NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Are Minority Students Diverted To Special Ed Classes?

March 5, 2001

According to studies commissioned by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, black public school students are more likely than whites to be categorized as needing special education services, making them subject to less demanding schoolwork, more restrictive classrooms and isolation from their peers.

  • Researchers say black students were nearly three times as likely as whites to be labeled ''mentally retarded'' and in need of special education services.
  • The studies also found that in richer school districts, black male students were at greater risk of being disproportionately labeled "mentally retarded."
  • In five states -- Connecticut, Nebraska, South Carolina, Mississippi and North Carolina -- black students were more than four times as likely to be identified as mentally retarded than their white peers, the studies showed.
  • Nationwide, about 11 percent of students are classified as needing special education services.

The U.S. Department of Education plans to release its own study on the issue, which might come this summer.

Source: "Blacks more likely to be put in special ed," USA Today, March 5, 2001.


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