Manatee school officials aim to lower number of black students classified with emotional behavioral disabilities

mdelaney@bradenton.comJune 11, 2014 

Diana Greene, deputy superintendent of instruction, answers questions posed by school board member Robert Gause as they discuss the budget Monday evening during a public school board meeting. PAUL VIDELA/Bradenton Herald

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BRADENTON -- Black students in Manatee County are too often labeled as having an emotional behavioral disability compared with their white and Hispanic counterparts, according to a school official.

Black students make up 14 percent of the student population in Manatee County but account for 45 percent of students diagnosed with an emotional behavioral disability, according to a presentation given Tuesday by Diana Greene, deputy superintendent for instruction, at a Manatee County School Board workshop.

"We are disproportionately identifying African-Americans in our EBD classifications," Greene said. "Even though our data doesn't show it, it's males."

Greene reported students with EBD have persistent, consistent emotional or behavioral responses that hurt performance in the classroom. The responses cannot be attributed to age, culture, gender or ethnicity, she said.

The problem is not just happening in Manatee County, but Greene said Manatee County ranks No. 2 in the state for disproportionate identification of black students with EBD.

The state found the district has been over-identifying black males as EBD students, according to an audit released earlier this year. The state audit found the district failed to document how those identifications were made.

After the audit, board members asked the district to provide a more thorough report, which prompted Greene's presentation.

Greene reported 46,612 students attended Manatee County schools in 2012-13. Of those students, 50 percent were white, 31 percent Hispanic and 14 percent black. The data didn't include any other racial classifications, since they were too small and considered statistically significant.

Of those students, 247 were identified with emotional behavioral disability.

White students make up 40 percent of the EBD students, blacks make up 45 percent and 11 percent are Hispanic.

"It's significant because black students only make up 14 percent of the total student population," Greene said.

Greene referenced a case study comparing one black student and one white middle school student who had multiple physical incidents with other students and were labeled EBD.

The white student was transferred to another district school and the black student was sent to Horizons Academy, the district alternative school.

The report featured a district action plan, which advised training teachers and administrators to make informed EBD decisions.

It's important the district be proactive and provide adequate support for the EBD students, Greene said.

"If we don't, they are going to drop out."

Students labeled with EBD are much more likely to drop out, she said. The dropout rate for EBD students in Manatee County is 8 percent. The statewide dropout rate for EBD students in 7 percent, according to Greene.

In other business:

[ ] The April financial statements projected the fund balance to be $102,903 by June 30.

[ ] Superintendent Rick Mills predicted the district would have an $11.5 million fund balance at the end of 2014-15 year, but said details are not ready yet. Mills said more information would be available at the June 24 meeting.

[ ] The school board honored Braden River High School graduate Sam Woolf, who placed fifth in the most recent season of "American Idol," by declaring June "Sam Woolf Month."

[ ] Scott Cooper, Tony Losada, Kathryn Price and Latrina Singleton were promoted from assistant principal to principal, but board members called their suggested salaries into question. Board members also discussed having a workshop to go over a salary system they called "unfair and antiquated."

Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.

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