Too Many White Local High Schoolers Considered Emotionally Disturbed, State Says

San Rafael City Schools will dedicate $100,000 out of its special education funding to intervention services to prevent over identification of students.

San Rafael City Schools officials were surprised to hear that there was a disproportionate amount of white students classified as emotionally disturbed and in need of special education services for the 2010-11 school year.

The state found that an average of 40 of students considered to be emotionally disturbed over the past four years, and 73 percent of them were white–a disproportionate amount compared to their overall enrollment. Data from 2007 to 2011 shows there was an overall decrease in high school district enrollment, reducing the number of white students which brought the identification percentages up, according to Executive Director of Student Support Services Amy Baer.

"The overall number of whites students has decreases districtwide, while number of emotionally disturbed remained the same," she said.

According to the data, 34 percent of the students were identified eligible from San Rafael Elementary District, while 66 percent came from the Dixie District already identified.

The California Department of Education defines emotional disturbance as a condition that can include an inability to build or maintain relationships with peers and teachers, inappropriate behaviors or feelings under normal circumstances and a general unhappiness or depression for a student.

Because of the disparty, the district will have to review its policies and procedures and will be required to reserve 15 percent, or $100,000, of their special education funds for coordinated intervening services to prevent over identification of students. The district has until September 2014 to use the reserve funds.

The findings came as a surprise to Baer and school staff, since they've been focusing most of their efforts in the last years to prevent the over identification of  African American and Latino students for special education.

"Our staff does a really good job with the assessment," Baer said. "[Because of the amount of students already identified by other districts] it's difficult for the high school district to fix this."

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