Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Susan Curtin


To provide effective leadership and ensure students with intellectual disabilities are receiving an appropriate education, principals must understand the substantial needs of these students. The experiences of rural principals’ leadership in providing a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) for students with intellectual disabilities are not well known. In this study, I sought to describe the experiences of remote rural principals in South Dakota in providing FAPE for students with intellectual disabilities. Eight principals of remote rural school districts, with at least one year of leadership experience, participated in this study. This phenomenological study utilized structured interviews to collect data. Data were coded using inter-rater reliability and five themes emerged. These themes were a gap between preparation and implementation, lack of resources, teacher training and continued professional development, principal’s self-efficacy, and reliance on special education teachers. Based on the findings, principals are not professionally prepared to provide FAPE for students with intellectual disabilities, nor are they confident in their ability to do so, and rely heavily on their special education teachers to comprehend and comply with state and federal special education mandates. Providing FAPE for students with intellectual disabilities in remote, rural school districts can be challenging due to the lack of personnel resources.

Subject Categories

Education | Educational Leadership | Special Education and Teaching


intellectual disability, principal, rural, special education

Number of Pages



University of South Dakota



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