Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Education (MAE)



First Advisor

Susan O'Connor

Second Advisor

Donna Patterson


Students'use of offensive language often leads to behavioral problems, such as fights, that impede learning in the classroom environment. Through comparing and contrasting the perspectives of students and staff in a program for middle school students with emotional and/or behavioral disorders, this research seeks to understand why students use offensive language. Both students and staffwere interviewed. The students were sixth and eighth graders who spend 60-100% of their time in school in a special education classroom. The staff who were interviewed include special education teachers, an educational assistant, a teacher in the mainstream program, and a school psychologist. All of the staff work frequently with the students who were interviewed. This research finds that the name of the specific program is used as an insult, and that the use of the program name as an insult negatively affects students in a way that other insults do not. Recommendations for addressing this issue include structuring programs to be more equitable and teaching students and staff to be more tolerant of students with disabilities.


SC 11.MAE.2018.Byrnes.MFH