Our society has an expectation of a child’s progression through life. That is, they listen to their parents, go to school, study hard, go to college or a trade school, and work hard until retirement. What happens with the children that are struggling in school? Well, some of them go to prison. In our nation, public school is the primary source of education; society has taken on the responsibility of educating the youth of this nation. Therefore, we only have ourselves to blame when an undereducated or uneducated youth is arrested and is incarcerated. I argue that our failure to properly address the special needs of our diverse learning disabled children leads to poor school performance, and in a high number of cases juvenile delinquency. Unfortunately, the learning disability rate among delinquent youth is between 30% and 50%, this is in contrast to the number of special education students represented in public school, which is 10% nationally.
The stark difference in the percentage of delinquency and learning disabled when compared to the national average of learning disabled has had significant attention from lawmakers, criminologist, educators, and the public. This is not a recent problem. The beginning of special education, happened in the 1800s, as immigrants flooded this county. With them came cultural norms, which were perceived as amoral in the United States. Since most immigrants populated “urban slums,” school districts created “manual training classes” to teach “carpentry, metal work, sewing, cooking, [and] social values” (Wright & Wright, 2002). These classes were designed as delinquency prevention for what was deemed as at risk children (Wright &Wright, 2002). In 1916, Towne wrote that we should use education to yield a benefit for a delinquent youth, regardless of their conditions at home. Soon after compulsory education laws, the mandating of education for children, so that schools could successfully teach social mores to children, this shows the important regard that the United States held for education.
Conversely, it was not until the landmark United States Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, in 1954, that all children were given the right to equal educational opportunities. Chief Justice Earl Warren opined:
In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right that must be made available on equal terms. (Brown, 1954)
The justices were correct, our country only benefits if every person has an equal opportunity. Brown became a principle case for parents and advocates of children with disabilities (Wright &Wright, 2002). Parents filed lawsuits, citing Brown, that their children were being discriminated against and segregated because of their disabilities (Wright &Wright, 2002). One of the lawsuits filed was Pennsylvania Association for...