A disparate impact? : Understanding the relationship between discretionary removal, special education, and African American students
MetadataShow full item record
The overrepresentation of African American students in special education coupled with their disproportionate disciplinary sanctions is a contentious educational issue. An examination of extant literature suggests that African American students are more likely to be referred to special education; placed in a stigmatizing disability category; educated in a restricted educational settings; and least likely to return to a general classroom setting. Equally disturbing, these students are more likely to be cited for subjective disciplinary sanctions and least likely to be educated with their peers. This is disturbing because the labeling of special education coupled with disciplinary sanctions can negatively impact this sector of students’ educational opportunities, psychological image, long-term goals and aspirations, and their overall quality of life. The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between discretionary removal, special education, and African American students. More specific, this study sought to determine the trends of discretionary removal for special education students as defined by Texas Education Code 37, and whether these types of disciplinary measures had a disparate impact on African American special education students’ school completion rate. The findings for this study, revealed a diverse district with a large percentage of economically disadvantaged students and a special education population that was aligned to the state average. Chi-square results revealed a relationship between discretionary removal and Latina/o and White students and students who were identified as economically disadvantaged. In addition, logistic regression results showed ethnicity for Latina/o student who were served by special education was a significant predictor for discretionary removal. Conversely, disability category, economic status, and ethnicity were all significant predictors for school dropouts for special education students who were cited for discretionary removal. Moreover, African Americans who were not evident in the chi-square analysis were significantly associated with discretionary removal. Furthermore, interviews of administrators revealed special education students who did not have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) that purposefully addressed disciplinary issues were purportedly treated no differently than students without a disability.