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As Education Week marks its 20th anniversary, here are some of the people, events, and issues that were making news 20 years ago.

Selected stories from Feb. 24, 1982:

Special Education: Draft documents circulating within the federal departments of Education and Justice and the Office of Management and Budget reveal that the Reagan administration is preparing for a thorough overhaul of the federal rules targeting the education of children with disabilities. According to the documents, sweeping changes would be in store for the Education for All Handicapped Children Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Among other measures, the administration is expected to try to narrow the definitions of "handicapped children" and "special education" under the EHA. What's more, the changes would emphasize that "existence of a handicapped condition does not, by itself, confer eligibility" for special services.

Discipline and Disabilities: A federal judge rules that a school district may suspend a special education student without violating the procedures for placing youngsters with disabilities in educational settings. Judge Robert D. Morgan, of the Central District of Illinois, says the five-day suspension of a 17-year-old boy in the Peoria, Ill., district, did not constitute changing his educational placement. Nor was the student's behavior caused by his disability, the judge says.

Although the federal courts have ruled in previous cases that long-term suspensions and expulsions represent a change in placement, the Peoria case is believed to be the first to deal with short-term suspension. Observers say Judge Morgan's ruling may be a sign that the courts will ease procedural restraints districts face when disciplining students with disabilities.

Civil Rights Complaints: The U.S. Department of Education proposes a pilot project that would allow states to investigate and act on some civil rights complaints brought against school systems. The department has selected Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont to participate in the pilot.

Under the plan, states would be allowed to investigate complaints that individuals with handicaps bring against school districts. The state would have 30 days to make its inquiries and advise federal officials of its findings. If the office for civil rights agrees with the state's recommendations, the state would be given the go-ahead to negotiate a resolution between the parties.

Thomas Departs: Clarence Thomas, the assistant secretary for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Education, is chosen to head the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. During his tenure at the office for civil rights, Mr. Thomas, a critic of mandatory busing to achieve racial desegregation, has emphasized informal negotiations, rather than threats, to spur school officials to stop violating civil rights laws.

Prop. 13 Decried: California state senators take testimony describing the deterioration of the public school system since the adoption of Proposition 13. The voter-initiated measure, which took effect in 1978, sharply reduced property taxes. Once hailed as a leader for its financial support and quality of public schools, California has fallen to 48th in the percent of personal income used to underwrite public education, 24th in per-pupil expenditure, and 49th in pupil-teacher ratio, according to the chairman of the senate education committee.

Complaints range from a dearth of instructional materials to buildings that go uncleaned. "We wouldn't shop in markets and department stores that look like our classrooms," one teacher tells lawmakers.

Vol. 21, Issue 23, Page 6

Published in Print: February 20, 2002, as Retrospective
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