Thesis

Over-representation of minorities in special education labeled as emotionally disturbed

This research aims to gain a more concrete understanding on minority representations in the US public education system by looking at data from the US Census Bureau, the US Department of Education, and existing academic research. This study looks for the broader implications of minorities being represented in a negative societal pattern, using the public education system as a significant reflection of society as a whole. Finding a specific variable for this national disproportionality cannot be easily and validly tested, due to the broad definition of emotional disturbance, and the ambiguous eligibility and evaluation procedures for this category of disability. Yet, it is fair to say this process is heavily influenced by perceptions, pre-conceptions, expectations, social norms, and standards of educators, special education teams, and members of our educational system. These factors come together to create systematic bias for a heterogeneous population with growing diversity. Looking at the current demographic changes in the overall US population and the increased diversity of population projections, a legitimate concern for greater disproportion gives way. The current disproportion will continue to widen if current practices for referral, evaluation, discipline, and eligibility are not revised. It will take changes in policies and practices in order to redirect the efforts of the US public education system and successfully close deeply rooted gaps in a nation of cultural,ethnic, and racial pluralism. KeyWords: Over-representation, minorities, special education, emotional disturbance.

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