Fixing The Special Education System in America

By Giovanni Zaburoni

The U.S. Department of Education and the Obama Administration are trying to tackle an ongoing issue of racial disparities within the special education system. Black students in special education classes are more likely to be disciplined and given out-of-school suspensions than their white counterparts. According to Education Week, more than one out of four boys of color with disabilities and almost one out of five girls of color with disabilities receive out-of-school suspensions; these statistics exclude Latino and Asian American students.

The Department of Education said 876 school districts “gave African-American students with disabilities short-term, out-of-school suspensions at least twice as often as all other students with disabilities for three years in a row.” To rectify this situation and potentially intervene and prevent a student from being placed in special education, the U.S. Department of Education wants to standardize the special education system. Right now, each state has its’ own methods of dealing with “significant disproportionality.”

According to Good Black News, “A 2013 Government Accountability Office Report says just 2 percent of school districts nationwide were identified as having minorities represented disproportionately in special education.” The report said, “This figure fails to represent the true scope and breadth of significant disparities we currently see in special education.”

If the special education system were standardized, many more schools would be added to that list. If a school district is shown to have “significant disproportionality” in their special education system, they would be required to “set aside 15 percent of their federal special education money for early-intervention services.” Under the “Individuals with Disabilities Act,” the funding of 15 percent must be used to fix the problem.

During the 2009-2010 school year, 356 of nearly 13,000 had to set aside money for intervention services. Half of the districts were in five states and 73 of them were in Louisiana alone, as noted by Education Week. Secretary of Education John King said, “The data we’ve seen makes it very clear that we, as a country, are not living up to the intent of the law.”

The National Association of State Directors of Special Education are weighing in on the standardized system proposal.

“NASDSE recognizes that the over-identification of minority students in special education is a concern that should be addressed. The temptation to address this concern by developing a standard approach is great, but, if our nation has learned just one thing since the No Child Left Behind Act was signed into law, it would be that ‘one size does not fit all.'”

Sources: Good Black News, Education Week


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