Date of Award

Spring 5-5-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling and Psychological Services

First Advisor

Dr. Randy W. Kamphaus

Second Advisor

Dr. Bridget V. Dever


The overrepresentation of minority students identified for special education services continues to plague schools and serves as a challenge for researchers and practitioners (Ferri&Conner,2005). Teacher nomination, office discipline referrals (ODR), and functional behavior assessments (FBA) continue to guide referral processes (Bradshaw, Mitchell, O’Brennen, & Leaf, 2010; Eklund, et al., 2009; Mustian, 2010). These methods have been found to be riddled with inconsistencies. Practices used to identify students for behavioral and emotional interventions over-identify students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. The use of a behavioral and emotional screener to make data-based decisions regarding placement and services could provide an objective assessment of student risk.

The first chapter of this dissertation reviews methods used in the identification of students for behavioral and emotional support services. Additionally, the use of universal screening in conjunction with student self-report are proposed as tools for alleviating the overrepresentation of minority students in special education programs for behavioral and emotional disorders.

The second chapter of this dissertation explores the measurement equivalence of Behavior Assessment System for Children, Second Edition (BASC-2) Behavioral and Emotional Screening System Student form (BESS Student) across the Black, Hispanic, and White participants in the norming sample. The BESS Student as a universal screening tool is poised to alleviate the disproportionate number of children of color identified by schools as having behavior and emotional disorders. This instrument also provides an avenue to identify students with internalizing disorders who are often overlooked in present referral practices (Bradshaw, Buckley, & Ialongo, 2008; Kataoka, Zhang, & Wells, 2002).

The findings of the measurement equivalence study suggests that the BESS Student is, as designed, identifying behavioral and emotional risk across each of the three groups explored. These findings support the use of a universal screening measure as the first step in a multi-step identification and intervention process. Following up with additional assessment to evaluate the specific areas of risk warranting intervention is pivotal to providing appropriate support services and promoting the behavioral and emotional health of students. Implications for research and practice are discussed.