Date of Award


Access Restriction


Degree Name

Doctorate in Education



School or College

School of Education

First Advisor

Lauren Casella

Second Advisor

Jill Bickett

Third Advisor

Kevin Baxter


Although called by our vocation and the mission of Catholic schools, students with disabilities (SWD) are underserved in Catholic education. Only approximately 1% of the nation’s SWD population (67,000 students) attend private schools with 40% identified as Catholic (U.S. Department of Education, 2018a). Despite the small number, SWD and peers that struggle are attending our schools and therefore, must be included meaningfully and served successfully. This study dispels the myths around the admission and service of students with Down syndrome in Catholic schools and informs educational leaders on how to create and sustain inclusive environments aligned with Catholic Social Teachings.

A qualitative research approach comprising semi-structured interviews and document review was used in the study. The framework of Catholic social teachings and the epistemology of inclusivity were used to get answers to the two research questions: (a) how does a Catholic elementary school serve students with Down syndrome? and (b) What are the challenges in serving students with Down syndrome in a Catholic elementary school?

The significance of this case study lies in witnessing and documenting one elementary Catholic school’s experience of creating, developing, establishing, and modeling an inclusion environment that serves the needs of its students with Down syndrome. This study ultimately provides data to those in similar Catholic school settings in developing and implementing fully inclusive environments. This study further expands the discussion in the field of Catholic education about the right(s) of all Catholic children, especially students with Down syndrome.