Addressing the inclusion imperative: an urban school district’s responses


  • David Edward DeMatthews University of Texas at El Paso
  • Hanne Mawhinney University of Maryland, College Park



special education, inclusion, urban education, policy, school districts


Over the past forty years, schools across the United States have become more inclusive for students with disabilities.  However, in many high-poverty urban school districts, a disproportionate number of minority children with disabilities are segregated from their non-disabled peers.  This article presents findings from a qualitative case study of one urban school district implementing special education-related inclusion reform over the course of four years.  The district had a history of segregating students and numerous compliance issues with special education mandates; however, the arrival of a new superintendent brought new hopes for change.  The authors argue that existing research regarding inclusion has typically ignored the policy implementation processes employed by school districts in establishing more inclusive schools and improved special education programs.  This article provides a case description of a district’s special education inclusion policy implementation process, the challenges district administrators were confronted with, and the positive and negative outcomes of the district’s policies. The findings inform next-generation policy initiatives and future lines of inquiry.


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Author Biographies

David Edward DeMatthews, University of Texas at El Paso

David DeMatthews is an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at El Paso in the Department of Educational Leadership and Foundations.  David has worked in urban districts as a high school teacher, middle school administrator, and district administrator.  He studies issues related to school leadership, urban education, special education, and social justice.

Hanne Mawhinney, University of Maryland, College Park

Hanne Mawhinney is an Associate Professor in the Policy and Leadership Division of the Department of Teaching, Learning, Policy and Leadership at the University of Maryland, College Park. She studies the interaction between leadership and policy change at federal, state, district and school levels.




How to Cite

DeMatthews, D. E., & Mawhinney, H. (2013). Addressing the inclusion imperative: an urban school district’s responses. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 21, 61.