Communication versus Compliance: African-American Parents’ Involvement in Special Education

Elizabeth Harry, Norma Allen, Margaret Mclaughlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


A longitudinal, 3-year study investigated the participation of African-American parents of 24 preschoolers in special education programs in a large urban school district. Data were collected through ethnographic interviews with parents and professionals, observations of conferences, and examination of students’ documents. Despite current perceptions of low levels of participation by African-American parents, the data show consistent initial efforts by families to support their children's schooling, eventually giving way to disillusionment with the separations created by special education placements and the lack of avenues for parental influence. The article explores ways for professionals to move from preoccupation with compliance to true communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)364-377
Number of pages14
JournalExceptional Children
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Education


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