Academic journal article Journal of Catholic Education

An Investigation of the Attitudes of Catholic School Principals towards the Inclusion of Students with disabilities/Una Investigacion De Las Actitudes De Los Directores De Escuelas Catolicas Hacia la Inclusion De Los Estudiantes Con discapacidades/Une Enquete Sur Les Attitudes Des Chefs D'etablissements Catholiques Au Sujet De L'inclusion Des Eleves Handicapes

Academic journal article Journal of Catholic Education

An Investigation of the Attitudes of Catholic School Principals towards the Inclusion of Students with disabilities/Una Investigacion De Las Actitudes De Los Directores De Escuelas Catolicas Hacia la Inclusion De Los Estudiantes Con discapacidades/Une Enquete Sur Les Attitudes Des Chefs D'etablissements Catholiques Au Sujet De L'inclusion Des Eleves Handicapes

Article excerpt

Since the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA 2004), there have been a number of changes in the rules and regulations guiding the provision of special education to students with disabilities who attend Catholic schools. These shifts in the laws have made the provision of special education services more challenging for Catholic schools, which do not receive federal funding to administer special education services. Other than the services defined and developed through the Proportionate Share Plans as determined by the timely and meaningful consultations with the local educational agency (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (2004), Catholic schools are often left to find local funding sources and grants to provide programs for students with special needs (Defiore, 2006). The inclusion of students with disabilities and the provision of special education services can prove to be a substantial drain on the resources of Catholic schools.

As a result, decisions about whether to include students with disabilities can be challenging for Catholic school principals. Catholic school principals typically serve as the prime decision-makers in admission and enrollment issues. Principals must balance the admission of an individual student against financial constraints and faculty professional development needs. A key factor in this decision-making can be the principals' perceptions and attitudes about servicing students with disabilities within a Catholic school context. The purpose of the present study is to investigate the attitudes and perceptions of Catholic school principals toward inclusion of students with disabilities in Catholic schools.

Literature Review

Principals and Attitudes Toward Serving Students with Disabilities

There few references in the research literature regarding Catholic school principals' attitudes towards serving students with disabilities (Huppe, M., 2010; Taylor, S., 2005). However, a wealth of evidence within the literature suggests the importance of the role of the principal in the provision of services to students with disabilities (Dyal, A., Flynt, S. W., & Bennett-Walker, D.,1996; Gameros, P.,1995; Lasky, B., & Karge, B. D., 2006; Ramirez, R. C., 2006). Further, the research on public school principals' attitudes toward the inclusion of students with disabilities can inform the current research on Catholic school principals' perceptions.

As Doyle (2001) contended, "Many assert that all schools, programs, administrators and staff members need to be inclusionary. What they are calling for is more than a change in structures but a re-culturing of the way people think about school and students with disabilities" (p. 4). In Gameros's (1994) study investigating successful inclusionary practices, public school principals reported that they believed their leadership and vision had a significant impact on the provision of services to students with disabilities in their schools. Further, Dyal, Flynt, and Bennett-Walker (1996) asserted, "school principals play an important role in creating an educational climate that provides opportunities for interactions between disabled and nondisabled peers" (p. 33).

The public school principal's attitude toward students with disabilities has a significant impact on the effective provision of special education services. Several studies have noted that for inclusion to be successful, the public school administrator must display a positive attitude and commitment to inclusion (Evans, Birst, Ford, Green, & Bischoff, 1992; Rude & Anderson, 1992). Praisner's (2003) study on public school principals' attitudes toward the inclusion of students with disabilities found that "positive experience with students with disabilities and exposure to special education concepts are associated with a more positive attitude toward inclusion" (p. 136). With these more positive attitudes and experiences with students with disabilities, principals are more likely to place these students in less restrictive environments. …

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