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House IDEA Reauthorization Bill Has Big Problems, Say Advocates
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 1, 2003

WASHINGTON, DC--The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed legislation that would make it easier for schools to remove students for "behavior problems", even if the behavior were related to their disabilities.

The bill, H.R. 1350, is the House version of the bill to reauthorize the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The IDEA was passed in 1976, but is required to be reauthorized every few years.

Under the measure, sponsored by Delaware Republican Michael N. Castle, a student with a disability could be expelled simply for violating a school's code of conduct, and the school would not have to determine whether the behavior was related to the student's disability. Under current law, schools may suspend such students for bringing drugs, guns or other weapons to school.

"Those discipline provisions can create a nightmare, because we're stripping away civil rights protections," Lynda Van Kuren, a spokeswoman for the Council for Exceptional Children, told the New York Times.

Castle's bill had included a provision that would have forced the federal government to pay 40 percent of schools' special education costs within the next seven years. But language that would have made that mandatory was struck down by House Education and Work Force Committee chair John A. Boehner, an Ohio Republican.

Congress had promised in 1976 that the federal government would fund 40 percent of IDEA. But the federal contribution has never gone beyond 18 percent.

DREDF, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Inc., has outlined other provisions in the bill that concern advocates because they would further weaken protections for students with disabilities.

The Senate is expected to present its version of IDEA reauthorization later this month.

Related articles:
"House Shoots Down Special Ed Fund Boost" (Associated Press via Yahoo! News)

"Special education bill worries parents" (News Journal)

"Whose IDEA Is It Anyway?" (DREDF)


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