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News in Brief: Plan On Special-Ed. Discipline; State Assessment Grants; Bilingual-Education

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Senate Panel Unveils Plan On Special-Ed. Discipline

The Senate Subcommittee on Disability Policy late last week released a detailed plan to change federal rules on disciplining students with disabilities. The issue is one of the most contentious lawmakers will confront in reauthorizing the Individuals with Disabilities Education act next year.

The panel released a draft reauthorization plan last month that did not address discipline issues; the counterpart House committee released its own draft in July. (See Education Week, Nov. 29, 1995.)

The idea, which guarantees disabled students a "free, appropriate public education," makes it difficult to discipline such students or change their educational placements without parental consent.

Under both the House and Senate plans, crafted by Republican congressional aides, educators who wanted to suspend or expel a disabled student would have to determine that the student's behavior was not a manifestation of his disability. The Senate plan includes more detailed criteria for making such a determination.

If the behavior were found to be unrelated to the disability, both plans would allow schools to discipline the student the same way they would a nondisabled student, and a disabled student who brought a dangerous weapon or drugs to school would not be guaranteed educational services if a nondisabled student in the same situation would lose services. The House plan would also enable schools to cut off services to disabled students who engaged in "violent acts." Under both plans, students would continue to receive services while parents appealed such rulings.

Both plans would also make it easier to temporarily change a disabled student's placement--while possibly beginning the process for a permanent placement change--if he brought a dangerous weapon or drugs to school or were "substantially likely" to engage in behavior that would injure someone.

The Senate plan would also give schools more flexibility to remove disabled students who are "seriously disruptive" from the classroom.

State Assessment Grants

The Education Department has awarded $12 million to help states create better student assessments.

The funds, appropriated under the Goals 2000: Educate America Act, are meant to help cover the costs of developing, field-testing, and evaluating tests that will measure the progress of students toward meeting state standards in core academic subjects.

The recipients of the four-year grants, which were announced last month, are the Washington-based Council of Chief State School Officers and eight states: Delaware, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, and Pennsylvania.

Bilingual-Education Chief

Delia Pompa, a consultant and former bilingual kindergarten teacher, is the new director of the Department of Education's office of bilingual education and minority-languages affairs.

Since 1992, Ms. Pompa has directed Pompa and Associates, a San Antonio-based consulting firm that specializes in research and policy development on issues affecting language-minority and low-income children. She holds a master's degree in early-childhood education from the University of Texas at San Antonio. She served as an assistant commissioner at the Texas Education Agency from 1985 to 1990, working on policies affecting limited-English-proficient and migrant students.

Ms. Pompa directed bilingual programs in the Houston schools from 1981 to 1985 and has served on various national advisory committees and task forces concerning language-minority students.

Her new appointment was announced late last month. Eugene E. Garcia left the federal post in September to become the dean of the education school at the University of California at Berkeley.

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