Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Peter Kiriakidis


Federal and state guidelines direct students with disabilities to the least restrictive environment (LRE). The inclusion of students with disabilities in the LRE (general education) has been an issue for many public schools. In an effort to promote inclusive education for students with disabilities, many special education teacher--chairpersons experience opposition from the general education teacher and their administrator regarding LRE placement. The purpose of this qualitative case study, grounded in the theory of leadership, was to examine the leadership experiences of chairpersons of special education services in middle schools and their perception of the LRE decision-making process for placement for students with disabilities in their school. The primary research question that guided this study involved understanding how leadership experiences of chairpersons of special education services impact decision making about instructional placement in the least restrictive environment for students with disabilities. Data were collected from 5 teacher--chairpersons for special education service from a middle school who were purposefully selected to participate in face-to-face interviews. Data were analyzed using a thematic within-case analysis. The findings included the need for instructional leadership for (a) the decision making process, (b) staff development, and (c) socialization of students with disabilities to improve LRE placement of students with disabilities. Providing insight into the leadership experiences of the chairpersons for special education service may have implications for positive social change including addressing misunderstandings about LRE placement and instructing more students with disabilities in the LRE.