National Alliance on Mental Illness
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For Immediate Release, 27 Sep 99
Contact: Chris Marshall
House and Senate conferees are now scheduled to meet this Thursday, Sept. 23, to resolve the differences between the House and Senate juvenile justice bills (S. 254 and H.R. 1501).
As reported in previous E-NEWS (http://www2.nami.org/update/990528.html) both bills contain weakening amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that would result in the cessation of educational services for children with disabilities who bring guns/weapons to school.
Sen. Kennedy (D-MA) plans to offer a substitute motion to require states to provide educational and other services to students who bring guns to school.
If there are conferees from your state on the juvenile justice legislation (see attached list), urge them to support Sen. Kennedy's motion to provide appropriate services and supports to any student who violates school gun rules under the juvenile justice legislation.
Members of Congress can be reached by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Phone, fax and email can be obtained by going to the policy page of the NAMI website at www.nami.org/policy.htm and click on 'Write to Congress."
* Amendments to IDEA are not germane (relevant) to the juvenile justice legislation.
* Amendments to IDEA would make it easier to discriminate against children with serious brain disorders and deny them a free appropriate public education. Congress should not violate the carefully crafted compromise on the 1997 IDEA reauthorization which required that first the school investigate whether an IDEA child's actions are a "manifestation of the disability."
* Kicking troubled youth with disabilities out of school with no services will make communities more dangerous, not safer.
* The 1997 amendments to IDEA already provide schools with the authority to remove dangerous students. Any student with or without a disability who brings a weapon to school CAN be immediately removed!
* If Congress insists on making sure kids are treated "equally," then the better policy would be to make sure NO child is kicked out of school without appropriate alternative services.
* Congress should stop blaming children with disabilities for schools' problems. Not one of the students involved in recent school shootings was a special education student.
* Providing services and supports to troubled students will make schools and communities much safer than giving these youngsters a free vacation without supervision.
Conferees to H.R. 1501/S. 254 are--