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Washington state's constitutional mandate to provide "ample" education to children does not mean students can attend whatever school districts they choose, the state supreme court ruled this month.

The Aug. 8 opinion overruled by a 7-2 vote a superior-court decision that the North River School District must allow two children from that district to attend school in nearby Cosmopolis because the children's parents felt they would receive a better education in Cosmopolis.

The children had attended the Cosmopolis district for one year, while living with relatives, before their parents asked North River to formally release them.

Under Washington law, students must receive permission from their home district to attend school in another district.

Requiring the children to attend school in their home district was not a violation of their constitutional rights, Chief Justice James M. Dolliver said in the majority opinion.

Under the state law, students may switch from their home district if they satisfy certain "statutory criteria" for special educational needs. The parents had failed to demonstrate any difference between the education in the two districts that would necessitate a change, said Judge Dolliver.

The South Dakota Supreme Court has ruled that two state laws allowing public schools to lend textbooks free to private-school students violate the state constitution.

In its ruling, the court cited a previous state supreme court decision holding that the constitution prohibits "in every form ... the appropriation of the public funds for the benefit of or to aid any sectarian school or institution."

Because of the textbook ruling, all of South Dakota's private schools have this month returned their textbooks to the public schools. The public schools have declared the books surplus and plan to sell them.

The suit was originally filed in 1980 in federal district court by a group of citizens supported by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which charged that the loan laws violated both the U.S. and state constitutions. The federal district and appellate courts held that they did not violate the U.S. Constitution, but they passed the state-constitution question to the South Dakota high court.

Vol. 04, Issue 40 & 41

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