Exploring the Overrepresentation of Black Male Students in Special Education: Causes and Recommendations


special education

How to Cite

Delahunty, M. ., & Chiu, C. L. . (2021). Exploring the Overrepresentation of Black Male Students in Special Education: Causes and Recommendations. Journal of Gender and Power, 14(2), 9–21. https://doi.org/10.2478/jgp-2020-0011


An overrepresentation of Black male students identified as having disabilities is pervasive in American schools. This troubling reality may be the result of disconnects between Black males and their White teachers. Racial differences likely contribute to the high number of Black males referred for programs for students with disabilities. This paper explores the overrepresentation of Black male students identified as having disabilities and recommendations for supporting their success.



ALTER, P., WALKER, J. & LANDERS, E. (2013) Teachers’ perceptions of students’ challenging behavior and the impact of teacher demographics. Education and Treatment of Children. 36 (4). Pp. 51–69.

ARTILES, A. et al. (2010) Justifying and explaining disproportionality, 1968–2008: A critique of underlying views of culture. Exceptional Children. 76 (3). Pp. 279–299.

BEAN, K. (2013) Disproportionality and acting-out behaviors among African American children special education. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal. 30 (6). Pp. 487–504.

BLANCHETT, W. (2009) A retrospective examination of urban education: From Brown to the resegregation of African Americans in special education—it’s time to “go for broke”. Urban Education. 44 (4). Pp. 370–388.Search in Google Scholar

CHERNG, H. Y. S. & HALPIN, P. F. (2016) The importance of minority teachers: Student perceptions of minority versus White teachers. Educational Researcher. 45 (7). Pp. 407–420.

DIZON, F. et al. (2013) School psychologists’ reported perspectives on the Larry P. ban and related practices. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.

FISH, R. E. (2019) Teacher race and racial disparities in special education. Remedial and Special Education. 40 (4). Pp. 213–224.

FORD, D. Y. & RUSSO, C. J. (2016) Historical and legal overview of special education overrepresentation: Access and equity denied. Multiple Voices for Ethnically Diverse Exceptional Learners. 16 (1). Pp. 50–57.

GATLIN, B. T. & WILSON, C. L. (2016) Overcoming obstacles: African American students with disabilities achieving academic success. The Journal of Negro Education. 85 (2). Pp. 129–142.

GOLDS, M. E. & RICHARDS, H. (2012) African American students’ experiences in special education programs. Teachers College Record. 26 (1–2). Pp. 143–156.

HARRY, B. & ANDERSON, M. G. (1994) The disproportionate placement of African American males in special education programs: A critique of the process. Journal of Negro Education. 63 (4). Pp. 602–619.

IRVINE, J. J. (2012) Complex relationships between multicultural education and special education: An African American perspective. Journal of Teacher Education. 63 (4). Pp. 268–274.

KIM, Y. et al. (2019) Is neighborhood poverty harmful to every child? Neighborhood poverty, family poverty, and behavioral problems among young children. Journal of Community Psychology. 47 (3). Pp. 594–610.

LINTON, K. (2015) Differential ratings of specific behaviors of African American children in special education. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal. 32 (3). Pp. 229–235.

MANDELL, D. et al. (2008) Ethnic disparities in special education labeling among children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. 16 (1). Pp. 42–51.

MORGAN, P. et al. (2017) Are black children disproportionately overrepresented in special education? A best-evidence synthesis. Exceptional Children. 83 (2). Pp. 181–198.

NEAL, I. L. et al. (2003) The effect of African American movement styles on teachers’ perceptions and reactions. The Journal of Special Education. 37. Pp. 49–57.

OBIAKOR, F., BEACHUM, F. & HARRIS, M. (2010) African American students’ experiences with special education in Milwaukee public schools. Western Journal of Black Studies. 34 (4). Pp. 425–437.

OBIAKOR, F. E. et al. (2012) Making inclusion work in general education classrooms. Education and Treatment of Children. 35 (3). Pp. 477–490.

PATTON, J. M. (1998) The disproportionate ratings of specific behaviors of African Americans in special education: Looking behind the curtain for understanding and solutions. The Journal of Special Education. 32 (1). Pp. 25–31.

Poverty USA. (2020) The population of poverty USA. [Online] Available from: https://www.povertyusa.org/facts [Accessed: 23 June 2020].

ROBINSON, G. C. & NORTON, P. C. (2019) A decade of disproportionality: a state-level analysis of African American students enrolled in the primary disability category of speech or language impairment. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools. 50 (2). Pp. 267–282.

SCOTT, A. Q., TRAINOR, A. & BETTINI, E. (2019) Strategies for recruiting and retaining black male special education teachers. Remedial and Special Education. 40 (4). Pp. 236–247.

SKIBA, R. J. et al. (2016) Risks and consequences of oversimplifying educational inequities: A response to Morgan et al. (2015). Educational Researcher. 45 (3). Pp. 221–225.

TALBERT-JOHNSON, C. (2001) The quest for equity: Maintaining African American teachers in special education. Journal of Negro Education. 70 (4). Pp. 286–296.

United States Housing and Urban Development. (2016) Neighborhoods and violent crime. [Online] Available from: https://www.huduser.gov/portal/periodicals/em/summer16/highlight2.html [Accessed: 23 June 2020].

WOODSON, L. & HARRIS, S. (2018) Teacher and student demographic variables which predict teacher referrals of males for special education evaluation. Journal of At- Risk Issues. 21 (1). Pp. 32–43.