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Many Worry That Students of Color Are Too Often Identified as Disabled. Is the Real Problem the Opposite?

New research challenges a piece of common wisdom about special education: that black students are too often told they have a disability. It’s true that 15 percent of black students in the U.S. are identified as disabled, while only 13 percent of white students are. Some worry that misplacing black students in special education segregates them and lowers expectations for their success. The disparity has even prompted action from the federal education department, which has long cautioned school districts against over-identifying students of color. The latest study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Educational Researcher, joins other recent research in calling these concerns into question — and suggests that bias may be at work in the other direction.