State News Roundup

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In a case involving disciplinary actions taken by two school principals, a Florida judge has ruled that bruises caused by paddling do not constitute proof of child abuse.

The Jan. 25 ruling challenges a Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services policy that classifies as a child abuser anyone who inflicts punishment on a child that leaves a visible bruise lasting 24 hours.

In his opinion, Hillsborough Circuit Judge Thomas A. Miller ordered that state health officials strike the names of the prin6cipals--Martha F. Hood and Paul E. Rich--from a statewide registry of child abusers. He said their actions did not merit the charge of child abuse.

The two school officials had sued the agency last summer, after learning that the state action would disqualify them from working with children.

Corporal punishment is legal in Florida schools.

Steven Konicki, a spokesman for the health department, said officials there were seeking another hearing on the matter.

Wyoming school officials cannot use a 1979 law to bar students without immunizations from attending school, according to the state attorney general.

In an opinion written last month for the state department of health and social services, Attorney General Joseph B. Meyer said school administrators can only legally exclude unvaccinated students if there is an epidemic that could be prevented by the vaccinations.

The statute requires all students age 10 or younger to provide immunization records within 120 days of entering a public school.

However, Mr. Meyer discovered, language that also would have permitted the exclusion of students who did not comply was removed when legislators amended the law last year.

"On the one hand, we have to insist that students be immunized," said Rowena Heckert, a senior assistant attorney general. "On the other hand, we can't keep them out of school if they don't."

Vol. 08, Issue 21

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