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When special education is a breeding ground for discrimination

Federal law protects students with special needs from being discriminated against in an educational context. Specifically, federal law mandates that students with learning disabilities are given access to a proper education in the least restrictive setting possible. However, federal law does not protect students from all forms of discrimination. Just as many mainstream students do, special needs students can become targets for bullying and other forms of unfair treatment that do not necessarily rise to the level of illegal negative treatment.

And yet, it is important for parents and educators to remain on the lookout for discriminatory treatment of special needs students that may indeed be illegal. For example, the Boston Herald recently published the results of a report indicating that young, black male students in Boston are being identified as special needs students at alarming rates. This report is raising questions about whether or not racial discrimination is a factor in placing so many of these students into the special education program.

California and federal laws help to guide assessments for special education so that only those students in need of special education opportunities and services are placed within that system. However, misunderstandings about special education, special needs and a variety of other factors can turn the special education system into a breeding ground for legal and illegal forms of discrimination if these factors are not checked and balanced.

If you have questions about whether your special needs student may be facing illegal forms of discrimination, please do not hesitate to speak with an attorney experienced in this area of law. Your student deserves to be protected by the law in the same ways that every other student does as well.

Source: Boston Herald, “Report: Boston dumps young black males into special ed,” Jack Encarnacao, Nov. 13, 2014

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