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How Race Affects Kids’ Placement In Special Ed. Or Gifted Programs

By Victor Trammell

Children are psychologically classified in three main competency categories in every American public school system (special education, general education, and gifted education).

On an annual basis, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) produces the Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). This mandatory yearly report exposes how many children are placed in each competency category, as well as the race of each child.

Independent scholars perform case studies using this government data to dissect who’s who and what’s what when it comes to the percentages of each ethnic group in the three competency categories. Year after year, it is found that in many major U.S. cities that there is a consistency with special education students being predominantly black.

However, when it comes to gifted students in many of these same areas, the children are predominantly white. If you think this is some race-baiting myth based on a victim-playing mentality, then think again. Kathleen Barlow (and her co-author C. Elaine Dunbar) wrote a report based on a case study, which was published in 2010 by the Berkeley Review of Education.

These two women’s case study report told it like it is in the title: “Race, Class, and Whiteness in Gifted and Talented Identification.” Another truthful academic masterpiece published in 2002 showed a trend in those days that showed a different side of the huge race problem surrounding the majority of the students placed in special education.

This stinging analysis was a white paper released by the Council for Exceptional Children. A snapshot of the facts about the races of special education children around the turn of the century reads as follows:

[Around the year 2000], African American students were:

• 2.9 times as likely as white students to be labeled mentally retarded.

• 1.9 times as likely to be labeled emotionally disturbed.

• 1.3 times as likely to be labeled as having a learning disability. (Addressing Over-Representation of African American Students in Special Education,

A child’s placement in special or gifted education programs seems to be pervasively based on race because of the fact that it’s really based on class. Being a black child in America isn’t the same education-wise when the parents have money. Wealthy black families don’t have to rely on the public school system. Private religious schools aren’t like charters and some of them are very expensive to attend.

However, the wealth gap between blacks and whites in the nation’s urban and suburban public school districts (which are both free to attend) is big enough to make millions of children fall through the cracks.

You can of course, take matters in your own hands when it comes to educating your children. This report proves nothing changed from 2000 to 2010. Why would anyone think things have changed since then?

For more information and a step by step guide on how to transition your children and family to homeschooling,

Source 1: Race, Class, and Whiteness in Gifted and Talented Identification: A Case Study (2010)

Source 2: Addressing Over-Representation of African American Students in Special Education: The Intervention Process (2002)





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