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State says Berkeley Unified’s has racial disparity in their Special Education programs

Mark Coplan
Flickr / Creative Commons

More than a quarter of Black students in Berkeley public schools are enrolled in special education, compared to seven percent of their white peers. The number of Latino students is also rising.

Berkeleyside reports that historically students learning English are also more likely to be placed in special education and misdiagnosed with learning disabilities without being tested in their native language. Some students' disabilities are clear-cut – such as Down Syndrome – but other students' disabilities are subjective, which means biases can lead to misdiagnosis.

The school board has recently approved the latest Comprehensive Coordinated Early Intervening Services, a plan which addresses this issue. The plan identifies predominantly Black and Brown students who struggle academically, miss school often, have behavioral issues, or come from low-income families and will first try to help them without automatically placing them in special education.

These students will be given tutoring, regular family meetings, instructional coaching for their teachers, and an attendance team supporting them. The school district is expected to give the school board quarterly updates on the progress of the program.