Professor Keith Mayes's "The Unteachables" focuses on disability rights and the invention of Black special education

Professor Keith Mayes's recent book The Unteachables: Disability Rights and the Invention of Black Special Education

Professor Keith Mayes's recent book, The Unteachables: Disability Rights and the Invention of Black Special Education (University of Minnesota Press), examines the overrepresentation of Black students in special education over the course of the twentieth century. Excavating the deep-seated racism embedded in both the public school system and public policy, it explores the discriminatory labeling of Black students, and how it indelibly contributed to special education disproportionality, to student discipline and push-out practices, and to the school-to-prison pipeline effect.

The civil rights and the educational disability rights movements, Mayes shows, have both collaborated and worked at cross-purposes since the beginning of school desegregation. Disability rights advocates built upon the opportunity provided by the civil rights movement to make claims about student invisibility at the level of intellectual and cognitive disabilities. Although special education ostensibly included children from all racial groups, educational disability rights advocates focused on the needs of white disabled students, while school systems used disability discourses to malign and marginalize Black students.