The overrepresentation of african american males in special education in the southern states
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The Overrepresentation of African American Males in Special Education in the Southern States. Gina Dildine March 24, 2008. INTRODUCTION. Why is this topic an issue in today’s schools?. African Americans are as much as 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed as Mentally Retarded.

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The Overrepresentation of African American Males in Special Education in the Southern States

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The Overrepresentation of African American Males in Special Education in the Southern States

Gina Dildine

March 24, 2008


INTRODUCTION


Why is this topic an issue in today’s schools?

  • African Americans are as much as 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed as Mentally Retarded.

  • African Americans are 2 times more likely to be labeled as Emotionally Disturbed.

  • African American males are almost four times as likely to be diagnosed as Emotionally Disturbed as are African American Females.

  • 40% of all students diagnosed as mentally retarded are African American compared to 16% of the total population


Why concentrate on the south?

  • The risk of over-identification of African American males is greater in states where the African American population is more concentrated.

  • This is most true in Southern states, most notably Mississippi, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, and Alabama.


OVERVIEW

  • Reasons for overrepresentation in the African American male population in the south

    • Multidisciplinary teams

    • Biased testing

    • Mental inferiority/racism

    • Poverty

  • IDEA’s role in fighting overrepresentation

    • Mandatory reporting of statistics

    • Mandates

  • Conclusions

  • References


What are the reasons for overrepresentation?

  • No multidisciplinary team members on campus

  • Biased testing

  • Mental inferiority/Racism

  • Poverty


Multidisciplinary Teams

  • It is not uncommon to find schools that have no multidisciplinary team members on campus. These members include:

    • school psychologists,

    • social workers

    • Nurses

    • counselors .

  • Without these key members, it is often left to teachers alone to diagnose and certify a child for special education. Problems associated with this are:

    • Bias

    • assessment by a non-credentialed professionals

    • unnecessary placement


Biased Testing

  • “Many standardized tests are seen as racially and socially bias. They are based on environmental influences most commonly seen in middle class white society. Diversity may be seen as disability in these cases. Due to this, many African American males are placed in special education and misdiagnosed (Shealey & Lue, 2006). “


Mental Inferiority/Racism

  • The south has a history of racism that may result in overrepresentation

  • “injustice reflected an ideology of schooling premised in large part on the assumption that individual difference, often related to race, ethnicity, and ability, were pathological or inferior in nature, and required specialized instruction”. (Jordan, 1005)


Bill Cosby’s view of mental inferiority from his book “Come on People”

  • Segregations enlisted “science” to maintain a status quo that warred with the United States Constitution. If science could prove black inferiority “objectively”, segregationists could insist that black brains were smaller and less developed and justify a paternalistic caste system for white people and for black people. Science has long been a powerful weapon of the privileged. Even today, some academics continue to compare biased IQ scores of black and white people to justify differential treatment, without weighing the impact of centuries of slavery and racial degradation on black performance.


Poverty’s impact on overrepresentation

  • In 1987, Chinn and Hughes argued that poverty could place a child at greater risk for disability

  • Jordan (2005) states that poverty “merely provides a convenient explanation of school failure that absolves the school of responsibility.”


So Who’s Right?

  • Zhang & Katsiyannis (2002) found that poverty had no significant effect in their study of minority representation in special education. A study on the ethnic representation in special education conducted in Virginia and East Tennessee found that “In high-poverty communities there was very little difference between the SED (Severely Emotionally Disturbed) rate for non-African American students (below 0.7%) and the rate for African American students (above 0.9%)” (Oswald, Coutinho, Best, & Singh, 1999). Contrary to the myth that poverty can cause increased chances of disability, the study also found that the African American male’s chances of being diagnosed as Emotionally Disturbed actually increased as the income level went up.


What impact does IDEA have?

  • The U.S. Department of Education began addressing overrepresentation in 1995 when it reported that African American students in some cases were being over-identified and placed in more restrictive settings.

  • Concerns stated by congress include a disproportionate representation of diverse backgrounds, poverty impacting the diagnosis of Mental Retardation, and high dropout rates for minority special education students


Mandatory Reporting of Statistics

  • IDEA now requires every state to report all special education students in the categories of sex, race, ethnicity, and disability.

  • They must also report statistics giving information on the number of students being served in the general education and special education settings based on the percentage of day spent in each.

  • By reporting these statistics along with others, it is believed that student representation can be more closely monitored.


IDEA 2005

  • “Greater efforts are needed to prevent the intensification of problems connected with mislabeling and high dropout rates among minority children with disabilities. More minority children continue to be served in special education than would be expected from the percentage of minority students in the general school population. Poor African American children are 2.3 times more likely to be identified by their teacher as mentally retarded than their white counterparts. Although African Americans represent 16 percent of elementary and secondary enrollments, they constitute 21 percent of total enrollments in special education. The dropout rate is 68 percent higher for minorities than for whites. More than 50 percent of minority students in large cities drop out of school.” (IDEA, P.L. 105-17; Section 601; U.S. Department of Education, 1995b).


More information on this topic can be found at:


http://www.southwestern.edu/~moorea/teachersdecisions.pdf

This web site is based on research focusing on the referral of African American children to special education by African American Teachers. It is a good resource for teachers to examine before referral to determine if referral is bias in any way.


http://www.rethinkingschools.org/archive/173/ghet173.shtml

  • This resource discusses the short and long term effects of placing African American’s into special education due to inappropriate diagnosis. This study was conducted by Harvard University, and is an excellent study for any professional dealing with African American’s in special education to be familiar with.


http://users.law.capitol.edu/fweatherspoon/publications/racialjusticeandequity.pdf

  • How does the overrepresentation of African American males in special education affect our country in terms of the criminal justice system? Before placing any student in special education, points from this study should be considered. Placement will have life long effects, some devastating.


http://www.rprconline.org/wp2005.htm

  • This web site gives more information on education in rural areas such as the south. It provides many resources for educators involving fund distribution, federal taxes, codes, and numerous other topics.


http://harvardscience.harvard.edu/directory/programs/civil-rights-project

  • This web page, designed by Harvard University, gives links to current studies in progress. These studies represent topics such as minority education, drop out rates of special education students, and high stakes tests for the disadvantaged.


Professional ReadingsBeneficial readings for educators, parents, and professionals

  • Jordan, K, (2005). Discourses of difference and the overrepresentation of black students in special education. The Journal of African American History, 90(1/2), 128-149.

  • Cosby, B., & Poussaint, A., (2007). Come on People. Nashville, Thomas Nelson, Inc.


More References

  • Chinn, P., & Hughes, S., (1987). Representation of minority students in special education classes. Remedial and Special Education, 8(4), 41-46.

  • Shealey, M., & Lue, M., (2006). Why are all the black kids still in special education? Revisiting the issue of disproportionate representation. Multicultural Perspectives, 8(2), 3-9.

  • U.S. Department of Education (1995b). Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: Amendments of 1995. Washington, DC: Office of Special Programs.

  • U.S. Department of Education (1997). To assure a free appropriate public education to all children with disabilities: Nineteenth annual report to congress on the implementation of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Washington, DC: Author

  • Zhang, D., & Katsiyannis, A., (2002). Minority representation in special education a persistent challenge. Remedial and Special Education, 23(3), 180-187.


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