Date of Award

Summer 5-28-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Special Education - General Curriculum (Ed.D)



Committee Chair

Dr. Carter Hicks

Committee Chair/First Advisor

Dr. Brown

Second Committee Member

Dr. Her


The purpose of this qualitative narrative case study is to develop a better understanding of how African American students with disabilities in alternative schools make sense of their educational journeys. Critical race theory and disability studies (DisCrit) is used as a framework for the investigation of (a) the process of being identified as a student with disabilities and (b) behavioral factors associated with placement in the alternative school environment, and (c) how students develop characteristics of resiliency in the alternative school environment. Five African American students with disabilities who were currently attending or who had previously attended alternative school were interviewed individually about their educational experiences; participated in a focus group interview; and digitally recorded a reflective journal on their educational experiences before, during, and after attending alternative school. The researcher also conducted a document analysis utilizing the students’ educational records. The data was compiled to form a narrative inquiry for each of the participants.

An analysis of the student’s data evidenced four themes: Identified as a Student Placed “At-Risk”, My Behavior Impacted my Education, Second Chance, and The End of the Story Can be Good. Students’ perceptions of their educational experiences were influenced by the societal challenges of being identified as a student with disabilities, inability to be successful in the traditional school setting, and exposure to the alternative school setting as a pivotal point in the students’ lives.