Overrepresentation Of Minorities In Special Education

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Special Education is designed to support and to serve children with disabilities. In theory, eligible students are to receive specialized instructions by teacher with specific training, tutoring, and extra attention from teachers, counselors, and other professional support staff. Since, Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) was passed it has brought benefits to students who were not previously served in this country. Despite the improvements from the laws, the benefits of special education have not been distributed correctly. Inappropriate practices in both general and special education programs have resulted in overrepresentation, misclassification, and hardship for minority students. The assumption of overrepresentation among all minority groups is that, when represented accurately, the proportion of different ethnic groups in any category or program should be equal to the proportion of the same group in the general school population. When an ethnic group has two disproportionate groups in the school population, overrepresentation occurs. In order to understand today’s overrepresentation we must understand what has happened in our country in the past. In the past our country justified racial segregation. Special education was used as a means of classifying and segregating the immigrant population of Irish, Italians, Germans, Russians, and others flooding the schools and isolating them from the more established Americans (Sarason and Doris, 1979). Placement into such programs was used as a control mechanism based on stereotypes, prejudiced beliefs, and fears (Thomas, 1986). Even though it is illegal today to segregate students it seems to be occurring in a subtle way through special education. According to Williams-Dixon (1991), such placements may constitute a new version of segregation and discrimination by sentencing minority students to special
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