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Steven A. Greenburg, Education Law
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Addressing racial disparity in special education programs

Every parent should be able to expect their children will receive a quality education and the services afforded to them by law. Unfortunately, the education system in this country is lacking in many ways, and students are the ones who pay the price.

This is particularly evident when it comes to special-needs students and the racial disparity that exists between white and nonwhite students. According to statistics, nonwhite students with special needs are far less likely to earn a traditional diploma than white students are.

How big is this gap?

According to statistics, 62 of black and 65 percent of Hispanic special education students graduated with a traditional diploma in 2014-2015; 76 percent of white special education students earned a traditional diploma. This disparity is even more evident when you look at specific districts across the country.

What are the reasons for the racial gap?

As discussed in this Huffington Post article on the racial gap in special education, there are numerous reasons for this troubling gap. 

Poverty is one major contributing factor, as students in lower-income communities often attend schools with far fewer resources than schools in more affluent areas. Black and Latino students are more likely to be placed in lower-resourced schools than white students.

The report also notes that black and Latino students are more likely to be placed on an alternative diploma track than white students are. As such, they are less likely to graduate with the traditional diploma.

What parents can do

There is no one solution to this troubling issue. However, parents can take action to ensure their child gets the education and resources he or she deserves by asking questions and challenging decisions you don't agree with.

You can also talk to an attorney if you have concerns about the education your special-needs child receives -- or isn't receiving. A lawyer who understands special education laws as well as how to remove the roadblocks that prevent students from getting the services they deserve can be an invaluable asset and supporter.

Advocating for your child is not easy, and it can demand considerable time and energy. No one should have to do this alone, and thankfully, you don't have to.

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