Across South Carolina

Superintendent urges action on budget bill


COLUMBIA --- South Carolina's schools chief says lawmakers must move quickly on a bill giving school districts budget freedoms.

Superintendent Jim Rex urged senators Wednesday to approve legislation giving districts relief from some state mandates this school year and next. The bill would let them furlough teachers to absorb budget cuts, skip some testing and forgo new textbooks. It also gives districts an extra month to hand out teachers' contracts for 2008-09, now due April 15.

Mr. Rex told a Senate panel the month gives officials time to figure out how the state spending plan and federal stimulus affect their budgets. Otherwise, districts might have to lay off teachers unnecessarily, he said.

The House passed the bill last month. The Senate has not set a subcommittee hearing.

Whale, dolphin battle for Senate panel favor

COLUMBIA --- South Carolina lawmakers have stalled on whether to make the northern right whale or the bottlenose dolphin the state's official marine mammal.

A Senate panel postponed debating the competing bills Wednesday.

Democratic Sen. Phil Leventis filed the northern right whale proposal at the request of elementary school students in Sumter. They wanted to bring attention to the endangered mammals that give birth off Southeastern shores.

But four Republican senators from the Charleston area argue the official marine mammal should live off the state's shores year-round. Two of them sit on the panel making the choice.

Teacher resigns amid dart-shooting probe

BEAUFORT --- A high school science teacher has resigned about two weeks after he was placed on leave for shooting a foam dart at a student.

Jeffrey Baker, 29, resigned from Battery Creek High School on Friday, The Beaufort Gazette reported. Beaufort County School District human resources officer Jacqueline Rosswurm said Mr. Baker did not give a specific reason.

A sheriff's office report says that on Feb. 23, Mr. Baker fired a foam dart at a 14-year-old girl in a "joking manner." The report states the dart hit the girl's left shoulder, and she then slapped Mr. Baker with the back of her hand.

School district officials would not say whether the girl was disciplined.

Pet hyena in backyard earns man citation

MYRTLE BEACH --- A South Carolina man has been cited for having a hyena in his backyard.

The year-old hyena named Bubbles has been moved to Alligator Adventure in North Myrtle Beach, The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News reported Wednesday.

The animal's owner, Nicolas Petock, 26, was cited for owning and displaying a wild or exotic animal after police went to his home last Friday and saw the beast. It had been housed in a chain-link pen that had a dog house in the center.

Mr. Petock told police he brought the hyena from Texas.