The value of school connectedness for students identified as emotionally disturbed

The purpose of the study was to explore factors that impacted school connectedness for high school (grades 9 to 12) students identified as Emotionally Disturbed (ED). The study utilized a mixed methods design. The study highlighted the narratives and experiences of students identified as ED and how those narratives and experiences impacted their sense of school connectedness. The inclusion of student experiences and narratives provides a platform for dialogue between policymakers and its primary stakeholders: the students. Further, the study included surveys that examined the relationships between variables of interest. There were 20 participants who were interviewed and 33 participants who completed the surveys. Through qualitative analysis, the study found that students identified as ED valued school connectedness. There were four positive themes that promoted school connectedness and four negative themes that hindered school connectedness. The positive themes were positive teacher relationship, supportive and caring friends, participation in school activities, and a supportive school community. Emergent negative themes that contributed to poor school connectedness were social isolation, stigma, bullying, and negative teacher relationships. Quantitative analysis revealed a significant positive relationship between school connectedness and behavioral engagement, student participation in the decision making process and behavioral engagement, cognitive engagement and student participation in the decision making process, stereotype threat and cognitive engagement, and resiliency and stereotype threat. Overall, results from the study aligned with previous studies involving school connectedness with unique considerations for students identified as ED. Implications for policymakers and educational leaders are discussed.