Special Education Over-identification: A Parent Speaks

Naomi Boyle On January 3, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Dear Dr. Panagos:

I am delighted to hear that you are considering writing a book on the issue of over-identification of disabilities in schools. I am a parent who sold a house to move out of a school district so that my child would not become what I call a “victim of over-identification.” I have heard of several parents who have done likewise. Several years have passed since we made that move, but the mission was accomplished, and it was a decision I never regretted.

But sadly there are many parents that quite frankly don’t have a clue. They become convinced by the study teams that their child is “special.” They become convinced by the bio-psychiatry industry that the underlying problem has nothing to do with the environment and can only be attributed to some not so well defined, ever changing, subjectively diagnosed, alleged, biological cause outside of their control. The parents have no idea of the funding incentives that encourage schools to engage in over-identification. In fact the phrase “over-identification” hasn’t even entered into their vocabularly. Not only do parents have no clue about how IDEA funding works, they haven’t even heard about the Medicaid and third-party reimbursement profits school districts view as limitless revenue streams. In my opinion, a book educating America on over-identification is sorely needed.

Schools often cite their IDEA numbers to convince the public that there has not been an increase in “identified” students. Of course those numbers are limited by Congressional Act and almost every school is at or near the max if not slightly over. But we never hear how many students are placed on 504 plans, or a “mini IEP.” or an IEP “for related services only,” or an “individul health plan” or on a “functional behavior plan. ” I have talked to many parents whose kids are on non-IDEA plans of some sort or another and because the parents don’t understand education law, they are just as convinced that their child has a disability as are the parents of children placed on full fledged IDEA IEPs that the school districts cite as their “special education” population. The consequence is that the psychological damage for these inappropriately placed children can be just as grave. I hope your book addresses these victims of over-identification as well.

You state that you would like to address the issue of disproportionality in special education. When I taught elementary general music many moons ago in Southwest rural Georgia, I witnessed first hand true “disportionaltiy.” The district’s African American population was approximately 30% but when I walked into the EMR classrooms somehow I was seeing classes that were approximately 90% African American. But years later when I had my own child and enrolled her in a public elementary school in a middle class suburb in Johnson County, Kansas, I witnessed something much different. The school had only 1-2% of the students on free and reduced lunch, and demographically it had a white, non-Hispanic population in excess of 95% (and most of the other 5% were Asian). Yet I noticed on the school’s website that there were 13 special education paras on staff in a little elementary school with only 400 students, and team meetings occuring in the fall every morning and every afternoon in the glass conference room adjacent to the principal’s office. I can’t call that disproportionality, it appeared to me that it could only be called pure unadulterated over-identification. Yet, many experts in the field speak of disproportionality as if it is synonymous with the phrase “over-identification,” and I can tell you based on my experiences it is not. I think the best way to describe disproportionality is as a sub-set of over-identification.

Please in the name of the millions of children in this country currently and about to become “victims of over-identification” write this book. Perhaps a good title would be “Over-Identification Awareness.” And I will say a prayer when it comes time for you to find a publisher.

Library of Congress, via CBS News: "Child labor photos from 1911The child labor photos Lewis Hine took in the early 1900s were meant to shock Americans into reforming child labor laws. Decades later, many of these photos are getting a fresh look, thanks to one man's efforts to link the subjects to their living relatives. This photo taken in Winchendon, Mass., in Sept. 1911, shows Mamie Laberge at her workstation. She is under the legal work age. 

Caption information from "The Library of Congress."

Library of Congress, via CBS News: “Child labor photos from 1911
The child labor photos Lewis Hine took in the early 1900s were meant to shock Americans into reforming child labor laws. Decades later, many of these photos are getting a fresh look, thanks to one man’s efforts to link the subjects to their living relatives. This photo taken in Winchendon, Mass., in Sept. 1911, shows Mamie Laberge at her workstation. She is under the legal work age. 

Caption information from “The Library of Congress.”

Advertisements
Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: