Amish schools, like most aspects of Amish life, remain today as they have been for generations.

Even the school shootings around the country have had little effect.

School doors are commonly unlocked during the school day, said Stephen Scott, research assistant at the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pa.

The schools themselves are one-room affairs with outdoor bathrooms, and have many windows to let in the sunlight since there is no electricity.

There is usually just one teacher – most often a young, single, Amish woman – who sometimes has a helper, he said.

There are no guards.

“There’s never been a reason for that,” Scott said. “The worst problems the Amish have had in their schools are nosy tourists wanting to take pictures of them – that’s the worst problem they’ve ever had.”

And even that likely had not been much of a problem at West Nickel Mines Amish School, in an out-of-the way community -12 miles southeast of Lancaster – most tourists never see.

There are more than 150 of these one-room school houses in Lancaster County, said Scott, with more opening each year. Each school holds grades 1 through 8, and has 20 to 40 students. Schools are most often located within walking distance of their students.

In the western part, where the Amish population is more spread out, Amish students take buses or vans – driven by non-Amish – to school.

Schools are governed by a school board of Amish men, Scott said. Teachers have no college degree, and are not licensed by the state.

In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Amish students did not have to attend beyond grade 8, and that their teachers did not have to be licensed by the state, Scott said.

Students study reading, writing, math, music and German; Amish church services, which are held at congregants’ homes, are conducted in German.

“To some extent there is geography, but very little science. The basics are emphasized,” Scott said.

(c) 2006, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-10-02-06 2200EDT

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