This week in the Philadelphia area it was reported that a federal lawsuit against the Lower Merion School District on behalf of African-American students and their parents would go to trial in November 2011. The case seeks to put an end to disproportionate special education placement and inferior education tracking of Black youth by the Lower Merion District.
As the article states, the case was originally filed as a class action on behalf of
“”all present and future African American students” in the district who, “because of defendants’ acts and omissions . . . are denied access to the general education curriculum; are placed in below-grade-level classes; receive a modified curriculum; and/or are sent to separate, segregated schools which provides them with an education inferior to that provided their Caucasian peers.”
The No Child Left Behind Act placed such emphasis on standardized test scores as a measure of school performance that it can affect federal funding and oversight. As a result, the disproportionate special education placement or inferior education tracking of Black Youth became a larger problem.
Special education warehousing acts to insulate school achievement indicators such as school test scores and graduation rates from “problem students” that may simply be behind due to a previous lack of educational opportunity or intervention. It is these students whose educational rights are sacrificed for a greater good of chasing overall school performance measurables.
Although the judge has decided the case won’t go to trial as a class action because of the uniqueness of the individual claims, it is still encouraging that this far too common education practice may finally be put on trial.
School districts should be put on notice that the sacrifice of Black youth for the greater good can no longer be accepted as business as usual. ~Ernest Saadiq Morris
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