Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education/Leadership in Urban Schools

First Advisor

Patricia Krueger-Henney

Second Advisor

Francine Menashy

Third Advisor

David J. Connor


The overrepresentation of Black students in special education, particularly in the most restrictive educational placements, is well documented in the literature. In addition, Black students are disproportionately placed into far more segregated educational spaces than their same-aged White peers with similar dis/ability labels. With limited qualitative studies that center the voices of students of color labelled as severely disabled in restrictive educational settings, informed by the tenets of Disability Studies in Education (DSE), this study adds to the growing body of research foregrounding the voices of individuals with dis/abilities in telling their own story from their perspective through narrative portraiture.

This inquiry uses a Disability Studies and Critical Race Theory in Education (DisCrit) framework to analyze the lived educational experiences of a Black high school student labeled as severely disabled, his mother, and his former teacher to explore how race, dis/ability, and ableism work in-tandem to segregate and exclude students with intersecting identities from equitable access to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). Using the metaphor of a siege, narrative portraits of both the student and his mother illuminate the ways that the exclusionary practices of a large urban school district are used to besiege students and families by creating three distinct walls of exclusion: the administrative wall, the academic wall, and environmental wall.

The implications of this study include the importance of valuing the voices of culturally and linguistically diverse students and family members in educational decision making, especially when educational programming and special education classroom placement is being proposed.