Term of Award

Winter 2001

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Administration

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (restricted to Georgia Southern)


Department of Leadership, Technology, and Human Development

Committee Chair

Michael D. Richardson

Committee Member 1

Cathy S. Jording

Committee Member 2

Bryan Griffin

Committee Member 3

Scott Marchbanks


The Individuals With Disabilities Act (IDEA) was reauthorized in 1997 and, subsequently, the Georgia Board of Education (GBOE) developed rules to govern the implementation of this reauthorized act within the State of Georgia. The intent of both the U. S. Congress and the GBOE was to provide a clear definition of least restrictive environment (ERE) as it relates to the services provided to students with disabilities and to assure that students with disabilities are provided services in the least restrictive environment.

The intent of this study was to determine what policies and procedures were used by principals in rural south Georgia in the provision of ERE and to examine the roles of principals and the legal knowledge of principals as they related to this provision of LRE to students with disabilities.

The research design employed in this study was qualitative and descriptive with semi-structured interviews providing the data from which findings were derived. The interviewees consisted of five special education directors and eight principals from five rural south Georgia school districts. The computer software program NUD'IST 5 was employed to assist the researcher in determining the major themes.

Key findings of this study indicated that central to the policies used in the provision of LRE were a close look at the student and a determination of what was best for the student. The procedures reportedly used by principals in the provision of LRE included input from those involved with the student; consideration for needed services, support, and supplies; and a review of the present level of performance, the assessments, and other related information. The majority of the special education directors and half of the principals reported no written policies and procedures related to the provision of LRE to be available.

The major roles identified by special education directors for principals in the provision of LRE were that of providing support and of making sure resources were available, while principals identified most often the roles of assuring that student's needs were met and of providing LRE, including as much time as possible for the student to be in the regular education classroom. For the most part, special education directors felt that principals should be a part of the IEP team, and that someone should attend to represent the principal in his/her absence. None of the principals indicated that the principal's attendance in IEP meetings was required, yet all indicated that, if needed, they would attend.

The amount of knowledge of the law and legal requirements surrounding LRE expected of principals, as reported by special education directors, ranged from basic knowledge to as much as the special education director knew. The amount of knowledge possessed, as reported by principals, ranged from minimal knowledge to a lot of knowledge.


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