Ed.D. Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 4-2018

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


College of Education



Degree Name

Doctorate of Education, Ed.D.

Faculty Chair

Angela Owusu-Ansah, Ed.D.

Content Specialist

Joshua Moon Johnson, Ed.D.

Content Reader

Anne Grey, Ed.D.


gender and sexual diverse (GSD), belonging, safety, grace and space, high school, Coalition of Essential Schools (CES), school culture


This descriptive case study focused on a single high school community which is intentional in its efforts to craft a school culture, fostering belonging and safety in students who are Gender and Sexual Diverse (GSD). The researcher examined the perspectives of classroom-based and non-classroom-based educators, as they strove to articulate how they address the needs of this student-population without negatively impacting academic and other school priorities, and how they incorporate understandings regarding this population into their practice. Through a multi-phase process including interviews, observations, focus group, and document analysis, the researcher explored how seven educator-participants navigate changing demographics both personally and professionally and identified aspects of the school culture associated with positive interactions and outcomes for the GSD population. This study revealed a well-articulated school culture in which educators independently engage in reflective practice in their planning, while teaching, and post-instruction individually and with peers. Participants place value on providing the grace and space to include both high academic standards and a strong culture which includes decency and trust, a focus on democracy and equity, commitment to the entire school, value of teacher-as-coach, and personalization for all members of the community. These values are the school’s cultural foundation and built on The Coalition of Essential Schools (CES) and the CES 10 Common Principles. From the data, four themes within the over-arching theme of Creating Grace and Space were identified: Crafting Culture with Intentionality, Contributing to the Whole with Integrity, Facilitating and Managing Change, and Exercising Agency and Accountability.