Wed. Jan 26th, 2022

I can’t give you data, but I can give you some interpretations. I was a special education teacher for over 35 years; I did 5 years of volunteer work (up to 20 hours/week) in the California Youth Authority and 2 years of part-time teaching in a detention center in the 1980s. The reason was that I wanted to know how to prevent my special education students from going to jail. I worked for a gang diversion project in East LA during for a year. I studied juvenile delinquency for a masters program and sociology in my doctorate. There is a lot of information about delinquency/criminality in socioeconomic data: poverty has high population densities, high aggression/physical abuse rates, etc. Sociologists know that “quiet” space is necessary for mental health and does not exist in households of poverty.

You’ll have to be very careful about making assumptions when reading about school statistics, because there are many factors and special conditions that go into those statistics. Drop-out rates may include those who are on the 5+ year plan but do not include those attending alternative schools, etc. Minors may be incarcerated or detention, but after a certain number of absence days they are dropped from their home school enrollment.

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Some students the transfer for enrollment (accountability) purposes. Schools may also include those on minimum day or special arrangements (i.e., 1-2 hrs/day) to avoid a drop-out figure (this fact figures into school accountability for current methods of evaluating schools after NCLB). A way around laws for attending public schools is to sign up for home schooling (sometimes no schooling happens there). You’ll also have to consider the quality of education in both enrollment and drop-out rates; often classes are “dumbed down” so people can stay in school, because it they didn’t “dumb it down” the students would quit. Another factor for public school data is who is receiving SSI money for staying in school (i.e., I had a 21 year old 9th grader enrolled, but he enrolled every year and stopped coming once the verification of enrollment letter was sent to Social Security – all he wanted was his benefits check). These are just some reasons to use caution when interpreting statistics – it is NOT a direct correlation that can be made.

Special ed students and high school drop-outs have a higher probability of going to jail (most adult inmates do read below 4th grade reading level). While working in the jails, I learned that the prison industry predicts the number of beds they will need in any given year; what they use for that prediction is the number of people reading below literacy (in this country, 6th grade) on state assessment tests. This is a fairly accurate measure, because if someone can’t read, they can’t get/keep a job. Unemployed folks have nothing to do and no way to make money, so substances become the “paycheck” as well as leisure activity.

Special ed students usually have poor academic skills and related behaviors, social/communications skills, inappropriate non-verbal language skills (see work by Duke and Nowicki who state that anyone with poor non-verbal communications skills at age 10 will start getting into trouble) and mis-read others frequently. They are angry and frustrated by school and social relationships, so they act out often and in ways that tend to focus attention on them. They engage in risky behavior because they are either followers and looking for peer acceptance or for something they can do successfully. Behavior disordered special education students (this category is often used for oppositional-defiant) are often actually delinquents. There is a high rate of substance abuse among special education students, because they are “self-medicating” their failures in school (special education students especially); for delinquents (different in my mind from special ed), they like the “highs” of substances (see Criminal Personality, volume 3, by Yochelson and Samenow).

By rahul