CHICAGO, Oct. 7, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Easterseals convened national leaders, including U.S. Representative Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA Third District), Chair, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor, and National Education Association President Becky Pringle, for an all-too-relevant discussion on the significant disparities that Black students with disabilities experience within specialized education programs nationwide and solutions to address these inequities to ensure equity, inclusion, and access to quality education for these students.
The 90-minute virtual event, hosted in partnership with EducationWeek, provided a forum for members of Easterseals’ Collaborative on Racialized Disabilities (CORD) initiative – including Dr. Mildred Boveda, Associate Professor of Special Education at the Pennsylvania State University; Dr. Maleka Donaldson, Assistant Professor of Education and Child Study at Smith College; and Dr. Aubry Threlkeld, Dean of the School of Education, Endicott College – to share their research with more than 500 educators attending the event.
Students with disabilities, especially students of color, have long faced myriad challenges in navigating classrooms, IEP protocols, and advocating for their specific needs across the education system. These challenges are now only exacerbated by the pandemic.
The research reflects outcomes from the initial phase of special education advocate training developed by Easterseals and CORD to address the pressing need to better serve Black youth with disabilities and their families. Research findings confirm that Black youth encounter wide inequities in services provided within specialized education programs; Black students with disabilities are disproportionately represented in special education and are more likely to experience exclusionary disciplinary actions from school; anti-Black racism and ableism–a system that assigns value on people’s bodies and minds based on societally constructed ideals of normalcy and intelligence–exacerbate the challenges Black families face when navigating and accessing high quality special education services; and typical trainings for special education advocates tend not to directly address the uniqueness and complexity of Black families’ experiences.
The need for culturally appropriate resources and training for Black students, their families, and advocates resonated from the research. Subsequently, these are being developed through the Easterseals CORD initiative to translate the research into practice within the Easterseals Network and through partnerships with educators and advocates nationwide.
“I’m incredibly grateful to Education Week for extending their platform for this important conversation on a topic that is incredibly close to home for me, and a key focus of our mission as an organization,” remarked Angela F. Williams, CEO, Easterseals. “What a gift to have a lineup of such powerful, dynamic speakers with a wide range of thoughtful perspectives and progressive visions. I truly feel like ground was broken today.”
Research shared during the virtual event is a direct outcome of the work being done through Easterseals’ Black Child Fund with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Comcast Foundation.
The event provided the opportunity to introduce Erika Watson, Easterseals National Director of Childhood Development, Education, and Equity, who will be driving this work at the national level for the organization.
Easterseals is leading the way to full equity, inclusion, and access through life-changing disability and community services. For more than 100 years, we have worked tirelessly with our partners to enhance quality of life and expand local access to healthcare, education, and employment opportunities. And we won’t rest until every one of us is valued, respected, and accepted. Through our national network of Affiliates, Easterseals provides essential services and on-the-ground supports to more than 1.5 million people each year – from early childhood programs for the critical first five years, to autism services, to medical rehabilitation and employment programs, to veterans’ services, and more. Our public education, policy, and advocacy initiatives positively shape perceptions and address the urgent and evolving needs of the one in four Americans living with disabilities today. Together, we’re empowering people with disabilities, families, and communities to be full and equal participants in society. Learn more at www.easterseals.com.