An overhaul of the law guaranteeing education for millions of disabled children while making it easier to discipline them cleared its final congressional hurdle on a 98-1 vote in the Senate.
The lopsided vote on Wednesday followed unsuccessful attempts to broaden the power of schools to remove disabled children for violent or dangerous behavior and limit fees to parents’ lawyers.
However, supporters said the compromise bill already went much further than the original 1975 bill, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.
The bill seeks to balance disabled children’s rights with the need for a safe and orderly classroom. Supporters said the bill would encourage mediation to resolve disputes and would curb legal fees.
President Clinton has said he will sign the bill, which the House passed Tuesday, 420-3.
A key compromise would give new powers to school officials to remove disabled students who bring weapons or drugs to school and keep them out for as much as 45 days pending a decision. The removal policy has been limited to students who bring firearms.
Also, disabled children who otherwise pose a threat of harm could be removed, but a hearing would have to be held.
The bill specifies that disabled children whose misbehavior was unrelated to the disability would be disciplined like any other. However, the children would continue to get an education.
Other provisions would require that disabled students be included in state- and districtwide tests of academic performance, and would have states check to see whether an undue share of minority students are put into special education classes.
Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., voted against the bill. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., did not vote.