Date of Award

Spring 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Teacher Leadership (Ed.D)


Educational Leadership

Committee Chair

Dr. Ann M. Bennett

First Committee Member

Dr. Tristan Glenn

Second Committee Member

Dr. Brian Lawler


If you walk into any special education classroom in America, you will see that Black students are overrepresented. The issue of disproportionality of Black students in special education has been a longstanding concern. Although students can be referred to special education through parent request, students are most likely referred by their general education teacher. The referral requirements for students with emotional disabilities or learning disabilities can be subjective to the beliefs of the referral teacher, as the U.S. Department of Education does not outline the definition of “teacher referral”. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore whether teacher perceptions of race and culture, as well as social media interactions, have possible implications on the disproportionate ratio of Black students in special education. This case study utilized Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Gloria Ladson-Billings’ (2009) Matrix of Behaviors Toward Academically At-Risk Students. Snowball sampling was used to select six White general education teachers from the state of Georgia who were interviewed and responded to a social media post that served as a simulated social media interaction. CRT was used to analyze and code the transcripts and to determine any patterns in the teachers’ perceptions of cultural differences and race as it relates to Black students referred to special education. The implications of this study could lead to the development of ongoing cultural and diversity training and ultimately result in contributing to our understanding of why Black students are overrepresented in special education. The implications could also lead to improved educational environments for marginalized students through a more consistent method of student referrals.