WASHINGTON — A Supreme Court ruling restricting public school officials' ability to expel disruptive handicapped students was legally correct but "logically untenable," Education Secretary William J. Bennett said today.
He suggested Congress may want to amend the 1975 Education for All Handicapped Children Act to give principals more leeway in dealing with unusually disruptive students.
But an advocate for the disabled, Susan Stefan, a staff attorney for the Mental Health Law Project, said Bennett was "misreading the decision."
The high court ruled 6 to 2 on Wednesday that school officials cannot suspend or expel a disruptive handicapped child for more than 10 days without the permission of parents or the courts.
Bennett, speaking to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said he believes the high court's ruling is legally sound but said he could envision situations where "this could set a close-to-impossible burden on administrators."
"It's possible Congress may want to take another look at the law," said Bennett.
"We are talking about a small number of cases," said Bennett, but the ruling "could lead to circumstances that are logically untenable."
'Plenty of Time'
Stefan said the ruling leaves principals with the "right to remove violent, disruptive students. Ten days is plenty of time to talk to the parents" or call another meeting of the team that drew up the child's education placement, she said.
The school can also go directly to the courts to ask for help, she added. "I don't think the decision is logically untenable at all. It's a good balance between the rights of children and parents and the needs of school officials to maintain discipline," Stefan said.