Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

Dr. Brian Barger

Second Advisor

Dr. Emily Graybill

Third Advisor

Dr. Andrew Roach


Despite advances in public awareness of mental disorders in youth, there is still a significant issue of under identification of students that may need mental health services. Schools have become the most common setting for children to receive mental health services and can serve as an entry point for screening and provision of services. Universal mental health screening is a systematic, quick and inexpensive method for identifying students who may benefit from mental health services. Currently, schools rely on office discipline referral data or suspension data to identify students who may need additional social/emotional/behavioral support. These discipline data may be effective at identifying students with externalizing behaviors but there is concern that students who internalize their frustration may not incur a discipline infraction and therefore may “fall through the cracks,” or not receive needed supports. This study explores whether a universal screener for mental health identifies students at risk for mental health concerns who may not be identified through school office discipline referral data. In other words, do scores from a mental health screener predict office discipline referrals (ODR). The Student Risk Screening Scale, Internalizing/Externalizing (SRSS-IE) was administered to 1,201 elementary students in 3 elementary schools. ODR data for those students were matched to the SRSS-IE data. Results showed the externalizing scale to be predective of year-end ODRs with higher total scores being associated with more ODRs. However, the internalizing scale was found to negatively predict ODRs, in other words students with internalizing behaviors were likely to receive fewer or no ODRs. This data provides support for the use of screener data in schools to predict and prevent problem behaviors opposed to relying solely on the use of more reactive data such as ODRs. Relying on ODR data alone for data-based decision making in school, may be ineffective as it may not capture students with internalizing behaviors.