Identifying Students At-Risk for Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

Publication Date


Document Type



Social Work


Kathryn Conley Wehrmann

Mentor Department

Social Work


Even though less than 1% of students receive mental health supports, it is estimated that about 20% of students in schools could meet the diagnostic criteria for an emotional and behavioral disorder (Hartmann, Gresham, Byrd, 2017). School-age children with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) are at-risk for experiencing negative outcomes inside and outside of school, such as limited social skills, impaired interpersonal relations, and academic deficits. They are also at an increased risk for school dropout, which may ultimately lead to negative employment experiences. To help minimize the challenges for students with EBD, schools play the vital role of supporting students who show early warning signs of EBD by early detection and early intervention (Lane, Robertson, Lambert, Crnobori, & Bruhn, 2010). To help identify the students who show early warning signs of EBD, a universal screening tool is implemented for every student. The systematic screener identifies students who are at-risk for EBD and may need additional supports to succeed in school (Kalberg, Lane, & Menzies, 2010). An area school district uses a behavior screening measure as a tier 1 intervention for their Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). This academic year, the school district switched from using the Systematic Screening for Behavioral Disorders (SSBD) to using the combined Student Risk Screening Scale/Student Internalizing Behavior Screener (SRSS/SIBS). On the SRSS/SIBS, teachers rate each of their students on a scale of 0-3 (0=never, 1=occasionally, 2=sometimes, 3=frequently) for seven items related to externalizing behaviors and seven items related to internalizing behaviors (Cook et al.,2011). The purpose of this study is to compare the internalizing and externalizing behaviors identified by the screeners at the two elementary schools and the two junior high schools. Furthermore, another purpose for the study is to compare the results of the behavior screener from last fall to the behavior screener from this fall to determine whether they are similar in terms of identifyng students as at-risk for EBD. Lastly, given the correlation between social-emotional and behavioral struggles and other indicators of school performance (office referrals, attendance, suspensions, nurse visits), this study will compare the results of the SRSS/SIBS with these school factors. The results of this study will help the school district identify what behaviors are most prevalent in their schools, compare their new screener to their old screener, and inform staff about what types of support their students may need.



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