Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Rhonda Jeffries

Second Advisor

Todd Lilly


The special education system in the United States is disproportionately overrepresented by Black males. This is increasingly true for high-incidence disability types, such as emotional/behavioral disorders and specific learning disabilities. It also rings true that those same disability types are those that are most often placed in restrictive special education settings such as the self-contained classroom. Based on research, students placed in restrictive settings often have limited educational opportunities and poorer lifelong outcomes (Rueter, 2011). It is for those reasons that it is important that we examine the reasons for the decades long continuation of the overrepresentation of Black males in such restrictive settings and the experiences of those most impacted. This action research study makes use of the voices of Black male students impacted by the noted disproportionality to understand their educational experiences, the reasons that they believe they have been placed in self-contained classrooms and uses their words to analyze this phenomenon through the lens of critical race theory (CRT). The resulting research of this study suggests that Black males understand that race may have impacted their experience, diagnosis and subsequent placement. These developments can help to provide the foundation toward challenging a problem that has long plagued special education.