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State News Roundup: Appeals Court Allows Denial of Spec.-Ed. Aid to Virginia

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The U.S. Department of Education can withhold $50 million from Virginia because the state does not provide alternative educational opportunities to special education students who are suspended or expelled from school, a federal appeals court has ruled.

In a split decision last month, the three-judge panel ruled that U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley had the authority to deny the special education funds because Virginia had violated a federal law that requires states to provide children with disabilities a free, appropriate public education.

William H. Hurd, the state's deputy attorney general, said the government's action represents a misapplication of federal authority.

Virginia plans to appeal the decision to the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, Mr. Hurd said.

Dismissing Teachers: State appeals courts in Colorado should give greater consideration to elected school boards in reviewing teacher-dismissal cases, the state's highest court has ruled.

The June 17 ruling was the first by the Colorado Supreme Court to interpret a 1990 state law on the dismissal of teachers.

The case concerns the Adams County-Westminster school district's efforts to fire Jan Heimer for alleged deficiencies in teaching and classroom management.

A hearing officer found legal grounds for firing Ms. Heimer, but recommended that she be retained. The school board dismissed the teacher anyway, citing insubordination and neglect of duty.

A state appeals court deferred to the hearing officer's findings and ordered the teacher reinstated.

The state high court ruled that when a hearing officer's and a school board's actions conflict, an appeals court should overrule the school board only when its action was "arbitrary, capricious, or legally impermissible." It sent Ms. Heimer's case back to the appeals court.

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