Dr. Umar Abdullah Johnson has made it his life’s mission to halt the flood of black children — especially boys — who are being forced into special education programs in public schools due to erroneous psychological diagnoses. Johnson, a nationally certified school psychologist, is the founder and president of the National Movement to Save Black Boys (NMSBB), an organization based in Philadelphia.

Johnson travels the country conducting thorough evaluations of children that are labeled at-risk, suicidal, violent and depressed to ensure that they have been properly diagnosed. Alarmingly, he finds that most black children, particularly males, do not meet the full criteria to be categorized as in need of special education services.

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What are some of the behavioral categories that qualify a child for special education?

Mental retardation, autism, emotional disturbance, and speech and language impairment. Also, there are three disruptive disorders — attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder [ADHD], conduct disorder, and disruptive behavior disturbance. They are all social creations — there’s nothing scientific about them.

Why are black boys overrepresented in special ed classrooms?

They are traditionally taught by individuals that are poorly trained in managing behavior. And rather than care enough and use their teaching skills, they label our children as having disruptive behavior disorders. Thus, our children are sentenced to a life of special education and sedation.

Who normally makes these allegations?

The gatekeepers for special ed are traditionally 1 percent black and 99 percent white teachers and psychologists.

Is it profitable to place students in special education programs?

Yes. Last year, psychotropic drugs [that are prescribed to special ed students] [raked in] over $45 billion last year.

Do the drugs prescribed resolve learning disabilities?

No. There’s no concrete evidence that medication improves the learning of black children. But, there’s evidence of side effects such as depression, heart attack, high blood pressure … and insomnia.

How can we prevent children from being misdiagnosed and placed in special education classrooms?

1) Require any black male referred for special education to be evaluated by a competent African American behavioral psychologist. 2) [Require] 25 hours of behavioral and classroom management for teachers and principals. 3) Require [that] teachers [or] principals that abuse the referral program be severely reprimanded.

How can we help our children succeed academically?

Better study habits are needed. On average, an Oriental child spends roughly 15 hours a week on homework … a white child 8-10 hours, and a black child 45 minutes. Also, better educated and involved parents are needed.

For parental training on special education and behavioral medication training, Dr. Umar Abdullah Johnson can be reached at

[email protected] or at (215) 989-9858.

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