Date of Award

Spring 5-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Special Education


Special Education and Habilitative Services

Major Professor

Dr. Linda Flynn-Wilson

Second Advisor

Dr. Jan Janz

Third Advisor

Dr. Brian Beabout

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Ken Farizo


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees certain rights and protections to students with disabilities enrolled in public schools, and to their families. Even though virtual schools are one of the fastest growing trends in public k-12 education, there is evidence that these schools may not be fully implementing IDEA for enrolled students with disabilities. There has been some concern regarding the appropriateness of virtual education for student with disabilities, as well as some concern for the spectrum of services being offered in virtual schools. This case study examined the implementation of special education supports and services in one public virtual k-12 school in the United States. Interviews, document review, and participant observations were used to collect data. Findings indicated that components of IDEA were not being universally implemented for students with disabilities. Limited programming options, large special education caseloads, and an over-dependence on parents and other non-teacher adults limits students’ access to Free and Appropriate Public Education, Least Restrictive Environment, and Individualized Education Plans. Issues were also identified in the provision of Appropriate Evaluation, Parent Participation, and Procedural Safeguards. Regardless of documented challenges, benefits to virtual education were noted. Parent, faculty and staff participants reported being happier with virtual school than brick-and-mortar. Faculty enjoys easy access to a multitude of academic data. Relationships and communication among community members was reported to be stronger than what was previously experienced in brick-and-mortar schools. Faculty, staff and parent participants discussed students’ emotional and physical safety as a benefit of virtual education.


The University of New Orleans and its agents retain the non-exclusive license to archive and make accessible this dissertation or thesis in whole or in part in all forms of media, now or hereafter known. The author retains all other ownership rights to the copyright of the thesis or dissertation.