The problem area explored by this study is the identification of students with emotional and behavioral difficulties for special education supports and services under the criteria for emotional disturbance (ED). A review of the literature indicated that the problem of identifying students with ED was compounded by subjectivity and ambiguity associated with the federal special education definition, which includes an "exclusionary clause" for students with social maladjustment (SM). A qualitative grounded theory research design was implemented to examine how practitioners in a county alternative and correctional education setting identified students with ED and how they determined the relationship between ED and SM for purposes of special education classification, given the ED criteria.
Six themes, indicative of practitioners' practices, emerged: (a) emotional disturbance was identified along three inter-related dimensions—a social, behavioral, and emotional; (b) distinctions between ED and SM were delineated; (c) reflexive and collaborative identification processes were revealed; (d) new student trends compounding the identification process were surfaced; (e) ethical considerations, especially the ethic of care, informed decision-making; and (f) a socially just perspective was espoused. A new theory, grounded in practitioners' lived experiences, integrates the six emergent themes. The new theory reflects the elements of a process that practitioners are implementing, which essentially reframes the existing federal special education criteria for identifying students with ED in a contemporary practice setting.
Implications of the emergent theory for policy and practice in educational leadership are discussed in terms of broadening and aligning the existing special education criteria to reflect current research findings, developing consistent ethical guidelines to promote equity and inclusion for students with emotional and behavioral disabilities, making socially just financial decisions, and implementing comprehensive and collaborative school-wide mental health systems. Implications for practice included providing consultative support for teachers, reframing the role of the school psychologist from "gatekeeper" to "facilitator," and leading the transition to an inclusive learning organization.
|School:||California State University, Fullerton|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||DAI-A 71/06, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Educational psychology, Special education, Clinical psychology|
|Keywords:||Alternative education, Emotional disturbance, Grounded theory, Social maladjustment, Special education|
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