10. Special Education Overidentification Causes: Local Enforcement

Enforcement against special education overidentification begins with the federal government and the U. S. Department of Education supervised by the U. S. President and his or her cabinet. IDEA authority transfers to the states (SEAs) and downward to local school districts (LEAs).  States are suppose to prod districts to cut down on overidentification. States can lose federal money if they do not comply.


Reporting in the Silicon Valley Mercury News, on April 20m 2011, Theresa Harrington (Contra Costa Times) gives us a small picture of enforcement issues in California at the local level,  “Mt. Diablo schools must address high rates of minority students in special education programs, or suspended or expelled.”

Last year the California Department of Education identified 85 school districts in California as having disproportional representations of minority students. Now 45 districts have taken action to improve ethnic imbalances in special education and suspensions.  Mt Diablo was identified as a district needing “to remove barriers that prevent each student from receiving an equitable education.” Mt. Diablo school leaders are seeking advice from other districts about how to formulate a prevention plan.  

“I believe this work is very important and if the board doesn’t move forward with a policy, then we will have failed more students than we have ever helped,” Trustee Linda Mayo said. “Our community is in denial about how we treat black and brown students across this district and our community is in denial about the changing demographics of our community. Our students belong to all of us, because we are a family, and they deserve the best opportunities possible.”


So we see national and state special education enforcement can break down at the local level.  There are many national causes of overidentification.  Local causes tend to be idiosyncratic and must be understood through qualitative research to include community and school norms and attitudes. 

One wonders why the U. S. Secretary of Education doesn’t communicate directly with U. S. schools.  The trickle down method is precariously inefficient. Using electronic mail, it is possible to employ a simple and inexpensive system to advise LEA’s of current federal policies.


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