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Alternative schools are often a school system's major defense against dropout (Souza, 1999). Today, close to 11,000 public alternative schools or programs are believed to exist in the United States education system (Foley & Pang, 2006) and as many as one million students are currently attending alternative learning programs in the United States (Lehr, Tan, & Ysseldyke, 2009). Still, little research has been devoted to these institutions, or the professionals that work in them.

In this study, we took an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the ways teachers, administrators, and nurses in alternative settings collaborated to support mentally healthy school environments for marginalized student populations as well as how they self-defined mentally healthy school spaces. Drawing on the process of rationale development (Shaver, 1977; Shaver & Strong, 1982) as rooted in social studies education, we explored the perceived purposes of these professionals as they worked with some of the nation’s “riskiest” children. The results of this study are derived from focus groups and one-on-one interviews which were transcribed and coded for theme development. This work offers insight into the rationales of alternative educators, administrators, and nurses and provides a platform for helping professionals undergo the rationale development process.


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  • Subject
    • Education

  • Event date
    • 11 November 2016

  • Date submitted

    18 July 2022

  • Keywords
  • Additional information
    • Author Biography:

      Adam W. Jordan, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of special education in the College of Education at UNG. He holds a Ph.D. in Special Education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was an alternative middle and high school teacher. His research interests include public alternative schooling and purpose-based teaching. Kasey H. Jordan is an instructor in the Department of Nursing at UNG. Kasey holds a master's of science in nursing from Duke University and is currently ABD toward her Ph.D. in Nursing from Vanderbilt University. Kasey's diverse experiences in nursing practice include emergency and floor nursing, school nursing in alternative settings, and public health nursing. Her research interests include innovative work behavior, public health nursing, and school nursing.