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The U.S. Education Department has begun circulating a series of questions and answers on the inclusion of students with disabilities in regular classrooms.

The policy guidelines explain provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which calls for students to be educated in the "least restrictive environment."

But that does not mean every student with a disability should be placed in a regular classroom, the department document emphasizes.

One factor school officials may consider when determining a student's placement is what disruption it will have on the education of other students, the document says.

A thorny issue in the move toward full inclusion of disabled students in regular classrooms has been the complaint of some parents that the needs of other children are not being met because teachers must focus on those with disabilities.

Copies of the guidelines are available free from the U.S. Education Department, 600 Independence Ave., S.W., Room 2312, Washington, D.C. 20202.

Decrying what it sees as a growing backlash against the Americans with Disabilities Act, an independent federal agency has released a report defending the landmark 1990 law.

The report last month from the National Council on Disability explains progress toward implementation of the A.D.A., which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.

The report calls for increased public education about the law. The authors argue that, because the A.D.A. protects civil rights, it should be kept out of the debates raging on Capitol Hill about unfunded federal mandates on states and localities. The costs associated with complying with the law have been grossly exaggerated, the report contends.

Free copies of the report may be obtained from the National Council on Disability, 1331 F St., N.W., Suite 1050, Washington, D.C. 20004-1107.

Heather Whitestone, who is the first deaf Miss America, told the audience at the annual meeting of the American Speech-Language-Hearingcq sd Association that deaf people should be able to choose between speaking and using sign language.

Ms. Whitestone chooses to speak rather than use sign language--an often-controversial choice among deaf people.

"I really support sign language and I know sign language. But I believe oral [communication] has opened more doors for me," Ms. Whitestone told the convention last month in New Orleans.

--Lynn Schnaiberg

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