Date of Award

Summer 8-17-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

EdD Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Michael Kuchar, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Daniel Gutmore, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ligia Alberto, Ed.D.


Special Education, Emotionally Disturbed Students, School Social Workers, Least Restrictive Environment, Child Study Team


Research on students classified as Emotionally Disturbed (ED) shows that a disproportionate number of ED students are educated outside of the general education setting. In New Jersey a little more than half of students classified as ED are not educated in general education classrooms for most of their school day. The academic performance of ED students is often lower in self-contained environments than in the general education setting (Oelrich, 2012). ED students overall have poor academic and life experiences. The educational program and setting in which an ED student is primarily educated might have an impact on their current and future academic and life outcomes. There are limited studies on the educational placement decision-making process for students with disabilities, including ED students. Studies continue to conclude that inclusive education is more beneficial (academically and socially) for students with disabilities

This study explored how one member of the child study team (CST), the school social worker, considers various points of information when considering placing ED students outside of the general education setting. A qualitative case study was utilized to collect and analyze information. The researcher conducted one-to-one in-depth semi-structured interviews via a virtual video call with 10 CST school social workers in one urban New Jersey school district. The participants met the criteria of being tenured in the school district and had experience with placement of ED students. The digitally audio recorded semi-structured interviews ranged in length from 32 minutes to 1 hour and 10 minutes.

The study revealed a multitude of factors that can influence the CST school social worker recommendations for placement of ED students. The most prominent factors included teacher qualities, school culture and climate, availability and appropriateness of resources, and special education programs. Although student academics and behavior were also factors, many participants indicated that with welcoming environments, resources, and staff trainings, many ED students could find success in regular education classes.