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Panel Votes To Bar Paddling of Disabled Children

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Washington--Educators would be barred from paddling children with disabilities under legislation approved last week by the House Subcommittee on Select Education.

The controversial prohibition came in the form of an amendment added to legislation reauthorizing the discretionary programs funded under the Education of the Handicapped Act. It was introduced by Representative Major R. Owens, Democrat of New York, the subcommittee's chairman.

"A number of states already ban corporal punishment," Mr. Owens said. "Nevertheless, I think it's important for the federal government to take the initiative in this and, hopefully, it will encourage more states to do so."

The subcommittee's action was4applauded by national groups representing educators, school psychologists, mental-health personnel, and special educators. More than 30 such organizations supported the amendment, according to Kevin Dwyer, a lobbyist for the National Association of School Psychologists.

"This is a monumental start," Mr. Dwyer said. "It's the first time for something like this to be submitted to the Congress for adoption."

Specifically, the amendment would require states to ban the use of corporal punishment with disabled children as a condition for receiving federal special-education funds.

The issue was a stumbling block through several months of negotiations over the reauthorization measure. It was strongly opposed by the subcommittee's ranking Republican, Representative Steve Bartlett of Texas, who argued that it would complicate the job of teachers.

"This means you could have a situation with two 7th-grade boys in a fistfight and one is paddled and one is told to go forth and sin no more," he said. "One of the worst things we can do is somehow tell some students they're so privileged that no punishment shall touch them.''

The amendment was the only change made in the legislation, known as the "Education of the Handicapped amendments act of 1990." The bill authorizes a total of $700 million to fund a variety of research, model demonstration, and other grant programs through the 1994 fiscal year.

The bill would also:

Extend special-education services to children with autism, traumatic brain injuries, and attention-deficit disorders;

Seek to counter shortages of special-education teachers and researchers who are members of minority groups by setting aside funds for that purpose;

Establish a five-year grant program to encourage state education and vocational-rehabilitation agencies to jointly develop programs to help disabled students make the transition from school to work;

Set up a grant program serving emotionally disturbed children; and,

Make it clear that states can be sued for violating federal special-education law.

The last provision was prompted by a 1989 Supreme Court ruling holding states immune from such lawsuits.

The measure goes next to the House Committee on Education and Labor. The Senate approved a more modest, $213-million reauthorization bill in November.

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