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Disability Group Opposes Ashcroft for Attorney General

John. Ashcroft, the former senator from Missouri now facing Senate confirmation hearings for the post of attorney general in the Bush administration, is no friend of disability rights.

Disability groups are particularly incensed about Ashcroft's votes against the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The American Association of Persons with Disabilities issued a statement last week opposing the nomination, saying it was "particularly troubled" by Ashcroft's "lead role in trying to weaken the due process protections afforded children and youth with disabilities by the IDEA."

In the last Congress, Sen. Ashcroft introduced a bill "that would have empowered public schools to remove disruptive students with disabilities without having to comply with the due process protections in IDEA," said AAPD director Andrew Imparato. "This bill was opposed by the disability rights community and the National Education Association in part because it did not call for expelled students to be educated in an alternative public school program after the disciplinary action had taken place."

In 2000, Ashcroft voted twice against increased funding for IDEA, as well as against the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which would have amended federal law to recognize hate crimes based disability.

"Senator Ashcroft's record on IDEA is important because the 1997 reauthorization of IDEA gave the Attorney General increased authority to bring cases against school districts that are violating the civil rights requirements in that law," said Imparato. A report last year by the National Council on Disability noted that no state was complying with core civil rights protections in the education law.

Sen. Ashcroft refused to sign a "Spirit of ADA Pledge" last summer. The AAPD "Spirit of ADA" pledge campaign, coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the ADA, asked public officials to public commit to support for full implementation and enforcement of ADA and IDEA; Ashcroft's opponent Mel Carnahan did sign the pledge.


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