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Sunday, April 24, 2005; Page A02

Illinois Lawmakers Aim to Get Students to Take a Load Off

Illinois students need to lighten up.

Their book bags and backpacks, that is.

Illinois state Sen. Donne E. Trotter wants to prevent injuries from heavy book bags. (File Photo)

The state Senate has passed legislation that would force school districts and textbook makers to find a way to relieve students who are carrying around increasingly backbreaking loads.

"Serious injuries are being reported from carrying books, including spinal damage and chronic backaches," said bill sponsor state Sen. Donne E. Trotter, who represents the southeast side of Chicago. "We're looking at the long-term effects. It's a national problem."

If the bill, which is modeled on similar ones in California and Virginia, becomes law, then school districts would have to come up with plans to limit textbook weight.

"Children are different sizes, so we won't set a weight limit, but ideally students shouldn't be carrying more than 15 percent of their body weight," Trotter said.

"Publishers could certainly make books semiannually, since you don't need the last chapters until the end of the year. They could make lighter paperback books, which don't last as long, but books are usually replaced every few years anyway," he said.

-- Kari Lydersen

Some Texans Wish Club Would Fly Another State's Friendly Skies

Some folks on the ground are having problems with the Mile High Club.

San Antonio Air Tours is offering charter flights for sex in the sky. But officials in Castroville, Tex., west of San Antonio, made it clear they do not want the charter service using the city's airstrip. And Stinson Airport, a municipal field on the south side of San Antonio that the tour company uses, pulled the promotional brochures out of its lobby and asked the Federal Aviation Administration to look into whether the service is legal.

Phillip Carroll, owner of San Antonio Air Tours, contends it is.

"It doesn't really matter if they like it or not," he said. Carroll said he and a friend started the service four months ago because "we wanted to have a little fun, make a little money and fly for a living."

For $250, a couple (18 and older) can get an hour-long ride 5,280 feet above central Texas, complete with a bottle of champagne and either flowers or a gift basket. A privacy curtain separates the pilot and the couple, who has the exclusive use of a cabin equipped with a mattress. Three rows of seats were pulled out and the bedding was installed "to make the interior a little more user-friendly," Carroll said.

Castroville city administrator Jack Yates made it clear that sex in the skies is "not the type of business that we would encourage."

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