Fostering Culturally Inclusive Family and School Collaboration Within the African American “Community”

Fostering Culturally Inclusive Family and School Collaboration Within the African American “Community”

York Williams
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1181-7.ch009
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Public schools are vested with the responsibility of meeting the needs of all students. However, the literature continues to evolve demonstrating patterns of disparities within predominately African American school communities and challenges with school and home partnerships. Students who have been identified with special education needs are at an even greater risk of failure because of ineffective services that are often the result of parents or caretakers who lack the capital, knowledge, and skills to advocate for them for many complex reasons. In order to meet the needs of this historically marginalized group within the field of special education, schools must adopt a posture of culturally responsive inclusivity and family collaboration within the African American school community. This collaboration entails (1) culturally responsive collaboration, (2) culturally responsive teaching, (3) strong family partnerships, (4) culturally responsive communication, and (5) family-centered school-based services for diverse families and culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students.
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The field of education, overall, requires exceptional family collaboration across a wide spectrum of access points, including legal guardians, caretakers, foster parents, grandparents, traditional parents, single parent-families, and even emancipated youth (Harry, 2008; Harry, Klingner & Hart, 2005; Olivos & Aguilar, 2010). The field of special education acts as a sub-field of education, with a particular emphasis on educating the whole child who may possess a learning disability and or other health impairment and who requires specially designed instruction (IDEA, 2004). In the field of special education, educators must collaborate with families across a variety of educational disciplines and specialty fields. These various fields involve many professionals with intersecting duties and tasks. A number of team members and related service providers may communicate and collaborate in order to best identify and meet the needs of a student with a learning disability. Additionally, guidance counselors, medical specialists, physical therapists, speech and language therapists, social workers, regular and special educators, and other service providers may play a critical role in providing services to students with disabilities from infancy to high school graduation under the IDEA (2004). However, African American families have often been left out of discussions regarding choice, needs, and changes for specialized needs for their children (Blanchette, 2004; Williams, 2007). The African American notion of family becomes the dimension in special education upon which this collaboration can occur albeit successfully.

Parents are primary caretakers recognized by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for a child with a disability and are recognized as the “educational decision makers.” The parent acting as the Individual Education Program (IEP) partner is tasked to work with their child’s school and becomes culturally cognizant and more aware of the child’s needs and strengths. Many of the IEP team members play multiple roles in the educational life of a student with a special education need. However, with the history of failed educational reforms, high needs within urban communities and issues such as racism, drugs, violence, and under-education that plague African American communities present incessant obstacles to successful collaboration (Blanchette, 2004; Williams, 2007). Moreover, the purpose of this chapter will clarify the role that culturally responsive collaboration for African American families with special needs children plays in strengthening the school-home partnership for students identified under the IDEA (IDEA, 2004; No Child Left Behind Act, 2001). When discussing the concept of “community” it should be noted that African Americans represent a diverse racial and ethnic group which requires a multi-diversified approach to inclusion using culturally responsive pedagogy and collaboration.

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