Being “different” has never been acceptable to conservative Americans. The perceptions and ideals we have in our society don’t make it easier for those who have physical and learning disabilities. Teachers make their experiences even more challenging, and it begins at school.
Let’s try looking at the experience of Black children who have special needs differently. They, too, are overlooked and left behind in public schools that view them as price tags as opposed to being priceless. That’s right; there’s funding that schools receive for children who have special needs.
But does the additional funding increase the progress of Black children in special education programs?
Black children begin being shamed about learning differently or having special needs as early as 3rd grade. The reality of our black children is that they have a strike against them because of their skin color and another strike if they have a disability. If Black children are being shamed because of their disabilities as early as elementary school, it’s no wonder why they are 2-3 grade levels behind in reading.
Stop shaming Black children in public schools!
Teachers talk at Black children instead of working with them. About two months ago, Fathers Incorporated held a national event that engaged hundreds of Black fathers. As they supported their children in schools across the Nation, many of them spoke about their bad experiences in public schools and how, even as adult males, they don’t feel welcomed in schools. Many of them still felt the shame from educators in schools they attended. One father recalled a teacher in public school having him stand in front of the entire class and recite the pledge of allegiance. Due to a speech impediment, he recalled saying it over five times until the teacher made him stand outside of the room. Trama is being inflicted upon Black children with disabilities in public schools?
There’s a right and a wrong way to educate Black children with disabilities. Black children receive a lot of negativity about themselves in schools. As a special education teacher, I know because students on my caseload tell me. It’s not as shocking to me as it is for parents to learn about the mistreatment of Black children with disabilities in schools. I’ve witnessed teachers make comments about Black students in the special education department that were demeaning. Comments such as, “It doesn’t matter what we give the sped kids because they aren’t going to get it.’’ Not only are these comments disrespectful, but these comments also show the belief gap some educators have when it comes to Black children with disabilities.
Imagine being told you’re bad because you’re different.
We need improved policies, support for instruction in the classroom, ongoing professional development for teachers (not just Special Education teachers), and improved success rates for Black children with special needs in public schools. This means school board members need to take more time to review and observe what’s happening in special education classrooms, especially classrooms that are EBD/EEBD. Our Black boys aren’t being academically motivated in many special education programs. We must also take the initiative to eradicate the bias towards Black children with disabilities in general ed classrooms. We all have different learning styles. Teaching Black boys with ADHD or Dyslexia is hard but not impossible. Our goal must be guiding Black boys to graduation and careers, not incarceration or cemeteries.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.