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Morning Video: Black Students More Likely to Receive "Stigmatizing" SPED Labels

"The data shows that black students are often times two or three times more likely than white students to be identified, especially in the most stigmatizing categories such as emotional disturbance, mental retardation or intellectual disabilities and some other categories," said Daniel Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies. "They are underrepresented in categories like autism, and perhaps other categories like speech and language." (The Complicated Problem Of Race And Special Education.)

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Un-PC alert. Based on spending many years immersed in the public-school community in a diverse urban district, here's an observation. I often see white middle-class families desperately trying to get their kids identified as disabled, without parsing whether the specific disability is "stigmatizing" or not. Those families are advocating because they perceive that their children will benefit from the services and accommodations to which children with disabilities are entitled.

I often hear black families, and sometimes non-black advocates for those families, objecting to identification with ANY special need as stigmatizing. Based on my observation, that tends to be a shared view in the African American community.

In other words, I disagree with the characterization of certain disabilities as stigmatizing and others as non-stigmatizing. The difference is in the attitudes within different communities.

However, I also recognize that the quality of services and accommodations may vary greatly from school to school, district to district or student to student, and that African American students may be more likely for various reasons to be at risk of receiving lower-quality services and accommodations, meaning that there may be sound reason for the difference in attitudes.

End of un-PC alert.

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