Overrepresentation of Minority Students With Emotional and Behavioral Disorders Thesis

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Overrepresentation of Minority Students With Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

The objective of this work is to conduct a review of literature relating to the overrepresentation of minority students with emotional and behavioral disorders.

It has been long recognized among educators that minority students are disproportionately represented among students identified as having Emotional Behavioral Disorders (EBD) and this has resulted in minority students being overrepresented in special education classes in schools.


The work of Murtagh (2003) entitled: "Investigating the Overrepresentation of Ethnic Minorities in Special Education" states "Debates on the overrepresentation of minority students, particularly African- Americans, are not new in special education and have characterized research in this field for over three decades. Regardless of time, legislative debate and a host of research theories, this problem remains." Overrepresentation was defined by Oswald, Coutinho, Best and Singh (1999) as "the extent to which membership in an ethnic group affects the probability of being placed in a specific disability category." The work of Oswald and Coutinho (nd) states that the "disproportionate representation of children of color in special education is a long-standing problem that continues to concern educators." Additionally stated is: "Disproportionally means that there are more (or fewer) children from a particular group who are experiencing a given situation than we would expect, based on the group's representation in the general population." (Oswald and Coutinho, nd)

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Thesis on Overrepresentation of Minority Students With Emotional and Behavioral Disorders Assignment

The work of Balagna (2008) entitled: "Latino Students Identified as at Risk for Emotional or Behavioral Disorders: Descriptions of Their School Experience" states that one of the greatest challenges for the educational system in the United States "is the lack of Latino teachers. Despite increasing numbers of minority populations in the schools, 90% of teachers in the U.S. are European-Americans. This imposes a contrast in cultural backgrounds between the students and teachers that may be the source of misunderstandings, differential treatment of Latino students, and cultural mismatches between Latinos and their teachers."

According to Balagna "...the lack of understanding that stems from cultural mismatches may inappropriately perpetuate Latino stereotypes, reinforce low expectations of Latino students, and encourage misinterpretation of minority students' behaviors." (2008) Balagna states that a factor that is likely to contribute to poor outcomes for Latino students and "their over-representation in special education classes includes the use of tests or instruments that lack evidence of validity for minority populations." (2008)

Balagna (2008) relates that students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) "may be divided into two general, yet not totally mutually exclusive categories: externalizers and internalizers." Externalizers are stated to be youth who "...manifest aggressive behavior, hyperactivity, anti-social behavior and noncompliance." (Balagna, 2008) These problems are stated to arise from "undercontrol as these students have difficulty regulating their behavior." (Balagna, 2008)

Balagna states that the American Psychiatrist Association's (APA)) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV-Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) "diagnoses that are compatible with children that manifest externalizing problems include, but are not limited to, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and disruptive behavior disorder." (2008)

Internalizers are individuals who "...attempt to maintain too much or inappropriate control or regulation of their internal emotional and cognitive state" which may include youth behavior that results in manifestation of "...excessive timidity or shy behavior, anxiety, depression, withdrawal, and school phobia. Children who exhibit these kinds of behaviors might be thought of as a model student who has few problems. However, long-term consequences can eventually result in DSM-IV-TR diagnoses that include anxiety disorders, depression, mood disorders, and social phobia." (Balagna, 2008)

Students who are classified as having EBD are those who display difficulty in adjusting in school, those who have problems with attendance, have lower grades and who are more likely be "Placed in more restrictive classroom settings and be diagnosed with a learning disability." (Balagna, 2008) These children also tend to have reading problems of a severe nature and this results in lower grades. Balagna (2008) states that these students are also more likely to be "...described as demonstrating unacceptable classroom behavior, as well as having an increased likelihood of a referral to a mental health professional." The result is that these students are "less likely to attend college and only one in five attend post-secondary educational institutions." (Balagna, 2008)

According to the U.S. Department of Education NCES (2000) African-American boys, while representing only 9% of the student enrollment in public schools are represented at a rate of 20% in the category of mental retardation and at a rate of 21% and 12% respectively in the categories of emotional disturbance and learning disability. Watkins and Kurtz (2001) relates that over the past thirty years findings from studies reveal that African-American students are overrepresented in special education classrooms for visual and speech impairments, learning disabilities, behavioral disorders, and mental retardation.

It is noted in the work of Knotek (2003) that school counselors are in a unique position to address the problem of overrepresentation of minority youth through early intervention and specifically that reduction of the numbers of special education students from the groups of minority students can be addressed through pre-referral and ancillary services. Pre-referral services are described as effective in the work of Craig, Hull, Haggart and Perez-Selle (2000) who defines these services as interventions that are used in implementation and identification of assistance to students addressing their needs, strengths and the social and educational issues, along with medical history as well as the linguistic background, and the experiential and cultural background of these students. Specific strategies stated include:

1)Individualized behavior contracts;

2) Counseling techniques; and 3) Culturally appropriate reinforcements that encourage positive behavior.

The work of Harris-Murri, King and Rostenberg (2006) entitled: "Representation in Special Education Programs for Students with Emotional Disturbances: Toward a Culturally Responsive Response to Intervention Model" states "regardless of the suspected disability 'category', the addition of (Response to Intervention) RTI eligibility determination model to IDEA brings the consideration of interpersonal and institutional factors which may prevent or contribute to students' academic and social/emotional problems. This signifies a shift from the previous evaluation focus of looking for within-child deficits as evidence of disability, to a broader and more contextual analysis of day-to-day interactions and institutional infrastructure that impact student achievement and behavior."

Klinger (2005) states of RTI that culturally responsive educational systems are those "grounded in the beliefs that all cultural and linguistically diverse students can excel in academic endeavors when their culture, language, heritage and experiences are valued and used to facilitate their learning and development, and they are provided access to high quality teachers, programs and resources." It is noted in the work of Harris-Murri, King and Rostenberg (2006) that Selected instruments for assessing culturally diverse students should be proven cross-culturally equivalent, tested extensively to be psychometrically sound, and have high face validity." Because the majority of behavioral instruments "...are development normed primarily with European-American children and behaviors, results from such instruments should be used with caution." (Harris-Murri, King and Rostenberg, 2006)

Harris-Murri, King and Rostenberg (2006) conclude by stating "By recognizing that culture is central to learning, students may become more responsive to interventions grounded in culturally responsive pedagogy thus impacting the growth and progress of all learners. Implementing a more culturally responsive approach towards RTI has the potential to reduce the number of culturally and linguistically diverse students misidentified, misplaced and misunderstood within the category of ED." (2006)


Minority students are historically and traditionally overrepresented in students identified as having Emotional Behavioral Disorders (EBD). As noted in the literature review in this work it is very often that cultural or linguistic difficulties of students is the real problem underlying their difficulties rather than EBD. Once these students have been identified as having EBD their lives take a downward spiral resulting in low achievement not only in school but across the span of their lifetime in which they fail to… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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