The continuum of "troubling" to "troubled" behavior: Exploratory case studies of african american students in programs for emotional disturbance

Juliet E. Hart, Elizabeth D. Cramer, Beth Harry, Janette K. Klingner, Keith M. Sturges

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Scopus citations


This article discusses the construction of the "emotional disturbance" (ED) category in the cases of four African American elementary students. These cases represent a sub-set of data from a three-year ethnographic study of the special education process in a large, culturally/linguistically diverse school district. Based on interviews, observations, and examination of students' records, the data revealed three inappropriate, yet significant, contributors to the children's classification as ED: inadequate instruction/behavior management prior to referral, exclusion of contextual classroom information from the decision-making process, and subjective/arbitrary evaluation processes. Presented is a cross-case thematic analysis of these complex and problematic processes and their outcomes. The authors call for a reconsideration of "ED" to reflect a behavioral continuum rather than the current categorical formulation, a more holistic view acknowledging the contribution of school contexts in the evaluation of children's difficulties, and research focusing on effective, preventive practices for all children with troubling behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-162
Number of pages15
JournalRemedial and Special Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2010



  • Diversity
  • Emotional/behavioral disorders
  • Qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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