[EDEQUITY Male Dialogue] Special Ed.& gender

From: Craig Flood (CFlood@aol.com)
Date: Fri Dec 15 2000 - 10:18:54 EST

This is an excerpt from a chapter I wrote for Harilyn Rousso and Mike
Wehmeyer's text, Double Jeopardy, hopefully due out in the Spring.

Special Education: Dealing Boys "Out" not In
    As suggested earlier, the arena of special education presents a
particularly complex set of issues with respect to its intersection with
variable of gender. By theory, special education services are designed to
provide access for students identified with special needs to the
opportunities enjoyed by other students. In practice, as this text
too often the stigma of labeling students with special needs and
continues to be a barrier for many students. Girls and boys with special
educational needs both face a double jeopardy that is confounded by the
gender roles proscribed by our culture. Of critical concern to this
discussion is the need to recognize the contradiction of special education
serving to deal some boys out within the context of a theoretical goal of

    Boys are overwhelmingly represented in special education programs
throughout the country. Boys are six times more likely to be diagnosed
learning disabilities. There is increasing speculation among specialists
that the standards we have established for learning disabilities provide so

much latitude that it allows boys with behavioral problems to be identified

in an effort to get them help or move them out of the classroom. Ken
a learning disabilities specialist at the University of Iowa explained,
system has shaped the definition rather than the other way around."

    This focus on the intersection of behavior and learning disabilities
also have a limiting effect on girls with special needs. A recent study by

Michael Wehmeyer took a critical look at the issue of disproportionate
representation of boys in special education classes hypothesizing that
may be under represented because of bias in the referral and admission
process. The authors acknowledged in their literature review the frequent
co-occurrence of social-emotional and behavioral problems in the diagnosis
learning disabilities; boys, because they tend to exhibit more behavioral
problems are diagnosed and referred more frequently for those reasons.
linking of behavior to diagnosis and eventual referral led the authors to
suggest a bias in favor of boys that results in girls not receiving the
services they may need. In light of the discussion of elementary schools,
the issues identified here may be an indication of the inability of the
educational system to deal appropriately with the behavioral problem that
many boys present in classrooms; particularly at that level.

    Directly related to the issue of learning disabilities is the concern
about the increasing number of students, specifically boys, diagnosed with
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and, as a result, medicated through the
of Ritalin. It is estimated that over 3 million children are taking
and boys out number girls by almost 4 to 1. In his dissertation research,
Barney Brawer has examined ADD, the use of Ritalin and its links to males
school. He speculates that because of the numbers we are seeing, "Every
teacher in just about every class in America has a boy on psycho
The issue of how boys learn self-control and get civilized has been turned
into a medicalized solution. It indicates a shift in our attitude towards
boys that is very troubling."

    "Four boys are diagnosed as emotionally disturbed to every one girl,"
states Michael Gurien, author of The Wonder of Boys. The reasons behind
overwhelming numbers of boys who are identified with social and emotional
problems do not require any deep insight into their links with male
socialization in our culture. Many of the factors, including violence and
anti-social behaviors, that precede the boys' entrance into the programs,
classrooms, and residential treatment centers finds their roots in the
dominance, control and detachment embedded in traditional definitions of
masculinity. My teaching and administrative background is grounded in such

programs. While it is clear that there are multiple factors that
to boys over representation in them, it is also clear from my experience
masculine stereotypes played a distinct role in the behaviors that led them

to these programs. These boys represent the filtering system of the Boy
at work. They have been disconnected from themselves, from others and, in
some cases, from the mainstream of society. Curiously, while boys often
exceeded 80% of the population in the programs with which I was involved, I

do not recall any conscious link or discussion of gender as an issue in our


Craig Flood

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