WASHINGTON - If disabled students misbehave in class or commit a crime at school, they'll face the same punishment as other classmates, unless the bad behavior can be blamed on the disability, a bill proposed by U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions says.
Too many students with disabilities are getting away with cursing teachers, making obscene remarks in class, and bringing drugs to school, said Sessions, R-Mobile.
"What this bill does is, it says if the child's bad acts are not connected to their disability, then they can be disciplined like any other child," Sessions said. "Under current law . . . if a child . . . is found with drugs or brings a gun to school, the school cannot expel them like they can other students."
The bill, proposed as an amendment to the larger Senate education bill, was defeated in a 50-50 tie, but later passed amid a chorus of "yeas" on a voice vote. Sessions said Democrats against the bill backed down after learning Vice President Cheney was waiting in the wings of the Senate to cast his vote in case of another tie.
"If he hadn't been here, we probably would have had a roll-call vote," Sessions said.
Before the passage, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said the bill would be a backslide in the rights of disabled children.
"History will record this as the first major step backward in regard to disabled children," Kennedy said.
Under Sessions' amendment, a school would be required to evaluate whether a student's misbehavior stemmed from his or her disability. If so, the school would be required to continue to provide services to the child. If not, the school system could suspend or expel the child from classes, or place the student in an alternative school.
Sessions said the amendment also sets up a sort of "voucher" program for students whose parents and school determine that a child would be better off in a learning institution that caters to students with disabilities.
Also Thursday, the Senate passed a bill requiring schools to get a permission slip from parents before releasing personal information about students to businesses.
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, co-sponsor of the Student Privacy Protection Act along with Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said parents send their children to school to learn, not to be used as captive focus groups for marketers.
In some areas of the country, companies are going directly to classrooms to determine the likes and dislikes of children. Students are asked to fill out questionnaires regarding their preferences for products ranging from cereals to toys.
"These marketers should not be able to gain access to children in the classroom without first obtaining parents' permission," Shelby said.
Letter to Project NoSpank's mailing list:
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Mobile) has moved boldly against discrimination in education. His amendment to the Senate education bill gives schoolchildren with disabilities the benefit of discipline that many have heretofore been denied. And just what is that benefit? Why, in the best Alabama tradition, it could be a few good hard whacks with a flat wooden board as close to a child's anus and the genitals as a teacher can get. Legally. This bold move for equity suggests the following rewrite of a slogan we've been hearing lately: LEAVE NO CHILD'S BEHIND BEHIND!