Elementary Principals' Attitudes and Perceptions Towards Creating Inclusive School Environments for Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities have historically been segregated from their peers in general education settings and United States legislation continues to address this inequity. The least restrictive environment mandate requires Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams, including school principals, to ensure meaningful access to general education for students with disabilities. Research suggests that principals’ beliefs about inclusion affect their willingness to advocate for inclusive environments and practices at their sites. This survey study examined elementary principals’ definitions of inclusion, perceived challenges and attitudes towards creating inclusive school environments. Principals from four Southern California school districts completed a survey with a modified version of Bailey’s (2004) Principals’ Attitudes Towards Inclusive Education (PATIE) scale. Principals consistently defined inclusion; identified time, monitoring and supporting inclusive efforts, district-level support, and training to change parents and staff mindsets as key challenges; and espoused positive attitudes towards inclusion. Conclusions, implications, limitations and recommendations for further research are discussed.