There are too many Black boys in Sped classes.
Sped Used Correctly:
In fact, Special Education, when used to its real intent, is an excellent resource. Teachers identify the challenges exhibited by students and help parents put methods in place that will assist in student learning. The special education process, when used to it’s the real intent can be an invaluable tool for student learning.
Consequently, the problem that I have with Special Education, and I’m sure this rings true in communities with PoC is when race plays a role in determining placement. As it stands young black males, simply started are overrepresented in Special Education classes.
Black Boys in Sped:
Moreover, in the 2011-12 school year, black students were 14.4% of the student population in schools in the US. In the same time frame, Black students were also 19% of the 6.1 million students served under IDEA. More specifically, Black Males represented 12.8% of the 4.1 million males served under IDEA.
The Dirty South:
The South is the most egregious. Some of the statistics are unnerving. In the following states, the percent of their Special Education populations are staggering. They are as follows:
- Georgia 50%
- Louisiana 52.4%
- South Carolina 43%
- Maryland 45.2%
Some of you may be surprised by these numbers. Unfortunately, many of us are not. Given the shameful history of white supremacy, these numbers make sense. The figures also become eerily correlatable to the school to prison pipeline, a concept that I will address in the future.
Some of the areas that Black Students have been over-identified in special education services are as follows:
- Emotional disturbance
- Intellectually Disabled
Reluctance to Address the Stigma:
The obvious answer and I’m walking on eggshells as I type is that there is a disconnect between the ways Black kids learn and the way teach Black kids. One can’t help but think that whom they are educated by plays a role in students being over-identified as intellectually disabled students.
Black parents are resistant to Special Education talks. They have personally had bad experiences, or they know of others who have had lousy experiences. So when a Black parent is apprehensive to your suggestions, it’s not because they don’t care about their kid, it’s the opposite.
Ways to combat Sped Stigmas:
- Cultural relevant pedagogy: make learning interesting to all students. Don’t be afraid to learn about cultures that may differ from your own.
- Relationship building: Understanding that kids don’t work for people they don’t like or trust.
Building authentic relationships with families and students is a surefire way to start to break down existing barriers.
- Sensitivity to past trauma: Although these students may not have directly experienced slavery, Jim Crow, Civil Rights, Mass Incarceration, they are descendants of those that have. They carry a sense of lived trauma that has not and sometimes we will never atone.
I chaired a parent meeting recently in which we went through the process of identifying a black male student for Sped Services. As I spoke to this grandfather, I could see the lived pain on his face.
I was cautious and deliberate with the words that I talked to him. I could tell it was more comfortable for him to take in because that message came directly from me, someone he knew cared, and would operate in the best interests of his grandson, a young black boy.