Under the Wire: School administrators surfing the U.S. Department of Education's Web site in recent weeks may have stumbled on a guidebook meant for them on how to discipline students in special education.
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The eight-page handbook had been anticipated since the 1997 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Act, prompting special education advocates to complain that it was long in coming.
Education Department officials, on Jan. 19, their last day of work under the Clinton administration, posted the handbook on the World Wide Web with no formal announcement or fanfare. The report is called "Prevention Research and the IDEA Discipline Provisions: A Guide for School Administrators."
"In the last week [of the administration], in the rush to close out business, it got pushed aside by other priorities," said Jim Bradshaw, a spokesman for the department. "They'd wanted to get it out sooner."
The document contains information on how to promote positive behavior through a discipline and intervention program, and it provides comments from school administrators praising the program. The guide also provides data on lost class time attributable to students' bad behavior and recaps the IDEA's requirements for disciplining students with disabilities.
When Bruce Hunter, a lobbyist for the American Association of School Administrators, was alerted to the guidebook's existence by a reporter, he said he was disappointed.
"This is a case of the Department of Education thinking that if you just print something, then somehow you've told people something," he said. "This is just them throwing something up on the Web and saying, 'Go with God; there, we've told you how to do it.'"
The 1997 amendments to the IDEA covered discipline issues, but offered little advice on putting the provisions into practice. The Education Department said it would deliver a guidebook to fill the void.
Mr. Bradshaw said the department did not formally announce the guidebook because the document does not purport to contain any breakthrough information.
"It was simply a repackaging of existing tips and research that we had done," Mr. Bradshaw said. "It was supposed to be information in an easy-to-find, convenient document that administrators can quickly scan."
Vol. 20, Issue 21, Page 6Published in Print: February 7, 2001, as Special Education