NJ.com | “Jersey City and to a lesser degree, Hoboken, are classifying too many black students as special education students, and should work harder to keep them in general education, according to the state Department of Education. Jersey City is one of 21 state districts that must shift 15 percent of its federal special education funding – $1.2 million – to “early intervention” programs such as literacy programs or behavioral counseling to keep students in general education in the hope that special education is not necessary.
This summer, the state found that blacks in particular are unequally eligible for special education because the study used new methods: in the past, the number of blacks, Hispanics and Asian special education students were compared with whites, but this time each racial ethnic group was compared with all other groups.
A 2001 national study by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA found that black students are three times as likely to be classified as “mentally retarded” or “emotionally disturbed” than white students, but found that the disparity could not be explained by poverty because the gaps persisted across income lines.
“This is very complex. You have to look at multiple factors that may be contributing to this,” said Roberta Wohle, director of the state special education office.
In Jersey City, about half of the around 4,000 students deemed eligible for special education are black, according to the state’s figures, which used data from 2003 to 2005, while only 34 percent of the 2005-2006 student body is black. Most striking, 65 percent of those classified as “emotionally disturbed” are black.
The numbers for black males are even more staggering, and the state told the district to specifically address that.”