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Friday, December 15, 2017

Racial Disparities and Special Education

In The Politics of Autism, I write about the experiences of different ethnic and racial groups.

Christina Samuels at Education Week:
The U.S. Department of Education is proposing a two-year delay of a rule that would require states to take a stricter approach to identifying whether their districts have wide racial or ethnic disparities in special education.

The department is asking for comments on its proposed delay. If there is no change, the rule, which was issued under the Obama administration, is set to go into effect for the 2018-19 school year.
During the two-year delay, the Education Department will consider eliminating the rule entirely.
The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and many other organizations want to retain the rule:
On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the 112 undersigned organizations, we write to offer our strong support for the robust enforcement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provisions regarding significant disproportionality in the identification, placement, and discipline of students with disabilities with regard to race and ethnicity.[i] 
As parents, students, and advocates working to eliminate discriminatory practices that undermine equal educational opportunity, we know all too well that students of color are disproportionately misidentified for certain categories of special education, placed in restrictive learning environments at higher rates than their White peers with disabilities (where their outcomes are significantly worse than those of other students), and subjected to punitive discipline practices more often.[ii] We wholeheartedly support the collection of data on significant disproportionality, as it is an essential state obligation as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act[iii] signed on December 3, 2004, and clarified by the regulations finalized on December 19, 2016.[iv] Moreover, we recognize that these data, once collected, should inform action to address systemic barriers to students’ success.
This regulation was a direct response to the February 2013 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study[vi] showing widespread noncompliance by states with 20 U.S.C. Section 1418(d) of the IDEA requiring states to identify Local Education Agencies (LEAs) with significant disproportionality in areas related to special education: Identification; Restrictive Placement; and Discipline. Most states set thresholds for identifying disproportionate districts so high that no districts ever exceeded them, and, therefore, none were identified. Meanwhile states permitted districts to suspend students of color with disabilities at much higher levels than their White peers. Nationally, for example, in 2011, districts suspended more than one in every four Black students with disabilities, at least once. Rates of disciplinary removal for their disabled White peers were far lower.[vii] The GAO recommended that, “To promote consistency in determining which districts need to provide early intervening services, Education should develop a standard approach for defining significant disproportionality to be used by all states.”