Discipline Difficult for Special students.(NATION)

Article excerpt

Byline: Amy Fagan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Many teachers and administrators feel they cannot adequately discipline children with special needs under current federal rules, some senators and educators said during a hearing on the issue yesterday.

Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican, said many special education teachers in his state have left the field because they "were concerned they could not protect themselves and other students" from emotionally disturbed students.

"There's a real problem with [special education] students that are dangerous and disruptive in the classroom," he said. "And teachers need a common-sense way to address it."

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, held a hearing on the issue in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The panel is charged this year with reauthorizing the federal special education law, known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In the House, the Republican-led Education and the Workforce Committee has the same duty.

Panel member Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, and House Republicans, tried to give teachers more leeway to discipline students with disabilities during debate on the education overhaul law last year. Their proposals were opposed by Senate Democrats and did not make it into the final bill.

But Mr. Sessions said Mr. Kennedy recognizes this is a major concern to many. "He has indicated that this reauthorization period will be the time for us to discuss it honestly and openly, and I think we've begun to do so," Mr. Sessions said.

Under current IDEA rules, special education students may be removed from school for 10 days if they bring weapons or guns to school. After that, school officials can go before a hearing officer and request the student be sent to an alternative educational setting for an additional 45 days. The child must receive educational services at all times.

The same process may be used to remove special education students for other violent behavior or incidents, but only if the school can prove that the student is "substantially likely" to injure himself or others - a standard many critics say is difficult to prove. …