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Upcoming Programs


The Intersection of Race, Wealth, and Special Education: The Role of Structural Inequities in the IDEA


Wednesday, December 7, 2022, 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Program Description:

Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1975 to counteract public schools’ widespread discrimination against children with disabilities by warehousing them in separate classrooms where they did not receive a meaningful education or excluding them from school altogether. The IDEA provides federal funds to states to help them educate children with disabilities in exchange for a commitment from the state to abide by the IDEA’s requirements. Race has no bearing on determining whether a child has a disability, the scope of the educational services they should receive, the classroom setting in which they should receive them, or the right of their parents to advocate on their behalf. However, structural inequities in the IDEA, including time-consuming and expensive procedural provisions and ill-defined standards for meeting the educational needs of children with disabilities, allow race and wealth to intersect with the provision of special education services.

Professor Marsico's talk will describe the legislative history of the IDEA relating to Congress’s awareness of race discrimination in special education when it passed and amended the IDEA and the limited steps it took to address it. He will also describe the IDEA's structure, and identify several "inflection points" where race, wealth, and special education intersect, and evidence suggesting that the intersection of race and special education creates racialized outcomes in the form of the overrepresentation of Black students in special education programs and in the intellectual disability and emotional disturbance classifications. Finally, Professor Marsico will also offer proposals to limit or eliminate the intersection of race and special education, identifying steps that states and school districts can take without congressional approval, and those actions that only Congress can take.


Richard D. Marsico

CLE Credits:

2.0 Areas of Professional Practice (transitional/non-transitional)