Social Workers' Role in the Disproportionality of African American Students in Special Education

  • Kristen Faye Bean Arizona State University
Keywords: Disproportionality, special education, Domains-of-Power Framework, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, African American students


There is an overrepresentation of African American students in special education. Research on this phenomenon has primarily focused on educators within schools. School social workers are in unique positions to impact the disproportionality. Patricia Collins’ Domains-of-Power Framework is used to demonstrate how school social workers can practice transformational resistance to eliminate the overrepresentation of African American students in special education. School social workers should: 1) attend IEP meetings and conduct home visits and biopsychosocial evaluations with students who are being assessed for special education services, 2) offer to evaluate and conduct home visits with students whom teachers deem to be “at-risk” to prevent inappropriate assessments for special education, 3) create a school culture of acceptance of difference, and 4) ask themselves how they individually foster racial domination or emancipation in their daily actions.

Author Biography

Kristen Faye Bean, Arizona State University
School of Social Work, PhD student