[EDEQUITY] Special Educ. & observations

From: Rochelle Riling (seamouse@televar.com)
Date: Mon Dec 04 2000 - 11:53:03 EST

Linda, My limited understanding of special ed programs is that there are
basic ways kids are tested "into services." Academic disability (can be
related to cognitive or physical conditions), behavioral stuff, and
conditions that require accomodations (504 stuff). However, someone with
specific knowledge of that field should respond more accurately. The fact
that girls may not be acting out would account for their lack of placement
to behavioral qualifications, and I don't think that lack of needing an
accomodation in that area is a lack of equity. (If I said that right.) In
part what I observe is inadequate programs and it's a pretty tough arena to
work and teach in so I'm not meaning to be blanketly critical. My personal
opinion, based only on what I've seen locally, is that we may be putting
boys into special ed to isolate their behavior but we have inadequate
staffing, training and know-how to help change the behavior. It takes
specially motivated adults to work with this very compelling student
population. Just anecdotally, I think I know as many parents of daughters
I do parents of sons who do not feel their child has been adeuqately or
accurately or fairly assessed for special ed services.

Out of 45 spec ed kids I worked with intermittently last year on
communication, sexual harassment, equity, anger, etc. skills, only three
girls and, quite frankly, the girls "got" the things I was doing much
than the boys did. I attribute this largely to the "social skills" nature
what I was doing and the girls having had a socialized edge there.
intense and persistent verbal sexual harassment was an ongoing problem in
classes I was in.

One of my biggest lessons on the true value of diversity came from the
ed classes. I learned really rapidly that a number of the exercizes and
activities I do in classrooms with a diversity of race, gender and skills
ability do not work in "homogenous" groups. The underlying tactic of many
the activities is that students bounce their varied experiences and beliefs
off of one another, and in the classes I was in, this wasn't possible. One
simplistic example is an icebreaker exercise where I name a food, band,
activity, color, etc. for each corner of the room and the kids scatter to
their "favorite" corner. (Pizza, tacos, lasagna, hamburgers, GO!) You do
pretty fast and ask them to watch how they're walking along with and
their regular friends, how they're in corners with different kids at
times, etc. With all the quick action, the pressure's off to conform with
everyone else. Not so in a homogenous classroom. As we did this exercize,
watched the boys gravitate more and more into a singular group running
together around the room. And 20 special ed adolescent males running to
same corner yelling "pizza" or "goo goo dolls" gets pretty exciting.

I could be completely wrong, but I think it's inadequate practises and
resources to deal with guys, not under testing of girls, that I am seeing.
Behavior such as chronic refusal to participate in class work, throwing
objects, walking on desks, repeated vandalism, etc. seems to me, as a lay
person, to interfere with learning in and of itself, and to be symptomatic
something underlying that is likely interfering with learning. It is
different than other kinds of academic failure and struggle. I am not
if the gender proportionality differs significantly between elementary and
high school levels.

I don't oppose a behavioral classification with regard to special ed but I
don't think we're very equipped to deal with kids who genuinely test in
way, and I think we may be quick to classify boys behaviorally without
to rally the resources to prevent such behaviors from being ongoing through
their entire public school careers. Keep in mind I'm speaking specifically
my local experiences. I don't have any idea how boys are getting into
ed in other areas. Our district was just notified that it is time for the
Civil Rights survey which is totally focused on special ed. It looks like
something that is on a 6 or 7 year rotation. It is not something I have
before, nor did I know it existed. It should be interesting.

Rochelle Riling <seamouse@televar.com>

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