VIRGINIA

Pledge of Allegiance Requirement Upheld

A federal appeals court has upheld a Virginia law requiring the daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in state schools.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit rejected a claim by Edward R. Myers, a Loudoun County father of three who argued that the recitation of the pledge in schools is unconstitutional. Myers, who sued the Loudoun school board and School Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick, asserted that the pledge is a religious exercise because it includes the phrase "under God."

In an 18-page opinion, Judge Karen J. Williams wrote that "the Pledge, unlike prayer, is not a religious exercise or activity, but a patriotic one."

Myers's attorney, David H. Remes, said Myers is considering an appeal.

3rd Gubernatorial Debate Set for Oct. 9

Virginia's major-party candidates for governor officially agreed yesterday that they will debate before a statewide television audience Oct. 9 in Richmond.

Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, the Democratic nominee, had wanted to hold the debate Oct. 23, two weeks closer to the Nov. 8 election. But the campaign for Republican Jerry W. Kilgore refused to budge, saying that the earlier date was consistent with Virginia tradition.

The debate could include state Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr. (R-Winchester), who is running as an independent, but only if he hits 15 percent in two statewide polls by Oct. 5.

'No Child' Benchmarks Will Be Altered

Federal education officials have approved a Virginia Board of Education request to tweak annual student-achievement goals required under the No Child Left Behind Act to allow for more gradual improvement.

No Child Left Behind requires that students take math and reading tests each year in grades 3 through 8 and in high school. Each school -- as well as subgroups that include low-income students, racial groups and special education students -- must show annual improvement.

Before the change, Virginia required that 70 percent of students in each school, as well as each subgroup, pass the English and math Standards of Learning tests taken in the spring to demonstrate progress under the law.

But federal officials approved a request to change those benchmarks to a 65 percent pass rate in reading and 63 percent in math. Target pass rates will continue to increase until 2014, when the federal law calls for all children to be proficient in English and math.

State officials expect to release SOL test scores next week.

MARYLAND

Police Officer Indicted on Insurance Fraud

A Prince George's County police officer has been indicted on seven counts of insurance fraud for allegedly lying and making false statements in support of an insurance claim related to an auto accident, Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. (D) said yesterday.

Officer Jermaine Ayala is charged in Prince George's Circuit Court with making false and misleading statements and providing false documents in support of an insurance claim, as well as attempted felony theft, Curran said in a statement. The claim was filed with State Farm Insurance, Curran said.

Ayala, 30, is a seven-year veteran of the county police force. He is on "no-duty" status because of an injury, said Barbara Hamm, a police department spokeswoman. She said no action will be taken against Ayala until police officials have reviewed the indictment and any supporting charging documents.

THE DISTRICT

DMV Cancels Week of Ticket Hearings

The District yesterday canceled all hearings on motor vehicle violations that were scheduled for next week, in effect dismissing tickets for all who were set to appear then at the troubled facility at 65 K St. NE.

The D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles facility will remain closed until at least Aug. 21 because of faulty ventilation and air conditioning. Motorists can contest tickets or pay them, but only by mail or through the agency's Web site at dmv.dc.gov. Other services can be handled in person at the department's main location, at 301 C St. NW.

The agency has "frozen the clock" on settling all tickets that come due during the closure.

Charter Schools Lagging in Progress Tests

Only six of the 16 charter schools under the authority of the D.C. Board of Education reached academic benchmarks in reading and math as required by federal law, according to standardized test data released yesterday.

Five charter schools failed to make adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind Act, according to the report. The remaining schools were not required to report data because fewer than 40 students took the test.

In comparison, 12 of 31 charter schools under the jurisdiction of the other chartering agency, the D.C. Public Charter School Board, are classified as in need of improvement. And 81 of the city's approximately 145 traditional public schools are in that category.

Brenda L. Belton, executive director of the board's Office of Charter School Oversight, said: "Parents are looking to the charter schools as an alternative [to failing traditional public schools]. We must do better."

Seven schools were listed as "in need of improvement" for failing to meet academic benchmarks for two consecutive years. Those schools are required to devise a plan outlining how they intend to boost student achievement. If the schools remain in that category for five years, their charters could be revoked, Belton said.

City, Deutsche Bank Reach Stadium Deal

The District will enter into a private financing agreement for a baseball stadium with Deutsche Bank, city officials said yesterday.

City Administrator Robert C. Bobb said that negotiations are ongoing to determine the specifics of the funding deal and that the agreement could be finalized in the next few weeks. In previous talks, Deutsche Bank offered to give the city $246 million in return for revenue from taxes on stadium concessions and an annual rent payment by the Washington Nationals.

Officials said they like the arrangement because it could reduce a gross-receipts tax on city businesses by about $6 million annually.

"I thought it was heat exhaustion. It never dawned on me that it might have been over-hydration."

-- Sgt. Timothy Evans, referring to D.C. police officer James C. McBride, who might have died from drinking too much water. -- B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Maria Glod, Chris L. Jenkins, Ruben Castaneda, Eric M. Weiss, V. Dion Haynes and David Nakamura.