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Skating to Victory

It's tough to fight City Hall, or the Statehouse, but it helps when you can skate around them.

That's one of several approaches that high school students at the Hannah More School near Baltimore took to win passage of a bill that mandates protective helmets for in-line skaters and scooter riders under 16 using public roads in Maryland. Only New York state and New Jersey have similar laws for in-line skating, and the helmet requirement for scooter riders may be a first.

The students undertook their campaign two years ago after a schoolmate, Casey Athman, 16, died from head injuries he suffered in an in-line skating accident.

With advice from state Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, the Democrat who first sponsored the bill, the students compiled research on in-line skating accidents and lobbied legislators. Two of their visits to Annapolis included some attention-getting skating on a public mall outside the Maryland Statehouse.

Still, the bill lost last year in a key Senate committee by just one vote.

"After the first year, after we got shot down, we had our doubts" about continuing, said Issan O. Ellis, 17, one of about eight students who poured hours into the effort, along with the school's clinical director and a school social worker.

But the students, who are referred to the 150-student private school in Reisterstown, Md., because of emotional disabilities, pressed on. This session, the bill won approval handily, and the governor is expected to sign it.

"These kids were just absolutely incredible," Ms. Hollinger said. "They were totally focused."

—Bess Keller

Vol. 20, Issue 33, Page 20

Published in Print: May 2, 2001, as State Journal

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