Revised School Code of Conduct

Leaves Several Murky Areas

Education officials have decided that public elementary school students need to better understand that smoking pot in the hallways is a bad idea and that sex is prohibited in school buildings.

They're also trying to define that apparently obscure term "cutting class."

New York City education officials held a public hearing last week on a new code of conduct, which they intend to incorporate into a booklet listing acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Smoking pot and having sex in school buildings is out, for all grades.

Cutting class is a trickier matter.

Doesn't "cutting" mean that a student has skipped a mandated class? It turns out the answer is no, at least in New York. "Cutting class we define as picking and choosing which classes you will go to," said Keith Kalb, a spokesman for the Board of Education.

By contrast, when a student skips the entire day, the student is absent.

-- Michael Powell

No-Drinking Rule Overreaches,

Some Parents and Minors Say

Just saying no to alcohol at parties isn't enough for minors to avoid trouble with the law in Naperville, Ill.

Under Naperville's anti-underage drinking ordinance, teenagers can receive citations just for being at a party where underage drinking is occurring, even if they aren't drinking. Families are upset about the ordinance, saying it punishes young people who are trying to do the right thing, including serving as designated drivers. The city outside Chicago has scheduled a public hearing in September to address criticism.

"We care about our young people, and we want to help them realize these parties are not places they should be," Mayor George Pradel said. "The recidivism rate is very low; this has cut down" on underage drinking.

Pradel said the citations carry a minimum $35 fine and apply only to youths ages 18 to 20, not people younger than 18. Youths who live where the party is or have a valid reason to be there are exempt from citations. The ordinance was passed last summer.

"We're only going to go to parties with 30 or 40 kids where there is underage drinking going on, usually only when we've gotten complaints about the parties," Pradel said.

-- Kari Lydersen

Indian Tribes Might Hold

More Sway Over Developers

Long before California had 35 million residents or Spanish missionaries had set foot on its soil, Indian tribes created sacred sites around the state.

More than a few have been wiped out by the spread of freeways, malls and housing developments. But tribal leaders say there are hundreds of sites that are unspoiled. Soon, they may have new protection.

California lawmakers passed a measure last week that would give Indian tribes in the state new power to try to save sacred places in the path of development.

The legislation, which needs to be approved by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), requires local governments to give tribes notice of development plans that could affect areas they hold sacred. It also grants tribes some of the same rights that municipalities and environmental groups have.

Passage of the legislation ended two years of debate. Tribes had been seeking more review power over development, but some local officials and business groups objected to earlier forms of the bill.

The final version gives tribes a voice in planning and zoning decisions but no veto.

But Indian leaders say the legislation is an overdue sign that public sensitivity to their history and culture is improving.

-- Rene Sanchez