I'm usually advocating for more appropriate services for students under the IDEA or working with parents trying to get their student on an IEP, but this information shows how some districts abuse the IDEA and inappropriately place native American students in special educational programs.
About 14% of American Indian and Alaska Native students received
IDEA services in 2006, compared to 8% of white, 11% of black, 8% of Hispanic,
and 5% of Asian/Pacific Islander students (Alliance for Excellent Education 2008).
Table 1 shows the percent of minority students enrolled in three specific special
education categories in 2006.
Nationally, American Indian and Alaska Native students are 1.53 times more likely
to receive special education services for specific learning disabilities and are 2.89
times more likely to receive such services for developmental delays than the combined
average of all other racial groups. Fifteen percent of American Indian and Alaska
Native eighth graders were categorized as students with disabilities in 2005, meaning
they had or were in the process of receiving Individualized Education Plans (IEP), compared
to 9% of all non–American Indian and Alaska Native eighth graders (Collier,
2011). A disturbing additional aspect of this disproportionality is that while overrepresented
in special education in general, AI/AN students are woefully under-served
in specific categories of special need, e.g.,autism spectrum disorder and intellectually
gifted. In 1998, American Indian and Alaska Native students made up 1.1% of
the student population but just 0.87% of the student population in gifted education
(Faircloth and Tippeconnic, 2000).
This dismal national picture is repeated within many individual districts. In a study
of ethnicity and gender in placement in special education in Portland Public schools
in Oregon (King & Pemberton, 2001), researchers found a consistent pattern of
disproportionality for AI/AN students. They were over-represented in special education
services almost 2 to 1 but under-represented in autism spectrum disorder. While AI/AN
students represented 2.4% of total enrollment in PPS, they represented 4.7% of
special education students but only 1.5% of those identified as having autism spectrum
disorder. In contrast, European American students represent 62.4% of the total enrollment
in PPS, but 78.7% of those with autism spectrum disorder.
This disproportionality in access to special education services for specific disorders
is also found among limited English proficient students from other diverse cultures.
Table 1. Comparison K12 Enrollment to Three Special Education Categories (U.S. Census)
Hispanic African American Asian/PacificIslander Native American
% Total enrollment 18.51 14.91 4.2 0.97
% Emotional Disturbance 11.90 28.79 1.12 1.56
% Learning Disabilities 21.22 20.52 1.7 1.74
% Mental Retardation 17.27 20.6 2.19 1.53