Report: Blacks More Likely to Be Placed in Special Education
Black public school students are three times more likely to be categorized as needing special education services than Whites, making them subject to less demanding schoolwork, more restrictive classrooms and isolation from their peers,
The 14 studies were released in early March by The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, which commissioned them last year.
The studies, which looked at educational and legal issues in the nation’s special
education system, found that Black students were nearly three times more likely than Whites to be labeled “mentally retarded.” The studies also found that, as the wealth of school districts rose, Black male students were at greater risk of receiving that label.
In five states — Connecticut, Nebraska, South Carolina, Mississippi and North
Carolina — Black students were more than four times more likely to be identified as
mentally retarded than their White peers, the studies showed.
“Across the board, this is a problem for
minority students,” says Daniel J. Losen, a lawyer for The Civil Rights Project who co-
authored one of the studies.
But in many places, he says, special education classes have become “a dumping ground for low-achieving students” who don’t
succeed in regular classrooms.
In many cases, special education classes isolate students from their peers and feature more uncertified teachers, a watered-down curriculum and over-reliance on IQ testing, the studies say.
Using 1997 Department of Education data, the studies found that, nationwide, Black students were 2.9 times more likely than Whites to be identified as having mental retardation. They were 1.9 times more likely to be identified with an emotional disturbance and 1.3 times more likely to be identified with a specific learning disability.
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