The perceptions of the campus administrators' role in the prereferral processes related to the placement of African American students in special education
African American students represent 14.8% of the school population yet 20.2% of the students identified and placed in special education (U.S. Department of Education, 2000). Those identified with education-related disabilities have difficult experiences during their school career that negatively impact their later employment (Osher & Hanley, 1995). The management of special education has shifted to campus administrators without specialized knowledge to handle the task; yet they have direct responsibility to ensure that all students, including African Americans, are properly identified and placed in the appropriate educational setting (Bateman & Bateman, 2001; Ford, 2001). The campus administrators’ role prior to referral to special education may be vital in reducing the disproportionate representation of African American students in special education. This study investigated perceptions held by campus administrators, general education teachers, and a district special education specialist relative to (a) the campus administrators’ responsibility to assure there is not disproportionate identification of African American students identified for special education, (b) the campus administrators’ involvement in regular education activities prior to referral for special education, and (c) the criteria of successful regular education activities prior to referral for special education. Additionally, this study revealed campus administrators’ perceptions of knowledge and skills needed to administer effectively activities prior to referral to special education. This qualitative case study utilized a descriptive methodology involving interviews with participants directly involved in activities prior to referral to special education at multiple sites across three levels within a Texas public school district. The study revealed that campus administrators and teachers perceived the campus administrator’s role of involvement as providing teachers with resources. An important finding was that campus administrators had a limited knowledge of special education, yet providing such resources was identified as a vital part of the administrator’s role. Therefore, there is a clear disconnect between campus administrator’s perception of their role and their perception of their own knowledge and skills. Two criteria were identified for successful regular education activities prior to referral to special education: (a) to identify the needs of students and (b) to utilize school staff expertise in the process.