Mislabeling kids in school

Elijah Robinson, Secretary

I’ve heard a few stories about how students learned a little differently in class, and this prompted the teacher to suggest labeling the kid and involving them in special education. This comes from the misuse of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The application of the act disproportionately affected children of color.

Black youth and American Indian youth are overrepresented when identified with disabilities. They receive harsher punishments than their peers, such as suspension and expulsion.

According to ThoughtCo, black students are less likely to be identified as gifted or talented. They are more likely going to be recommended for special education services, due in part to their talents being largely overlooked by white teachers.

According to former Secretary of Education Rod Paige, “[O]ur educational system fails to teach many children fundamental skills like reading, then inappropriately identifies some of them as having disabilities, thus harming the educational future of those children who are misidentified and reducing the resources available to serve children with disabilities.”

The child may have a quirk, or misunderstand something in the classroom. These instances are treated as a defect, potentially grounds for disorder label.

A good example of this is dyslexia. Dyslexia is a learning disorder, not a learning disability. Children who are dyslexic, may otherwise be developing at a normal pace, and end up being productive adults.

They may encounter problems with reading and math, but dyslexic kids are just as capable of learning like everyone else, they just learn differently.

Through arbitrarily labeling children with a disorder because a kid does not learn the same way as everyone else. This discards the opportunity to focus on a child’s individual strengths and forms their educational experience on subjective weaknesses.

This practice can lead to a stigma attached to the children and lower their self-esteem as they are looked at and treated differently by their teachers and peers in ways that ostracize them. In certain cases, teachers mislabel kids because they are not used to how one kid learns, but the kid is no more or less intelligent or capable of learning.

Due to the lack of faith by the teacher, and sometimes the lack of attention to the child’s strengths and weaknesses on the parents end, the kid may be mislabeled with a learning disability or be held back academically.