Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Major Professor

Arthur Shapiro, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Steve Permuth, Ed.D.

Committee Member

William Benjamin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brenda Townsend, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jeffrey Kromrey, Ph.D.

Committee Member

William Heller, Ed.D.


discipline, pinellas, charlotte-mecklenburg, indianapolis


In 1990 the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) required that states provide a free and appropriate education to all children and youth with disabilities, no matter how severe the disabilities. This obligation was tied to federal funding and outlined in detail parental rights with regard to identifying and educating their child with disabilities. The 1997 reauthorization of IDEA stepped into school discipline, creating a complex process for addressing school misconduct of such students.

This study determines how the 1997 IDEA disciplinary mandates, as they existed until May 2003, were interpreted and implemented in three similar, urban, public school districts and how selected staff members perceived that implementation.

School board policies in the three, urban, K-12, public school districts were very similar and, in many cases, drew language directly from the IDEA law. In each district, additional documents were developed providing detailed instruction to school based educators working directly with students with disabilities and their families. The policies and guidelines reflect a clear commitment to compliance with IDEA mandates. It was not possible through this study to assess whether the spirit of the law is part of the district culture. Staff were knowledgeable of IDEA provisions and where to seek assistance within their respective organizations. Administrators and attorneys stated that their responsibilities have expanded since the 1997 reauthorization and that more of their and their staff members' time is used addressing disciplinary issues. School principals reported concerns about the length of time it takes initially to identify students with disabilities and application of the dual discipline system created by the 1997 mandates. A majority of the principals expressed concern about the dual discipline systems. It would be helpful to undertake a longitudinal study of teachers and their attitudes towards students with disabilities.