Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Abraham S. Fischler College of Education


Charlene Desir

Committee Member

Jia Borror


This dissertation was a qualitative study of school social workers who worked with special needs adolescent youth with emotional and behavioral disabilities in a public high school. This study centered on the experiences of 10 social workers in a public high school in New Jersey. All 10 school social workers were interviewed individually to uncover (a) how they perceived the school social worker's role within the public school setting, (b) the lived experiences of school social workers who worked with special needs youth with emotional and behavioral disabilities, and (c) why they desired to continue working with at-risk special needs youth based on their own experiences? Besides one-to-one interviews, each social worker completed a survey and wrote a personal statement reflecting on his or her work as a school social worker in the research setting. The researcher conducted interviews of each social worker at a mutual location decided by the researcher and the social worker. Results and findings may decrease misunderstandings and inconsistencies in the literature regarding school social workers and their role as they work with at-risk special needs youth in public schools. Social work practice and public school administrators may acquire new knowledge regarding the social worker's desire to continue working with this population group. The study should also contribute to existing literature regarding school social workers, adult social support, at-risk youth, special needs youth with emotional and behavioral disabilities, and qualitative studies aimed at understanding the lived experience working with the at-risk youth population. At the same time, this study should increase the researcher's personal and professional growth of how this population group perceived and acclimated to social work experiences.

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