COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A proposed change in South Carolina's biology standards for teaching evolution is designed to encourage discussion in the classroom.
A six-member panel voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend the compromise to the full state Board of Education and Education Oversight Committee. Approval from both is needed for any change to education standards.
The new version says evolution, like other aspects of science, remains open to new discoveries and experimentation. Oversight committee director Melanie Barton says it means teachers will need to stay up-to-date on scientific discoveries and how they impact evolution.
The compromise wording could end months of disagreement between the boards on how high school students learn about evolution.
Republican Sen. Mike Fair of Greenville had pushed for language calling for students to question Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection.
MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's Foreign Ministry says the chief diplomats from Russia and the United States have discussed the situation in Ukraine and the fulfillment of a Cold War-era arms control deal that the U.S. has accused Russia of violating.
It said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the issue of compliance with the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in a phone call Tuesday.
The U.S. accused Russia Monday of violating the treaty by testing a new ground-launched cruise missile. The Russian Foreign Ministry didn't comment on the accusations.
Washington's complaints come as the EU and the U.S. prepare new sanctions against Russia over its support for insurgents in Ukraine. Moscow said Lavrov urged Kerry to persuade the Ukrainian government to declare a cease-fire.
DALTON, Ga. (AP) — The challenges presented by an influx of unaccompanied children and youths from Central America streaming across the southern border into the United States have reached Dalton.
Approximately 30 unaccompanied minors were admitted into the Dalton Public Schools district during the last school year, Superintendent Jim Hawkins said. It is not known whether more are coming with a new school year approaching.
Nabbed at the border while trying to cross into the country, the youths were sent to Dalton by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services while they wait for a date with a federal immigration judge. In the meantime, the youths are required, by law, to be admitted into a local school system. The immunizations necessary for enrollment, and all pertinent paperwork, were provided to the youths during their time in facilities in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
"The children that have come to us have trickled in over the previous year," said Caroline Woodason, assistant director for Student Support for Dalton Public Schools. "They have family or some semblance of family here, with whom they are housed. That is why they were sent here."
The newcomers — mostly teenagers — are some of the hundreds of thousands of youths fleeing drug-related strife in their home countries, seeking asylum in America.
The majority of the youths sent to Dalton are from the Central American nations of El Salvador and Guatemala, Woodason said. Though the number of new students has not been unmanageable for the school system, the youths bring with them an entirely unique set of challenges for the district to address.
"They have very, very limited amounts of education. In some cases, they cannot count to 10," Woodason said. "They can't turn on a computer. They've never even seen a computer. Also, they, in most cases, cannot speak English or Spanish."
Mostly, the students speak Mam or another language specific to their region.
"There is no way these children can be in biology, U.S. history or any other high school course at our current schools," Woodason said.
The lack of a traditional education, according to Jennifer Phinney, director of School Support, is due, simply, to the fact that the youths never needed it.
"Most of these students are from very, very rural places," she said. "They are farmers and laborers, by tradition."
The students, at an age when their American peers are typically preparing for college or the job market, are entering school for the first time — and may remain there until the age of 22, the legal maximum age.
To combat these challenges, Dalton officials have decided to form a Newcomer Academy at Morris Innovative High School for the coming school year — last year, most of the students were in English Language Learners (ELL) classes at Dalton High School.
Students who prove, through testing, to be non-proficient in English and are at least three years behind academically will be enrolled in the academy.
The goal of the new program is simple, in theory, if not execution: "We want the students to learn English, understand their new culture and community, and to be able to succeed not only in our school setting, but in our community," Woodason said. "They want, eventually, to stay here. We want to make sure they can be productive citizens."
Three English as Second Language (ESL) certified teachers will work with the students in the academy. Newcomer classes will stress English literacy, reading, mathematics, science and the American experience, Woodason said.
Hawkins said the sudden appearance of these students created problems not addressed by state and federal agencies.
While schools can receive approximately $1.50 extra per ELL student, the costs associated with meeting these new challenges are left to any school system that receives new students, he said.
And, the Georgia Department of Education has no system in place to distinguish these teen-aged first-time students from any other learners.
So, the new students "become a detriment to schools' graduation rates," Woodason said. "Some school systems don't want to even accept these students because these kids cannot — in most cases — graduate."
Said Phinney: "Schools are being told they must enroll the students, by one agency. But they still have to meet the same educational standards set by the government. Those two things do not match."
Health and Human Services officials said Thursday that the Office of Refugee Resettlement sent 1,154 unaccompanied youths to sponsors — parents or another family member — in Georgia between Jan. 1 and the end of June.
The administrators with Dalton Public Schools said no notification is provided to them by Health and Human Services when school-age youths are sent into the district.
"A heads-up would be nice," Phinney said. "It'd be great if we could get a little advance warning."
It isn't known whether more such youths are coming to Dalton, the school officials said.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — A 9-year-old girl who was struck by a plane that crash-landed on a beach while she vacationed with her family has died from her injuries, law enforcement officials in Florida said Tuesday.
Oceana Irizzary's father also was killed Sunday. The two, of Fort Stewart, Georgia, were walking along Caspersen Beach in Venice on Sunday afternoon when the 1972 Piper Cherokee plane made an emergency landing after reporting problems.
In a statement, the family thanked the emergency responders and beachgoers who helped them, and expressed gratitude for prayers and support from around the world.
"There are no words to describe the suffering we are experiencing," the statement said. "Their loss is devastating to our family and to everyone who knew them."
Ommy Irizarry, an Army sergeant celebrating his ninth anniversary with wife Rebecca, died at the scene Sunday. His daughter was airlifted to All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg. The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday morning that they were notified by the medical examiner's office of the girl's death.
He "was a beloved husband, father, son, brother, friend and soldier," the family wrote in the statement. "He lit up the room whenever he entered and was devoted to his family."
Oceana was about to enter fourth grade, the family said.
"Oceana was a beautiful, intelligent and kind-hearted little girl," the statement said. "She was a natural artist who loved to learn."
Many of Ommy's photos on Facebook were of him, his wife Rebecca and their three children. The family could be seen smiling on various beaches and playing in the water through the years.
It was unclear how the plane or the debris hit the father and his daughter. Officials say the pilot radioed the airport that he was having trouble with the plane and was planning to land on the beach.
"He's trying to make the airport," a woman calling 911 from the airport said. "He says he's not going to make the airport. But he's going to be on the beach."
In other 911 calls, a family friend cried as she described the scene while screams and wailing could be heard in the background. Another man told a dispatcher about the little girl's condition.
"She's breathing a little right now," a man said. "Rapid pulse and difficult breathing. She's unconscious."
The pilot was identified as Karl Kokomoor, 57, and the passenger was David Theen, 60, both of nearby Englewood. They were not injured.
The National Transportation Safety Board was investigating.
ATLANTA (AP) — In the Republican Southeast, critics are pushing back against President Barack Obama's plan to cut pollution from power plants.
Elected regulators, business interests and labor union officials said Tuesday in Atlanta that the Obama administration's plan to trim emissions could raise electricity prices, result in job losses and will not significantly curtail global carbon emissions.
Those comments came Tuesday as the EPA held public hearings about the plan in Atlanta, Denver and Washington. A two-day hearing in Pittsburgh starts Thursday.
Obama's plan would force a 30 percent cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 from levels seen in 2005.
Supporters said Tuesday the benefits from reducing pollution-related illnesses and damage from global warming far outweigh the potential costs. The hearings will continue Wednesday.