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African American parent involvement in special education : perceptions, practice, and placement


The disproportional representation of Black students in special education has been an issue of concern for many years in the United States. A review of the literature illustrates the struggle of African American children in the American educational system: from the Civil Rights Movement and desegregation to the re-segregation of these same children into special day classrooms. What the literature fails to report is how parental involvement might help educators address the problem of overrepresentation and the perceptions of the families who are affected by their children being placed in special educational settings. The purpose of this study was to describe and analyze the experiences and perceptions of African American parents who have male children receiving special education services in schools. Critical race theory was utilized as a framework to examine and challenge the manner in which race and racism impacts practices and procedures by school personnel dealing with African American parents. As such, qualitative data were gathered and analyzed to bring to light African American parents' experiences with the special education system servicing their male children. Many of the parents in this study stated that they had experienced obstacles that prevented them from meaningful participation in the educational planning for their children as members of the IEP process. The perceived obstacles that limited their parental involvement in special education were the following: communication between parents and the IEP team members; knowledge of special education laws; parental rights and roles in the process; African American academic success and placement; and school staff understanding of African American students culture and the need for diversity. The findings of this study yield important implications for policy and practice. These changes require a paradigm shift towards inclusive educational practices that support all students in the general education setting and a renewed commitment to improving parental involvement among African American parents at both the site and district levels. Educational leaders can support this shift through providing professional development and trainings to parents and site administrators on the legal guidelines established by Public Law 94-142 (IDEA). Future research include studies which could provide the field with more information as to why inequities in special education continue to plague African American males and their families

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