HELENA (AP) - Some state lawmakers and school administrators are calling for the removal of Rep.-elect and current Sen. Ed Butcher from a legislative education committee after he called developmentally disabled students ''vegetables'' during a recent meeting.
Butcher, R-Winifred, dubbed his comment at a Dec. 14 meeting of central Montana school superintendents ''an unfortunate choice of words,'' but has refused to formally apologize.
''I think I've said what I'm going to say,'' Butcher told Lee Newspapers on Tuesday. ''This thing where people have to grovel around and apologize for everything they say irritates me.''
Columbus schools superintendent Allan Sipes, who will become president of the School Administrators of Montana next year, called Butcher's behavior ''reprehensible.''
''It's mind-blowing that we would have someone in a position like his, who is so out of it,'' Sipes said. ''I believe that he should be pulled from the Education Committee and replaced with someone who understands and cares about all kids.''
House Speaker-elect Roy Brown, R-Billings, appointed Butcher to the House Education Committee for the 2005 Legislature, which starts Jan. 3.
Butcher could not run for his current Senate seat because of changes caused by redistricting, filing to run for House District 29 instead.
Brown said Tuesday he wanted to talk with Butcher before commenting further. He did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press on today.
Senate Education Committee Chair Don Ryan, D-Great Falls, said today he felt Butcher's constituents should decide his fate, although he did not agree with the senator's comments.
''We all learn in different ways, we function in different ways, we're physically different,'' he told the AP. ''Honestly, one of the things we try to do in schools and in everything we do is to fight the one disability everybody starts with and that's ignorance.''
At last week's meeting, Butcher said ''vegetables,'' or seriously disabled students, should be removed from the traditional school setting and relocated in regional hub schools that can better meet their needs. Montana's schools, he said, currently cannot afford to do that.
''These kids definitely need to be put in a special place,'' Butcher told Lee on Tuesday. ''It may even be a nursing home setting to give them the best quality of life they can have.''
Butcher told Lee he's sensitive to the needs of disabled children and has some disabled family members.
Butcher, 61, is also being criticized for comments he made about minority students during the same meeting. He said Nevada pays its teachers more because they have to ''deal'' with a more diverse student population.
''Montana teachers who leave the state for better paying jobs elsewhere have to deal with groups of Hispanic, Asian and black gangs that are terrorizing schools,'' Butcher told Lee in explaining his comments.
House Minority Leader-elect Dave Wanzenried, D-Missoula, said members of Butcher's own party should call for his resignation so they aren't perceived as endorsing his comments.
''His resignation couldn't come too early for me,'' Wanzenried said. ''I don't think anybody with those prejudices should be in public service anywhere.''
Rep. Tom Facey, D-Missoula, said such situations aren't new to Butcher, a former teacher and professor who was criticized during the 2001 Legislature for referring to American Indian reservations as ghettos.
''I predict he will keep saying those things,'' Facey said. ''He's been saying those things since the first day he served in the Senate. If Republicans want him to say those things then so be it.''