Response to "Is Special Education Racist"
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Response to the New York Times June 24th Opinion article, “Is Special Education Racist?”
Our members know all too well that there exists a broad range of racial inequity in our nation’s schools. Reported data show significant racial and ethnic disparity in the identification of children for special education, including identification by disability category, educational placement, and disciplinary action. In fact, this has been a concern for decades and has been documented and reinforced many times over.
COPAA members work to protect the civil rights and secure excellence in education on behalf of the 6.5 million children with disabilities in America. COPAA is grounded in the belief that every child deserves the right to a quality education that prepares him or her for meaningful employment, higher education and lifelong learning, as well as full participation in his or her community. Done well, special education is vital to students' success. Unfortunately some schools and districts are failing to identify students for necessary services and others are using special education as a dumping ground and inappropriately identifying children of color. Whichever study one looks at, it is clear students of color are between a rock and a hard place due to continued, disproportionate failure to meet their educational needs and the rampant unjust denial of equal educational opportunity.
Obviously students who are not identified have no chance of receiving vital services. On the flip side of the same coin, however, according to 2014 Civil Rights Data Collection, once labeled as IDEA-eligible, students of color are more likely to be placed in more segregated settings and less likely to receive related services than their white peers with the same disability. Additionally, they are at greater risk for lowered expectations, low graduation rates, high drop out and high inappropriate school push out and criminalization.
Our members’ experience on the ground tells a most disturbing and grievous story about the impact discrimination has had on student outcomes. However you look at it, this is simply not acceptable. It is time to stop the rhetoric and take action in both regulation and guidance to end the passivity that has allowed racial disparity and denial of rights to go unchecked for decades. Faithful administration of the law, not quotas or numerical targets is how we must address this issue. Equal opportunity must mean just that. No excuses.