July 2020, Vol. 6, No. 4
RAISE The Standard Newsletter
Raising the Standard for Young Adults with Disabilities
Technical Assistance and Resources for RSA-funded
Parent Training and Information Centers
Looking at Systemic Racism:
Black and Disabled
In this special issue of RAISE, we offer insight, information, perspectives, and data, calling on all advocates to show up as visible anti-racist allies; to learn more about systemic racism particularly as it affects those with disabilities; and to review policies and practices within your organizations through the lens of anti-racism.

This issue reaches readers just days after our nation celebrated Independence Day, and as we, as a nation, are confronting the realities of more than 400 years of systemic racism.

We invite you to read these words from “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July.”

“What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us?...What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.”

-   Fredrick Douglass,
social reformer, abolitionist, writer,
Statesman and slave. (1852)

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”

-   Elie Wiesel, writer, professor,
political activist, Nobel laureate,
and Holocaust survivor
“We are not color blind.”
-   LeDerick Horne

How does systemic racism show up in special education? For an introduction, we turn to RAISE Advisory Board member LeDerick Horne for an overview of the issue as he invites us to check our biases.

Want to learn more? USDOE produced a multi-year analysis of racial and ethnic disparity in special education (2016).

Braelan Martin
Braelan Martin provides A Special Education Teacher’s Perspective: Anti-Racism in Your Classroom.

The National Center for Cultural Competence at Georgetown University has developed a Cultural and Linguistic Competence Assessment tool.

Jeremy Helligar
Here from Jeremy Helligar are 14 Small Ways YOU Can Fight Racism Every Day:

Transforming White Privilege: A 21st Century Leadership Capacity is a comprehensive curriculum designed to help current and emerging leaders from a variety of sectors better identify, talk about and intervene to address white privilege and its consequences.

Shifting the Narrative to Advance Racial Equity, a 2019 webinar from GrantSpace, offers best practices and new approaches to communications proven to advance equity across issues and communities.

silouette of african american head in profile with tear and words "stop systemic racism"
For Black Americans with disabilities, the risk of deadly police action is magnified. In fact, the risk of being killed while being approached or stopped by law enforcement in the community is 16 times higher for individuals with untreated serious mental illness than for other civilians.

By the most conservative estimates, at least 1 in 4 fatal law enforcement encounters involves an individual with serious mental illness.

A 2017 article by The Guardian explores the untold stories of disability behind some of the news reports of police killings.

According to a report issued the Ruderman Family Foundation, 1/3 to 1/2 of the people how die at the hands of police have some kind of disability.

A new report by Time Magazine explores the connection between police violence, mental health and race.

The Treatment Advocacy Center issued a report in 2015 on the role of mental illness in fatal law enforcement encounters:

Disability Factors Behind Some of the Police Killings

What do Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Jamycheal Mitchell, Freddie Gray, Tanisha Anderson, Deborah Danner, Ezell Ford, Alfred Olango and Keith Lamont Scott have in common? They were all black Americans. They all died at the hands of the police or in police custody. And they all had disabilities.

  • Tamir Rice was 12 years old when he was shot and killed by Ohio police. Tamir had disabilities and received special education services in a self-contained classroom.

  • Stephon Watts was 15 years old when he was shot and killed by police in his own home. He had Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism.

  • LaQuan MacDonald was 17 years old when he was shot 16 times by Chicago police. LaQuan had PTSD, learning disabilities and mental illness.

  • Quintonio LeGrier was 19 years old when he was shot dead by Chicago police. He is reported to have had mental illness.

  • Jamycheal Mitchell was 24 when starved to death in his Virginia jail cell where he was incarcerated for stealing snacks from a convenience store. Jamycheal had intellectual disabilities and bipolar disorder.

  • Freddie Gray was 25 when he died in police custody of a severe spinal injury after a “rough ride” in the back of a police van. Freddie had a developmental disability.

  • Ethan Saylor was 26 when he was asphyxiated by Maryland law enforcement officers after re-entering a movie theater without a ticket. Ethan had Down syndrome.

  • Sandra Bland was 28 when she was found hanged in a jail cell in Texas after being arrested for an alleged lane change violation. Sandra had epilepsy and depression.
block letters spelling out "inequality" with first two letter, "in" tilted and falling downward.
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), Black and Hispanic students are placed in special education classes more often when they attend majority-white schools . At the same time, minority students are much less likely to be identified as needing special education in schools that are mostly minority, where they are surrounded by students of the same race.


African-American and American Indian youth are identified as students with disabilities at substantially higher rates than their peers.

Who is in Special Education?

14.1% of white students are served under IDEA
16% of black students are serviced under IDEA
13% of Hispanic students are serviced under IDEA
17.5% of American Indians and Alaskan Native students are serviced under IDEA
7.1% of Asian students are serviced under IDEA

1. African Americans are twice as likely to be diagnosed and placed in mental retardation programs.

2. Black students are twice as likely to be identified as having emotional disturbance and intellectual disability as their peers.

