Emotionally disturbed students have the highest dropout rate of any special education population. As the educational accountability increases each year, public education leaders need to look at all the obstacles that are prohibiting students, especially the emotionally disturbed student, from being successful.This study was two-fold. It first explored principals? experiences in working with and graduating the emotionally disturbed population of its school. Secondly, it examined the emotionally disturbed student in the public education system and residential treatment centers, observing the academic treatments within each setting. It then studied the effectiveness of public school systems and residential treatment centers educating this population.