The Vermont Connection


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was initially passed in 1975, making provisions for qualifying students to receive special education. Though the act was meant to address the needs of students with disabilities in Kindergarten to twelve grades (K-12), disparities in special education enrollment for Black students have been well documented in the United States over the last 40 years. Scholars continue to question what is the relationship between low-income students, students of color, and disproportionality. Disproportionality refers to the under and over-representation of a specific group in special education. Drawing from the Critical race theory lance, this paper will look at how race plays an enormous and still-underappreciated role in the over-representation of Black students in special education. The report will also look into how policy practices in the identification process are flawed and how representation differs with regard to the race factor of the school brought about by structural racism. The paper will look into how the misrepresentation of Black students in special education has affected Black students. The review concludes by addressing the gaps in the study, offering recommendations for future research, and identifying ways disproportionality issues can be addressed by introducing more inclusive educational settings that incorporate diverse cultures, such as Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) restorative practices.

Keywords: Special Education, disproportionality of Black male students, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)