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Dr. North Cooc: Bridging Disparities in Special Education

Image of professor Dr. North Cooc, assistant professor of special education, analyzes racial disproportionality in special education and how environmental factors, such as families and schools, contribute to disparities in enrollment and achievement.

Read on to learn more about his contributions to this understudied field of research.

Hitting close to home… Dr. Cooc’s interest in special education stems from his immigrant parents’ experiences and challenges in navigating the special education system for his younger brother. “I remember when I was ten my mom said my brother’s name was no longer Lung but Phuc. This came at the end of a long night of incense burning in every room of our Sacramento house and chanting in Cantonese from my grandfather’s brother, all of which was to ward off spirits that had caused my brother’s autism. The incense and chanting, which were not uncommon in our house, didn’t surprise me but the name change felt like I had lost part of my brother.”

An understudied field of research…In graduate school, Cooc began to research the experiences of Asian Americans in special education but quickly noticed a significant gap in the field. “Part of the issue is that Asian Americans are underrepresented in special education. Historically, we’ve been concerned with the overrepresentation of certain racial minorities in special education, but underrepresentation is also problematic if students are excluded from needed services.”

The power of diversity…“An awareness and understanding of diversity in all forms is critical for our students who will probably work with parents like my own. A part of me wishes my parents and brother could have worked with my current students.”