Before addressing your comments above, I am going to marinate a minute on the articles for this forum. The Harry and Anderson article was a great introductory read on the subject, and gave some great information on the contributing factors to African-American males in SPED classes. First of all, the authors make some great points about the quality of education prior to a SPED referral, which I would like to discuss here. They make the point that many African-American males begin their SPED journey on the first day of school, given that “the typical classroom presents for them an unfamiliar mode of learning and behavior.” It thus falls on the teachers, according to the authors, “to identify the African-American make student’s knowledge and skills, and to use those assets to build a bridge to the kinds of knowledge and skills needed for school success.” I COULD NOT AGREE MORE. As the authors point out, our current model off education in this country requires students to sit in desks, in rows (or a circle or groups if you are really creative), facing the teacher, sitting quietly and working for 6 hours a day, Monday thru Friday. Obviously, this approach does not work for everyone, even, I would venture to say, most people. Yet, that is our model and that is what is done in countless classrooms. Children, especially many of the boys I have in my classes, have energy, and it must be put to good use, or it will become a behavior issue in the class. Too many behavioral outbursts (due largely to the methods of instruction as they are not engaging for the student) leads to referrals and finally IEP testing. The cycle continues. The authors then point out White fear of Black physicality and their devaluation of the Black vernacular in classrooms, further contributing to SPED referrals, merely due to cultural differences in engagement. They write, “Cultural preferences for both physical and verbal behavior have a powerful influence on teachers’ perceptions, which are…the source of the initial referral of children to SPED. Further, teachers are driven by the structure of schools, which calls for control, homogeneity, and the inclusion of socially sanctioned behaviors and language.” As a white female teacher in a nearly 100% black school, I have witnessed the divisions between the culture of my students and the institutional culture of the school. I agree that we have an outdated, limited model of instruction in most classrooms that discourages movement and encourages silence and rapt attention on the part of students. As a newly trained teacher exposed to recent pedagogy, the issues outlined by the authors here seem like common knowledge to me, obvious examples of the ways in which our education system is failing black students. The concern I am addressing here in regard to equity and SPED is that I feel a huge amount of students are labeled SPED due to perceived behavior issues that have their root in out-modeled instructional systems. I have found that, when my kids are busy and engaged in their work and interested in it, I have virtually no behavior problems (DUH). Thus, is falls on the teacher to address these instructional challenges so that our students are engaged in the learning process, not having it shoved down their throat. In answer to a question posed above, is the system biased towards or against black males, I want to answer in regard to the instructional systems I discussed here. In this vein, I think the system is biased against black culture and its engagement with academics. I do not think today’s classrooms are modeled to readily accept and deal with black male culture, resulting in a slew of completely typical black adolescent boys being placed in SPED for “behavior” problems. So, in answer to the original guiding question, I think, and the authors say, that a lack of understanding and cultural acceptance are huge contributing factors to the over-representation of minorities in SPED. As the authors of the second article suggest, what we need now are new discourses surrounding our teaching practices so that we meet the needs of our kids, rather than leaving them to work within a system that does not value them for who they are. This same lack of understanding carries over into the teacher’s engagement with SPED kids in class. I love that fact that DC has an inclusion model, largely because I feel as though that model helps to reduce some of the stigma and marginalization associated with SPED students who are yanked from the mainstream to attend special classes which, as Emily pointed out, are located tucked in separate buildings, classes at the far end of the hall, or out of the way corners where the students can be forgotten about by the school, except to be labeled the “retard” hallway (as quoted from students at my school). Until we as teachers and administrators implement a better way of integrating SPED students into the mainstream of general education, whether that be by class placement or inclusion or mainstreaming students, we cannot hope to lift the stigma attached to the SPED label. Language is all important here, as Harry and Anderson suggest, and we as teachers in an inclusion setting must be aware of the terms and words surrounding our SPED kids’ lives and academic realities so that we can best serve them. In short, we must educate ourselves in order to offer the best possible schooling for our kids as possible; ultimately, we must educate ourselves to provide them the equity in education they deserve. Building from that, the laws state that we must provide the least restrictive environment possible for our students in order to meet guidelines. This law has changed the course of education for people with disabilities more than any other, but it still presents challenges in interpretation. I wonder, though, who is to decide what the least restrictive environment is? Parents? Teachers? Students? None seem to be able to do this alone, so perhaps a combination of the three would work. Students must be invested in their studies in order for good results to occur, and it is our job as educators to ensure they get all of the accommodations they need in a combination of inclusion and resource classes (something I have seen that works the best for most of my kids), complete with differentiations to address their particular IEP needs. This brings me to another point on language (which, as the authors point out, is SO integral to an understanding of this subject matter). Think about the connotation between deficit and exceptionality. One good, the other bad, in layman’s terms. I prefer to not think that any of my students have deficits, they have challenges, strengths and weaknesses, but certainly not deficits. My bank account has deficits. My free time following grad school suffers from deficits. My children, however, do not. What my kids do have are exceptionalities, they do have talents, they do need guidance, they do need support. That is our role, then, as teachers, we must provide our kids with a counter to the cycle of low expectations, low self-confidence, and inappropriate curricula and teaching methods so that our kids learning difficulties do not continue appearing endemic and so teachers can stop asking as a whole, “WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE KIDS????” Because, as we all know, the process of referral will most likely lead to SPED placement, and to a repeating cycle of marginalization that indoctrinates a sense of failure and lack of confidence in our young black males. In short, we need to examine how our teaching impacts the placement of black males in SPED classes. By examining ourselves and our classrooms first, we can then hope to begin making changes that will severely limit our SPED populations in the interest of actually meeting the needs of kids, rather than arbitrarily labeling them, putting a tag on their shirt, and shipping them off to be with other students “just like them.” My recommendation is to take a hard look at the structure of our systems first, from instruction to curriculum to behavior to language to the SPED referral process, in order to stop the cycle of putting a disproportionate amount of young black males in SPED classes.