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The Black Cornerempty posted: 03.06
Mike Ramey Mike Ramey
Do We Need To Dred--Special ED?
by Mike Ramey,
The Manhoodline
some text

I have a few simple questions for those among us who have children involved in the ranks of SE--Special Education: First, has your child had their Individual Education Program Report updated for the next school year? Next, how do you know if your child has been ACCURATELY labeled as a Special Education student? Lastly, is your child’s school trying to save SE money by short changing YOUR child’s education needs?

Brothers, let’s talk for a little while on the issue of Special Education. No, I am not an expert…but real life has forced me to ‘study up’ on the topic. Frankly I am tired of watching parents being screwed by school systems when it comes to the progress of our children. I am also tired of seeing young Black men ‘tracked’ into SE like it is a hotel.

To me, one of the curiosities of Special Education echoes the sentiment of the old Eagles’ song, ‘Hotel California’; meaning a student can ‘check out’ of Special Education…but they can NEVER leave the program.

I’ve mentioned before that I have been amazed that it PAYS for a young Black man to become helpless these days. Parents get fat checks from the federal government and some state governments for each child that has a documented learning disability. School districts get fat checks from the same governments for the number of ‘helpless’ students (learning disabled or special ed students) they have on their rolls.

Community organizations get fat checks to hire social workers and counselors to ‘reach’ these students with education and socialization programs--some of them offering more services than you can imagine. Even the juvenile justice system has a host of programs tailor made for ‘the helpless’ young criminal--with local social service agencies providing the services.

Then, there is the lack of a stigma seemingly attached to the SE student. Once again, many of our young Black men live with a host of letters after their names in tribute to their affliction (MMH, LD, ED, etc.). They may not be able to spell the name of the capital of their state, but by golly they can tell you (quite fluidly in some cases) when they first got their ‘affliction’, what medication is needed to ‘treat it’, and the name, time, and location of their last ‘therapy’ session.

One veteran educator in my area nailed the controversy on the head, by stating that it seemed funny that some of our young men were ‘Special Ed’ students only Monday through Friday, 7am to 3pm, but could go home and play video games, go to parties or to work, or watch Rap/Hip-Hop videos--and understand them--on nights and weekends.

In the words of Aretha Franklin: “Who’s Zooming Who?”

In my humble opinion, Black parents and their children are the ones getting zoomed by the Special Education establishment. These officials, teachers and administrators know the law and the numbers; they control the designation; and they determine ‘how long’ someone is qualified to be ‘in’ special education, and ‘when’ they are qualified to leave.

Let me toss a few dollars at you. In some school districts, the AVERAGE Special Ed student is worth some $5,000 to $8,000 per year in federal funding. Thus, the more students in this designation, the more money the school system can receive in funding from Uncle Sam. Never mind the fact that taxpayer pockets are being picked.
I know that there are students who DO have genuine learning problems and special education needs. However, it appears to me that the parent of a special education student has a host of rights and privileges, but never seems to be advised by the school or the special education department what these rights actually are--but they are supposed to ‘trust’ these ‘professionals’ with the mental welfare of OUR children.
Brothers, it is high time for us to tackle this matter head on.

Can I get an AMEN from the cheap seats?

As a parent, if someone wanted to put my child into something that was good ‘for’ their intellectual growth, but would not tell me about my rights and how I could go about ‘checking up’ on the rules of this ‘wonderful’ learning system, I would be very curious at the least. Problem is, many parents in general--and Black parents in particular--assume that the ‘system’ always knows best.


If you think that I am sinking too much time into the Special Education issue, let me ask you to do your own research on line. Choose your search engine and type in the words: ‘Blacks and Special Education’. You will be amazed at the information that comes to the top. In 2005 for instance, the Washington Post did an excellent job examining the subject as some 18 school systems in the state of Maryland were having problems. Seems that there were far too many Black students being shipped off to Special Ed classes without much in the way of rationale. The article also cited at least 30 school districts in the state of Virginia with similar problems in having too many Black students going into Special Ed classes in comparison to the total numbers of Black students in each of these Virginia school districts. Further, the abuses of putting Black children into such programs goes back to the ‘Individuals With Disabilities Education Act’--which was passed in 1997 (so ‘No Child Left Behind’ did not start this fire). There are also articles on line from California, Indiana, Ohio, and a host of other states.

There are also excellent resources--written in plain English--to inform parents of their rights and HOW to fight to make sure their child gets the best in education resources out of their local school system IF their child is in Special Education classes.

Brothers, here are three bottom-line rights that a parent of a special education child has, regardless of the child’s designation:

*ONCE per year, the child and the parent MUST sit down with the SE teacher, their department head, and the school counselor to see what progress is being made in terms of the school providing the resources to educate the SE child. Now, the school may choose to do this by phone, or by mail, or just between the parent and the SE teacher. Make sure that ALL the players AND you and your child are in attendance to get this review accomplished, for this will determine where your child will spend their next year.

*BEWARE of being pressured, pushed, or made to feel inferior about demanding that your child’s school spend money on your child’s program. IF your child is judged NOT to be able to accomplish their studies at school, BY LAW your school MUST pay for either home bound education (having an SE teacher come to your home to teach your child), OR, pay for an SE education for your child at a nearby school corporation that may have better education opportunities--including transportation costs for your child.

*DOCUMENT how your child is doing in their school’s SE program. TAKE GOOD NOTES. Sometimes, SE teachers WILL socially promote children ‘just so they won’t have to deal with them’. Sometimes, SE teachers are poorly trained and are just ‘looking to get paid’. KEEP your documents, write down your concerns, and share them at the annual get together (preferably during the current school year) to make sure that your child’s school is doing their job in providing SE resources for their education.

When parents start getting ‘hip’ and learn their rights, Special Ed will stop being known as ‘Special Dred’. Of course, this means that more than a few parents will have to do something they haven’t done in many a day--start valuing an education ahead of those nice checks the government sends when you keep a kid dumb; and a school district without accountability.

MIKE RAMEY is the author of THE MANHOOD LINE. A syndicated, monthly column written for men from a biblical, business, and common sense perspective. It appears on fine websites around the world. Emails, Bmails and Pmails are welcomed to the following address:

©2006 Mike Ramey/Barnstorm Communications International.
Used by permission,, 2006.

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