Major Problem in Special Education in Virginia

With vaccines against the coronavirus now becoming available, there is reason to look forward to our schools returning to normal. Normal in the past, however, is not perfect and we must continue to address pre-pandemic problems in our schools. Kate Masters at the Virginia Mercury recently wrote "‘Devastating’ new report finds major problems with special education in Virginia", an article reporting the findings of the Virginia's Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) on special education. One major finding is the state's general lack of oversight of special education. With the absence of monitoring, the quality of special education in Virginia remains elusive. Unfortunately, the red flags found by the commission also touch on racial inequity in basic education. African American students with disabilities are sadly disproportionately affected. Graduation rates are significantly lower for this group. 


The 13-point gap is only between students with disabilities. This gap is much higher if compared with students without disabilities.


There is, therefore, a 39 point gap between black students with disabilities and students without disabilities. Worse, black students with disabilities are most likely graduating with the "useless" applied studies diploma.

On the other side of outcomes, suspension rates, students with disabilities remain more likely to be punished in a majority of school divisions in the state. Add to this the fact that black students are already overrepresented among those who receive suspensions


We simply should not return to this old "normal". 


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