EDUCATING OUR MOST VULNERABLE STUDENTS
Ignoring The Special Education Problem Staring Us In The Face
The LAUSD ignores data suggesting that Asian children are not getting the special education services that they require in order to thrive.
- Leonard H. Courtney
Data is useful to identify possible problems, but it should never be relied on to tell the entire story. An example can be found in the LAUSD Special Education Department’s presentation on “Addressing LA Unified’s Significant Disproportionality Challenges for African American Students with Disabilities.”
According to the data provided, African American students represent 7.49% of the LAUSD’s general education students but are 10.04% of the district’s Students with Disabilities (SWD). For the specific eligibility of Emotional Disturbance (ED), African American children comprise 18.5% of the LAUSD’s cases. While this information tells us that there is, indeed, significant disproportionality in the number of African American children receiving these services, it does nothing to explain why this is happening or if it is harming the affected students. Without answering these essential questions, the district went on to explain how they were going to fix the “problem.”
It is possible that higher than expected diagnoses are occurring because of implicit bias or because the students are not receiving early intervention, but further studies should be undertaken to prove these suspicions. An equally plausible explanation is that the parents of these students are more culturally prepared to accept a legitimate diagnosis. Until data is presented proving that students are incorrectly being diagnosed, the district should not be embarking on any plan that seeks to reduce the number of students with any specific eligibility. To do so creates the unacceptable risk that students will not receive services to which they are entitled and which they need.