State Journal: Pop go the schools; 'Wimp' lobby; Chastity bill chastised

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In the first flush of enthusiasm of the new legislative year, lawmakers across the nation are tackling a highly diverse array of education related bills.

In West Virginia, for example, House members spent three hours last month arguing over a bill to allow the sale of soft drinks in schools.

The bill was backed by soft drink manufacturers and some school administrators, who hope to use revenues from pop sales for school activities. Critics faulted the measure for encouraging use of sugar- and caffeine-laden beverages.

Before approving the bill, delegates engaged in extensive debate and considered nearly a dozen amendments.

Afterwards, some members expressed embarrassment that they had spent so much time on a proposal with at best a tangential relationship to school improvement.

"This is why the West Virginia legislature and government per se in this country have the reputation that we do," one delegate was quoted as saying.

In California, meanwhile, the Assembly has approved a bill allowing girls to compete for spots on boys' sports teams, but not the other way around.

The measure would permit girls to try out for boys' teams even when the school already had a girls' team in that sport.

Supporters of the bill said it would give girls access to better-funded boys' teams, and thus offer an equal opportunity for training and scholarships. But opponents of the bill, which passed 41 to 28, said it would undermine women's athletics.

During floor debate, one opponent faulted the measure for harming a frequently overlooked interest group.

"Somebody has to take care of... the wimpy little guys that can't compete on the boys' teams," said Assemblyman Richard E. Floyd.

South Dakota's Republican governor has issued a sharp public criticism of a House bill calling on the schools to teach the value of sexual abstinence.

Gov. George S. Mickelson argued that inculcating chastity in young people is a duty of the family, not the schools.

"It is totally wrong and a sad commentary on society that we would ask schools to do in their curriculum what should be done in our homes," he said, adding, "We cannot expect teachers in this state to assume parental responsibilities."

In the wake of Mr. Mickelson's comments, the House last week first rejected and later passed the chastity measure by narrow margins.--H.D.

Vol. 11, Issue 21

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