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The intersection of disability and race in schools dates back as far as the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision. As both desegregation and IDEA were implemented in the 1970, special education, while providing civil right for those with disabilities, also served as a tool for racial segregation. In 1965, just one year after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin, there were allegations that schools in San Francisco used “special education classes as a cover for segregation” (Harry, 1995, p. 603). Dunn (1968) found that in the late 1960s classes with children seen as intellectually disabled served a disproportionate number of students of color. The issue continues through today. In 2016, Former Secretary of Education John King said that “we need to address racial and ethnic disparities in special education… ensuring the right services get to the right students in the right way."
While there is not one answer and no district has all of the answers, as leaders in special education, we can learn from each other ways to create practices, processes, and environments that are equitable (providing access to opportunity, fairness, and justice), diverse (celebrating our differences), and inclusive (valuing all). In Chicago, we will work together to share how we are addressing equity, diversity, and inclusion at the intersections of disability and race.