Dr. Jennifer Camota conducted academic research of faith-based private schools throughout the United States that included children with varying levels of disabilities. She wrote about her conversations with school leaders and the findings in her dissertation: “Including Exceptional Children in a Christian Learning Community: New Narratives in Special Education” (February 2013). [Read full dissertation]
The majority of Christian schools in the United States exclude children who have disabilities from their learning communities. This study examines the practices of 11 Christian schools throughout the United States, through conversations with a top leader in each school, that provide access to and/or inclusion in their schools. [Read full dissertation]
Theory and Protocol
This research is grounded in critical hermeneutic theory and follows an interpretive approach to field research and data analysis (Herda 1999; 2010). Research conversations are conducted with the participants, which are then transcribed into a written text, which serves as the data to be analyzed.
The three research categories drawn from critical hermeneutic theory that served as the directives for this study are:
- Ethical Aim, the aspiration for a fulfilled life, defined in this study in the Christian context as a life pleasing to God,
- Praxis, which is the practical application of a moral judgment in alignment with the Ethical Aim, and
- Imagination, which looks into the future of possibilities and opportunities using innovation and creativity, aligned with the Christian concepts of faith and heart. Praxis is acting in an ethical manner using imagination as an inspiration for acting.
This study revealed the following three research findings:
- The definition of Christianity shapes the understanding of inclusivity;
- Schools with high levels of inclusivity were found to follow specific tenets of the Christian faith that resulted in appropriate curriculum development for all levels of learners, and
- T present challenge of Christian schools providing services for students with disabilities resides in the tension between commodity versus community, and between individualism versus family.