Working to make a difference for children
who display challenging behavior



Kentucky Emotional-Behavioral Disability:
Technical Assistance Manual: Behavioral Qualifiers

The EBD Task Force was established by the Kentucky Department of Education in 1987 to guide Kentucky's educational systems change efforts for students with or at risk of developing emotional and behavioral disabilities. The multidisciplinary, multi-agency EBD Task Force worked for five years to create a practical, objective definition of the student population and procedural guidelines to assist school districts in the screening and identification of students for services under the EBD label.

Return to Definition of EBD

Qualifier 1

Supportive Educational Assistance

Supportive educational assistance must be provided within the general program. Supportive educational assistance occurs when one student or a group of students is targeted for interventions dealing with an identified problem. The objective is to correct the problem in the current setting. Interventions are selected which have a high probability of being successful, given the nature of the problem in the current school environment. Further, the interventions are implemented for a sufficient period of time (e.g. at least 30 to 40 school days), and are evaluated to determine their effectiveness. This criterion emphasizes the school system's responsibility for using its resources to create a positive and appropriate learning environment for all students. Students who are a discipline problem or who create management problems in the classroom or school building are not necessarily disabled. Such students may need intervention or resources from general education or other community agencies to assist with this problem.

Extensive technology exists for creating curricular, instructional and behavior modifications for addressing the emotional-behavioral problems of the school population. Such modifications allow a wide range of students to function successfully within the parameters of the general program. An in-depth evaluation of the student's needs may be warranted if, following the implementation of a variety of appropriate classroom interventions, the student's behavior continues to interfere with the ability to profit from instruction.

Key Questions

In determining whether "supportive educational assistance" has been provided, the following questions should be addressed:

  • Have the inappropriate behaviors been targeted and possible precipitating events identified?
  • Have school expectations been clearly communicated to the student?
  • Has a discrepancy been identified between student performance and instructional/curricular assignments?
  • Has the school communicated with the student's family regarding the problem(s)?
  • Have curricular and instructional interventions been systematically implemented and evaluated?
  • Have support personnel, such as a Teacher Assistance Team, been involved?
  • Have community agency resources been considered (Department of Social Services, Comprehensive Care, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, private service providers, etc.)?

Qualifier 2

Across Settings

Determination of a student as EBD should rely on a number of different kinds and sources of information. Emphasis should be given to assessment of the student's problematic behavior within the total educational environment. The areas considered in evaluating across settings include such educational environments as classrooms, instructional groups, nonacademic and extracurricular groups, and community-based activities. The student's behavior in other settings (home, community) also should be considered if his or her educational performance is adversely affected.

Key Questions

In determining "across settings", the following questions should be addressed:

  • Does the inappropriate behavior appear in more than one physical setting?
  • Does the inappropriate behavior occur in more than one instructional grouping?
  • Does the individual react in a manner which is inappropriate for the settings or occasions?
  • Is the behavior considered a significant problem by more than one individual?
  • Is there documentation of the behavior increasing, decreasing, or stabilizing across settings

Qualifier 3

Marked Degree

In determining marked degree, attention is given to the frequency, duration, and intensity of specific problem behaviors.

Frequency-- refers to the number of times the behavior occurs over a given period of time.Duration-- refers to the average length of time the student engages in the behavior per occurrence.

Intensity-- refers to the relative force, loudness, or intrusiveness of the behavior.

Key Questions

In determining "marked degree" the following questions should be addressed:

  • Is the behavior of such significant frequency, duration and/or intensity that it interferes with the individual's development?
  • How does the frequency, duration, and intensity of the problem behavior compare to behaviors exhibited by the student's peer or cultural group in a similar setting?

Qualifier 4

Long Period of Time

Determination that a problem has occurred for a long period of time requires confirmation that the primary area of concern has been evident for a minimum of four months. This time frame is intended to distinguish between short-term problem situations and the need for special education services.

a) Short-term Situation(s): Situational crises may be expected in a variety of circumstances. A student may experience short-term conflict in situations such as death in the family, divorce/separation, new school, classroom reassignment, new teacher, physical illness, family financial crises, etc. No recent acute stress or isolated traumatic event such as these can adequately explain the problem behavior.

b) Single Incidents: The occurrence of single events (e.g., truancy, drug use, stealing, vandalism or running away from home) does not necessarily qualify a student as disabled or require a referral. The student's behaviors must coincide with the characteristics listed in the definition and must significantly impact on his or her academic or social development. Severe isolated incidents, such as behavior that is dangerous to the student or others, should lead to a variety of school interventions, one of which may be a referral and more immediate access to specialized services.

Key Questions

In determining "long period of time", the following questions should be addressed:

  • How long have the problem behaviors existed?
  • Has the developmental level of the student been taken into account when looking at the duration of the condition?
  • Have there been recurring patterns of this behavior problem?
  • Can the behavior be explained by a short-term situational event?
  • Can a key situation or a critical event be identified as having an effect on the individuals social or academic development?


Documentation must be provided that all four qualifiers exist for either of the characteristics demonstrated in order to identify a student as EBD