bias in the assessment process, or a willingness to fault the student rather than an inadequate early
education. The solutions to these independent inequities would be fairer law enforcement policies
and more culturally sensitive educational assessments and evaluators.
However, another possibility is that some of the disproportionate representation of African
American youth involved in juvenile justice and special education stem from a common root of
developmental challenges associated with poverty. Minority youth of low socioeconomic status
face a greater likelihood of developing disabilities that lead to special education placement, and
those same disabilities also increase the risk for involvement in the juvenile justice system. One
way to attain more proportional minority representation in the juvenile justice system may be to
prevent children of low socio-economic status from developing special education needs in the first
place. Doing so would require meaningful public commitments to providing better access to
healthcare, childcare, and early childhood education.
Although the causal relationships are difficult to distinguish, it is clear that race, culture,
socioeconomic status, and disability each play a part in creating minority disproportionality in the
juvenile justice system and special education. To promote the best outcomes for young African
Americans, educators, juvenile justice professionals, and policymakers must be sensitive to the
dynamic interplay of these variables.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance - United States, 2011, 61
SURVEILLANCE SUMMARIES: MORBIDITY AND MORTALITY WKLY. REP.
1, June 8, 2012 at
DANIEL J. RESCHLY, Minority Special Education Disproportionality: Findings and Misconceptions, in MINORITIES
IN SPECIAL EDUCATION: A BRIEFING BEFORE THE UNITED STATES COMMISSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS 57-58 (U.S.
Comm’n. on Civil Rights, Dec. 3, 2007), http://www.usccr.gov/pubs/MinoritiesinSpecialEducation.pdf.
The Disproportionate Representation of Racial and Ethnic Minorities in Special Education, ELEMENTARY AND
MIDDLE SCHOOLS TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE: DISPROPORTIONALITY,
Jamie Fellner, Punishment and Prejudice: Racial Disparities in the War on Drugs,
12 HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH §VII
JAMILA CODRINGTON & HALFORD H. FAIRCHILD, SPECIAL EDUCATION AND THE MIS-EDUCATION OF AFRICAN
AMERICAN CHILDREN: A CALL TO ACTION
6 (The Association of Black Psychologists, 2012),
Jeff Armour & Sarah Hammond, Minority Youth in the Juvenile Justice System: Disproportionate Minority Contact,
National Conference of State Legislatures, January 2009, at
Joshua Rovner, Disproportionate Minority Contact in the Juvenile Justice System, THE SENTENCING PROJECT, May
Lisa Chiu, After Decades of Spending, Minority Youth Still Overrepresented in System, JUVENILE JUSTICE
INFORMATION EXCHANGE (Feb. 26, 2014), http://jjie.org/after-decades-of-spending-minority-youth-still-overrepresented-in-system/.