Senate Passes Disabilities Bill

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: The Senate on a 98-1 vote passed a new version of a 22-year-old bill that guarantees education for nearly six million disabled children. The measure gives schools more authority to pull disabled students out of class for unruly behavior and limits fees for parents' attorneys to settle disputes. In recent years, parents and educators complained that the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act did not go far enough to protect classmates and teachers from violent disabled children since, no matter what the offense, disabled students could only be punished with at most a ten- day suspension. Originally, the discipline restrictions were included in the law to keep schools from using behavioral problems as an excuse to keep the disabled children separated from others. The bill, which President Clinton said he will sign, expands disciplinary actions for disabled children who bring guns and knives to school. But educators argue that the latest guidelines don't get to the heart of the problems they encounter: the bill would require an administrative hearing before an unruly child could be disciplined -- a small help to teachers facing a child with fighting fists.