Lawmaker Says He's Changed His Tune, But Sings Same Old
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 23, 2004
HELENA, MONTANA--Poor Ed Butcher.
The fella just doesn't know what to say.
At a December 14 public meeting of central Montana school superintendents, the Republican state senator, who starts a new term as state representative next month, referred to children with disabilities as "vegetables" and said some should be taken out of regular classrooms.
The superintendents responded with outrage. Leading Montana Democrats called for Butcher's resignation. The statement was particularly troubling to many advocates because incoming House Speaker Roy Brown plans to appoint Butcher to serve on the House Education Committee in the next legislative session.
Regarding an apology, Butcher told the Missoulian on Tuesday: "I think I've said what I'm going to say. This thing where people have to grovel around and apologize for everything they say irritates me."
Speaker Brown said on Wednesday that he would be talking to Butcher.
Butcher apologized on Thursday.
His written apology was sent to the school administrators and was shared with the media.
"To the families with severely disabled children, I certainly apologize for my terminology," Butcher wrote. "However, my concern continues that they receive assistance in their struggles which is appropriate to both the child and the education system."
For Butcher, "assistance" which is "appropriate" means segregated services in regional institutions.
"Those kids definitely need to be put in a special place," Butcher said just two days earlier. "It may even be a nursing-home setting to give them the best quality of life they can have."
"I represent a district of small schools which can be financially bankrupted or closed if forced to provide services for a severe physical or emotional disabled child," Butcher said. "Neither child nor school wins!"
Butcher indicated later that his apology was a practical way to end the uproar he had caused.
"Obviously, Democrats want to make a big issue of this," Butcher told a reporter Thursday. "If this apology quiets them down, then fine."
Butcher, who has taught both high school and college, also apologized for insulting racial minorities during the same December 14 meeting.
Many Montanans remember Butcher as the politician who referred to American Indian reservations as "ghettoes" in 2001.
"Lawmaker criticized for words on disabled" (Missoulian)
"Senator apologizes for calling disabled students 'vegetables'" (Missoulian)