Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Cathryn White


In a New England school district, students with emotional disabilities (SWED) were educated in the most restrictive educational placement outside the general education classroom at higher rates than any other disability group The purpose of this qualitative, instrumental case study was to explore administrators' and teachers' perceptions regarding campus and district level systems and structures, professional development (PD) available, and the role of administrators in building capacity for the inclusion of SWED in the general education classroom. Vygotsky's theory of social development, Knowles's theory of andragogy, and Knoster's model for leading and managing complex change provided the theoretical framework for this study. A district-wide anonymous questionnaire was followed up by semistructured interviews with 4 special educators, 4 general educators, and 4 administrators. Criteria for the purposeful selection of interview participants included graduation from a 4-year university teacher education program and a minimum of 4 years teaching or administrative experience in an inclusive environment. Data were coded and investigated for themes and patterns. Three primary themes emerged: the need to adequately staff and improve fidelity to existing systems and structures, creation and implementation of practical and theoretical PD regarding SWED, and development of cohesive systems embedded in a culture that supports a sense of belonging for all students. This study will provide district administrators with resources to construct differentiated PD to build capacity for inclusion of SWED, creating positive social change by providing equitable access to instruction for all students.