Date of Paper

5-2012

Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

msw

Department

socialwork

First Advisor

Keith DeRaad

Abstract

Overrepresentation is defined as a specific racial or ethnic group being overrepresented in comparison to their representation in the general population. In the case of racial minorities, this overrepresentation has been documented specifically with African American populations and focusing on urban environments throughout a system known as the "school-to-prison pipeline". This pipeline includes social welfare, special education, school disciplinary referrals, the juvenile justice system, and the adult justice system. This study looked at rural professionals’ perceptions of the overrepresentation phenomenon specifically within their rural community with a focus on that areas primary racial minority, Hispanics. Using a quantitative design in survey format, 120 rural professionals including mainstream teachers, special education teachers, parole officers, county attorneys, judges, social services employees, and policemen and women were surveyed. Data was analyzed by running descriptive statistics on all responses and again breaking them out into three categories: education professionals, social services professionals, and justice system professionals. Findings indicate that the degree to which rural professionals believe overrepresentation exists in their community varies. Their perceptions also vary in regards to what contributes to overrepresentation as well. These findings point to a potential lack of communication among professionals in regards to their specific roles when working with members in their community, specifically those of a racial minority group and a need for further research to better understand if a perception gap exists between professionals and the racial minority population itself.

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