3. American Indian students are twice as likely to be identified as having specific learning disabilities, and four times as likely to be identified as having developmental delays.


1. According to a 2014 report from the U.S Department of Education, Black students (57%), Latino students (67%), and English language learner students (65%) have less access to the full range of challenges (college prep) courses.

2. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), only 3 percent of Black and Hispanic 12th graders with disabilities achieved proficiency in reading, while practically none achieved proficiency in math.


1. Research shows that school expulsion and suspension practices are associated with negative educational and life outcomes. According to The Center for Civil Rights Remedies, for every 100 students with disabilities white students lost 43 days to suspension, while black students lost nearly three times as many days (121 days).

2. USDOE data indicate that African-American boys make up 18% of preschool enrollment, but 48% of those preschoolers suspended more than once.

3. 1 in 4 black males with IEPs receive out-of-school suspensions compared to 1 in 10 white males with IEPs.

4. African-American K-12 students were 3.8 times more likely to receive an out-of-school suspension than white students, even though research shows there is no evidence that students of color misbehave more than their white peers.


1. 74% of white students who exited special education gradated with a regular diploma, compared to 62% of Black students and 66% of Hispanic students

2. 9% of white students accepted an alternate certificate, compared to 14% of Black students and 12% of Hispanic students

3. 15% of white students with disabilities dropped out compared to 22% of Black students and 21% of Hispanic students.

black and white raised hands together with title "Be the Change" on red background

This dynamic tool developed by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) allows users to compile and compare race data for their own school and school districts. Learn more >>


Check out this tool from the US Census Bureau. Explore your communty >>
icon illustration of black, brown and white hands and wrists interlocked
This month our resources come from RSA partner, Open Doors for Multicultural Families (more on them in our member profile), and our friends at the National Black Disability Coalition.

In 2016, Open Doors for Multicultural Families produced a series of webinars on culturally competent supports for diverse youth and families in transition from school to daily life.

They also offer disability-specific resources in a wide range of languages and accessible formats.

The National Black Disability Coalition was founded in 1990, in response to the need for Black disabled people to organize around mutual concerns. NBDC is dedicated to examining and improving; community leadership, family inclusion, entrepreneurship, civil rights, service delivery systems, education and information and Black disabled identity and culture through the lenses of ableism and racism.

Here a 2-minute video from NBDC's Director, Jane Dunhamn:

RespectAbility offers these resources to help readers understand and fight racism and unconscious bias.

What is White Privilege, Really, an article in Tolerance Magazine from 2018, helps readers understand and recognize “white privilege.”

ChildTrend offers advice and resources for supporting children’s well-being amid anti-Black racism, racial violence and trauma:

Racial Equity Tools is a website designed to support individuals and groups working to achieve racial equity. This site offers tools, research, tips, curricula and ideas for people who want to increase their own understanding and to help those working toward justice at every level – in systems, organizations, communities and the culture at large.

Open Doors for Multicultural families logo

Located in Kent, Washington, Open Doors for Multicultural Families provide quality, culturally-responsive services for diverse families of loved ones with developmental and intellectual disabilities and special health care needs. They offer direct, one-on-one support through their bilingual/bicultural Family Support Specialists, and specialized programs to educate and empower persons with disabilities and their families.

Their Youth Transition Program published an Information Resource Guide in English and 8 other languages (Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Russian, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Somali, and Korean) with helpful information and experiences from youth and young adults, and their families.  

Whitney A. Ford cover - Living, Breathing Intersectionality

“As an African- American woman living with a disability I am a living, breathing example of Intersectionality.”

- Whitney A. Ford

This month, we turn to advocate and blogger Whitney A. Ford for a perspective on Intersectionality and the struggles and disparities embedded in being “three parts minority.”

Tell us what you think. What topics you’d like to see us publish on? Do you want to apply to be a guest blogger? Please take our quick, 3-question survey.

Mark Your Calendar

July 20-24, 2020
Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) Conference
Palm Desert, CA.

October 15-16, 2020
The Spirit of Resilience
National Caregivers Conference, Philadelphia, PA.
Collaboration • Empowerment • Capacity-building

RAISE The Standard enewsletter identifies and shares resources that the Rehabilitation Services Administration Parent Training and Information Centers (RSA-PTI) can use and share with families.
Executive Editor:
Peg Kinsell
Visit our Website:
RAISE, the National Resources for Access, Independence, Self-Advocacy and Employment is a user-centered technical assistance center that understands the needs and assets of the RSA-PTIs, coordinates efforts with the Technical Assistance provided by PTI centers and involves RSA-PTIs as key advisors and partners in all product and service development and delivery.
US Department of Education official seal
RAISE is funded by the US Department of Education to provide technical assistance to, and coordination of, the 7 PTI centers (RSA-PTIs). It represents collaboration between the nation's two Parent Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) and the seven Regional PTIs.