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.
- Emotional/behavioral disorders
- Qualitative research
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health