Placement of minority and low socio-economic status students in special education self -contained settings

Arthur J Borgemenke, University of Texas at El Paso


The disproportional representation of minority and low socioeconomic status (SES) students in special education classes has been well documented since the late 1960s (Deno, 1970; Dunn, 1968). Deno and Dunn both criticized the then accepted practice of segregating students with special needs in separate educational systems. Minority student overrepresentation has continued to be a problem facing school systems through the last half of the twentieth century (Baca & Cervantes, 1989; Hicks-Eichelberger, 1999). Students who are members of a minority group or have low socioeconomic status continue to be referred for special education placement in numbers greater than can be explained by the general demographics of the school district population. Many school districts along the U.S.–Mexico border have minority student populations that approach 75% of the total student enrollment. In fact, large urban school districts in Texas have enrollments with over 80% minority populations (TEA State Snapshot, 1999). The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship of ethnicity, socioeconomic status (SES) and immigration status to special education placement in a large urban school district located on the U.S.–Mexico border. This researcher compared the rates of placement for students in special education for more and less than 50% of the educational day with respect to the above mentioned socioeconomic factors. This was done to determine if Hispanic students were being placed into more restrictive educational placements than would be expected from the general educational population demographics of the participating school district. Interpreted findings from the study indicate that no disproportionality in placement rates exist in the participating school district based solely upon ethnicity. This lack of disproportionality holds true when special education placements for 50% or more of the school day and special educational placements for less than 50% of the school day were examined. Statistically significant differences were found to be present when negative socioeconomic factors were examine along with ethnicity. This disproportionality is also present when the category of undocumented immigrant student is examined. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

Subject Area

Special education|Educational sociology

Recommended Citation

Borgemenke, Arthur J, "Placement of minority and low socio-economic status students in special education self -contained settings" (2001). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3035095.