox has not suggested that her staff be fingerprinted, where the problems seem to have originated in the first place," he added.

Ms. Fox's chief deputy, Terry Haws, resigned after just a few weeks on the job, when media reports surfaced that he had pleaded no contest to charges of giving drugs to a minor years earlier in Alaska.

Ms. Fox says she was motivated by her work at a home for abused children. She hopes the plan would protect students from being victimized by criminals, and noted that neighboring states have similar laws.

--Lynn Schnaiberg & Meg Sommerfeld

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