Boys Far Outnumber Girls in Special Ed State Education Officials Aim to Find the Reason
Mask, Teresa, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Teresa Mask Daily Herald Staff Writer
The question has stumped educators for decades, and a new study has them once again debating the issue.
Why are more boys than girls in special education?
It's a glaring disparity throughout the country, and it also holds true in Illinois where in every school district boys outnumber girls in special education.
An analysis of enrollment during the 2000-2001 school year shows that of the state's nearly 200,000 special education students, about two-thirds were boys. This includes learning disabilities, mental retardation and emotional problems.
In the suburbs, the number of boys enrolled in special education ranges from 55 percent to 77 percent in every district.
Anthony Sims, the new manager and director of special education for the State Board of Education, joined his colleagues from throughout the country in Washington, D.C., last week to discuss the disparity issue.
He said it will be addressed again next month as part of the agenda at a Special Education Directors Conference sponsored by the Illinois Board of Higher Education.
"This has taken a back seat to a lot of issues in special education," Sims said. "We've been focused on the big stuff such as increasing student enrollment in regular classes and parental involvement."
There is no solid evidence to explain the gender gap phenomenon that has existed for decades.
Some quip it's a no-brainer: Boys act up more than girls and troublemakers often are sent to classes for those with behavior disorders.
"Boys tend to be more rambunctious and have more problems sitting still," said Charlotte Des Jardins of the Chicago-based Family Resource Center on Disabilities.
But that is only part of the story. Even in areas that have nothing to do with behavior such as mental retardation and learning disabilities, educators say, boys tend to outnumber girls. Doctors say boys dominate in disorders such as autism and attention deficit disorder.
With the release of new report from the National Academy of Science earlier this year, educators are keying in on the issue again - this time with a twist. …