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Parents Speak Out About Special Education

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RALEIGH — Wake County's special education program is under review. At issue is the number of minority students enrolled. The percentage of black students in special ed is far greater than the percentage of black students overall.

It's important to point out that the office of civil rights says this is not an investigation into wrongdoing by the school system. But some parents suggest there is something amiss. Tuesday night at a public hearing, parents talked about black children they believe have been wrongly pushed into special education classes.

Many parents say not only are the children who need the services not getting them, but some black children are put in special education classes when they don't need to be.

Wake County statistics show while black students make up 26% of the total school population, they make up 37% of the special ed classes. In classes for mentally disabled students and behaviorally handicapped students, blacks make up 70% of the enrollment.

"Here are people being moved out of the mainstream of society into a situation which is a dead end for them," says one concerned parent.

The office of civil rights team is taking the feedback from parents and using information they have to determine if they need to do something about what some parents say is a growing problem.

"If we find any concerns, and I am not saying that we will, in the event that we do, we will continue to speak with the school district personnel and work towards a resolution," explains Lorrain Chatman, attorney with the office of civil rights.

The civil rights team also conducted reviews in Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida and Texas. Wake County was chosen to review because of the disproportionate number of blacks in special education.