Date of Award

Summer July 2013

Access Restriction


Degree Name

Doctorate in Education



School or College

School of Education

First Advisor

Candace Poindexte

Second Advisor

Jill P. Bickett

Third Advisor

Brian P. Leung


Catholic schools in the United States have grappled with how to serve students with disabilities without the funding sources available to public schools. This mixed methods case study examines the driving forces, restraining forces, and social justice issues that influenced the development of an inclusion program at one Catholic elementary school.

The case analyzed is the inclusion program at “St. Ignatius” Elementary School. Fourteen interviews with individuals heavily involved in the program were triangulated with qualitative analyses of the content of artifacts from the inclusion program and quantitative data from a rating scale on ideal inclusive practices completed by ten teachers at the school site. Themes from the literature on Catholic inclusive education were also used to illuminate the findings.

The study identified the driving forces of leadership, teacher buy-in, the partnership between the school and parents, and the concept of the parish as “one big family.” Restraining forces included negative parent perceptions and deficits in capacity and resources. Current practices included increased professional development and resources, honest assessment, and the concept that inclusion serves all students. Interview participants felt that Catholic beliefs and teachings provided the social justice framework.

The school site and archdiocese can further examine the paradigm shift required to implement Catholic school inclusion, increasing teacher professional development, the role of charismatic leadership, and serving gifted students. Further studies could explore socioeconomic variables, how inclusion affects other students, and whether the Catholic school environment provides advantages in implementing inclusion.