Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Cultural Considerations in the Development of School-Based Interventions for African American Adolescent Boys with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Cultural Considerations in the Development of School-Based Interventions for African American Adolescent Boys with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

Article excerpt

African American males are overrepresented among youth in special education identified as having emotional and behavioral disorders. Compared to other youth in special education, they have the least access to needed services and the worst social and academic outcomes. Little empirically supported guidance exists to inform the development of effective and culturally responsive interventions for these youth. This article addresses this gap in the literature by reviewing existing research, and highlighting problems with current approaches to identification, referral, and treatment. The authors provide specific examples about ways to harness African American adolescents' strengths when developing culturally responsive, school-based interventions and discuss implications for educational policy.

African American adolescent males are disproportionally represented among students in special education identified as having emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD; Osher, Woodruff, & Sims, 2002). Students identified as having EBD demonstrate the poorest educational, behavioral, and social outcomes of any disability group, with no documented improvements over the past several decades (Bradley, Dolittle, & Bartolotta, 2008; Wagner, Newman, & Cameto, 2004). Frank, Sitlington, and Carson (1995) found that students with EBD have lower grades, more course failures, higher retention, and lower rates of passing minimum competency tests compared to students in all other disability groups. Only about 28% of African American students with EBD graduate from high school, and as many as 50% drop out of school (Blackorby & Wagner, 1996). Post-school outcomes are similarly poor. Fifty-eight percent of students with EBD are arrested within 3 to 5 years of leaving school; this figure rises to 73% for students who drop out (Wagner, 1995). Challenges among Oris group persist into adulthood, typified by difficulties with obtaining and maintaining employment, poor interpersonal relationships, and high rates of substance abuse (Bullis & Cheney, 1999; Greenbaum et al., 1996).

Finding ways to effectively meet the needs of African American males with EBD is therefore critical. Effective intervention for these youth will depend on the extent to which we understand their characteristics and needs, in tandem with available systems of care, particularly schools. This article reviews previous research on the school experiences of African American males with EBD, and discusses implications for developing culturally responsive interventions and educational policy.

DEFINING THE PROBLEM

Issues Contributing to Overrepresentation

The overrepresentation of African American males in EBD is a problem that has persisted for many decades, and trends in the data indicate that this problem is getting worse (Zhang & Katsiyannis, 2002). This is partially because behaviors that classify a student as EBD are illdefined, and school systems are left to determine what student behaviors align with the categorical criteria.

Classification begins with the federal definition of EBD articulated in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA-P. L. 101-476) under the term "emotional disturbance." IDEA defines emotional disturbance of EBD as:

... a condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree which adversely affects school performance: (a) an inability to learn which cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors; (b) an inability to build or maintain satisfactory relationships with peers and teachers; (c) inappropriate types of behaviors or feelings under normal circumstances; (d) a general mood of unhappiness or depression; (e) a tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.

Students with schizophrenia are included in this classification, whereas students with social maladjustment are not, unless it is determined that they also are emotionally disturbed. …

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