RERIC is pleased to announce that graduate students Katie McCabe (Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education) and Kaitlyn Young (Educational Psychology) are the inaugural winners of RERIC’s Dissertation Support Program competition. They will each receive $3,000 to support their dissertation research.

Katie McCabe’s dissertation summary:  Federal legislation requires students with disabilities be educated in their least restrictive environment (LRE). Despite the strong compilation of research indicating the negative outcomes of teaching students in segregated settings, research and national statistics has continued to demonstrate the persistent segregated placement rates for students with disabilities who require significant support needs (SSN). Some research, however, has begun to explore the influence of school locale (i.e., urban, suburban, or rural) on placement rates for students with disabilities. One study found 33.3% of rural students with a developmental disability spent 80% or more of their school day in general education (Brock & Schaefer, 2015). That is nearly double the national statistic, which reports only 17% of students with an intellectual disability spend 80% or more of their day in general education (United States Department of Education, 2018). This dissertation will utilize a critical theoretical framework to examine how the context of the rural school influences LRE decisions for students with SSN. The use of narrative inquiry methodology will allow focal students to tell how they experience inclusion and exclusion in rural area. Additionally, interviews with family members, school staff, peers, and community members will contribute to the narrative of LRE decisions in rural schools.

Kaitlyn Young’s dissertation summary:

Kaitlyn Young’s dissertation summary (PDF version)

The Mental Health of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students in Rural Schools

Doctoral Dissertation Project Summary1
Kaitlyn M Young, M.S.
May 2020


The mental health needs of culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students in rural schools is understudied and has not receive the attention necessary to help schools make informed decisions regarding mental health systems and practice. The need to understand these issues and how to best CLD students is ever present as minoritized individuals “…were responsible for three-quarters of the population growth in rural areas between 2000 and 2010” (Crockett & Carlo, 2016).


Mental health rates vary across racial/ethnic groups and locales. Specifically, youth who are Latinx are at a greater risk of school refusal, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts and experience several barriers to receiving mental health treatment (Alegria et al., 2010; Brown et al., 2016). Likewise, individuals in rural areas report greater concerns with mental health and have several barriers to obtain mental health services. What has not been previously examined has been the intersection of these two identities and how schools might be able to support rural CLD families receive the mental health care that they might need.


Focus groups were conducted with educators in three rural school districts. Participating educators were asked several questions about their CLD student mental health needs, barriers that CLD students might experience in accessing and receiving mental health services in their community, and how schools might be able to support increased access to those mental health services.


Key themes identified in this research included:

District A District B District C
Mental health concerns of rural CLD students might be related to being undocumented or being an immigrant Mental health concerns of rural CLD students are related to trauma and poverty Peer relationships are a consideration for mental health concerns
Rural context as a barrier to receiving mental health services Rural CLD students struggle with coping with mental health symptoms Acculturation creates stressors
Need more bicultural/bilingual services, school staff, and educational leaders Lack of school and community mental health services for rural and/or CLD families Lack of accessible mental health supports for rural and/or CLD families
Lack of administrator support for mental health programming Desire for school-based mental health providers, services, and trainings Resistance to school mental health programming from families



The following recommended based on the present findings:

  1. Further examine the mental health needs of rural CLD youth through the use of surveys and rating forms;
  2. Garner parents’/caregivers’ perspectives to ensure that any mental health system decisions are culturally responsive;
  3. Recruit CLD individuals as educators and mental health care providers in rural areas;
  4. Provide mental health training for rural educators to increase awareness of mental health issues, services, and ways of supporting students within schools and communities.


Crockett, L. J., & Carlo, G. (2016). Rural ethnic minority youth and families in the United States.
Switzerland: Springer International Publishing. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-20976-0
Alegria, M., Vallas, M., & Pumariega, A. J. (2010). Racial and ethnic disparities in pediatric mental
health. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics, 19, 759–774
Brown, A., Rice, S. M., Rickwood, D. J., & Parker, A. G. (2016). Systematic review of barriers and
facilitators to accessing and engaging with mental health care among at-risk young people.
Asia-Pacific Psychiatry, 8(1), 3–22. doi:10.1111/appy.12199


1 This document summarizes results from the following dissertation document:
Young, K. (2020). The mental health of culturally and linguistically diverse students in rural schools
[Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. University of Wisconsin – Madison.