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Emotional / Behavioral Disabilities


Cheryl Harris

Program Planner

The School District of Palm Beach County

3378 Forest Hill Blvd, A-203
West Palm Beach, FL 33406
Telephone: 561-434-8630

Fax 561-434-8384




A student with an emotional/behavioral disability (E/BD) has persistent (is not sufficiently responsive to implemented evidence-based interventions) and consistent emotional or behavioral responses that adversely affect performance in the educational environment that cannot be attributed to age, culture, gender, or ethnicity.

Regulatory Citations
Title 34 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) §300.8(4)(i) Sections 1003.01 (3) and 1003.57, Florida Statutes (F.S.) Rules 6A-6.0331 and 6A-6.03016, Florida Administrative Code (FAC)

Eligibility Criteria:
A student is eligible for a special program for emotional/behavioral disabilities if the following criteria in (1), (2), and (3) are met:

  1. A student with an emotional/behavioral disability must demonstrate an inability to maintain adequate performance in the educational environment that cannot be explained by physical, sensory, socio-cultural, developmental, medical, health (with the exception of mental health) factors; and must demonstrate one or more of the following characteristics, in 1.a or 1.b

                      (a) Internal factors characterized by:

        • Feelings of sadness or frequent crying or restlessness or loss of interest in friends and/or school work, or mood swings, or erratic behavior; or
        • The presence of symptoms, such as fears, phobias, or excessive worrying and anxiety, regarding personal or school problems; or
        • Behaviors that result from thoughts and feelings that are inconsistent with actual events or circumstances, or difficulty maintaining normal thought processes, or excessive levels of withdrawal from person or events, or

                      (b) External factors characterized by:

        • An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers, teachers, and other adults in the school setting, or
        • Behaviors that are chronic and disruptive, such as noncompliance, verbal and/or physical aggression, and/or poorly developed social skills, and are manifestations of feelings, symptoms, or behaviors as specified above, in section 1.a .

2.   The characteristics as described in (1) (a) or (b) must be present for a minimum of six (6)months duration and in two or more settings, including, but not limited to, school, educational        environment, transition to and/or from school, or home community settings. At least one setting must be school.

3.    The student needs special education as defined in rule 6A-6.03411(1)(c), FAC.

4.    In extraordinary circumstances, activities prior to referral for evaluation and the criteria for eligibility described in 2 above may be waived when immediate intervention is required to address an acute onset of an internal emotional/behavioral characteristic as listed in 1.a. above.

Student Evaluation

  1. In addition to the provisions in subsection 6A-6.0331(4), FAC., the minimum evaluation shall include the following in a - d:
    • A review of the functional behavioral assessment (FBA) previously completed to assist in the development of individual interventions. The FBA should identify the conditions under which the behavior is most and least likely to occur, the functions of the student's behavior, and document the student's response to implemented interventions. It may be necessary to revise the FBA as part of the evaluation. If a formal FBA has not been completed, one must be completed as part of the evaluation.
    • A psychological evaluation conducted in accordance with Rule 6A-6.0031(4)(a), FAC. The psychological evaluation should include assessment procedures necessary to identify the factors contributing to the development of an emotional/behavioral disability, which include behavioral observations and interview data relative to the referral concerns, and assessment of emotional and behavioral functioning, and may also include information on developmental functioning and skills. The psychological evaluation shall include a review of evidence-based interventions that have already been implemented and the criteria used to evaluate their success, and;
    • A review of educational data which includes information on the student's academic levels of performance, and the relationship between the student's academic performance and the emotional/behavioral disability; additional academic evaluation may be completed if needed; and,
    • A social/developmental history compiled from a structured interview with the parent or guardian that addresses developmental, familial, medical/health, and environmental factors impacting learning and behavior, and which identifies the relationship between social/developmental and socio-cultural factors, and the presence or non-presence of emotional/behavioral responses beyond the school environment.
  • A medical evaluation must be conducted when it is determined by the administrator of the exceptional student program or the designee that the emotional/behavioral responses may be precipitated by a physical problem.

Instructional Program:

  1. Philosophy
    Each student with a disability is entitled to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment which will enable the student to progress in the general curriculum to the maximum extent possible. Special education, which refers to specially designed instruction and related services, is provided to meet the unique needs of the student that result from the student's disability and to prepare the student for further education, employment, and independent living. Specially designed instruction means adapting, as appropriate, the content, methodology, and/or delivery of instruction. It may employ universal design for learning principles that include assistive technology, accommodations, and modifications.
  2. Curriculum
    Students will access the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards/ Common Core through appropriate programming, support from special education and regular education teachers, support in the use of assistive technology, and through the use of universal design principles to maximize accessibility to the curriculum. For most students with disabilities, these supports enable progress toward a standard high school diploma.
  3. Instructional Support
    Students receive instructional support through specially designed instruction and related services as determined through the IEP process. Teachers are trained in how to design and implement individualized programs to address the learning needs of each student. Teachers are provided with administrative support to assure reasonable class size/workload, adequate funds for materials, and professional development. Teachers provide instruction in the unique skills considered necessary for students to access and benefit from the core curriculum. These skills include, but are not limited to curriculum and learning strategies, compensatory skills, independent functioning, social/emotional behavior, use of assistive technology, and communication. A range of service delivery options is available to meet the student's needs, including consultative, itinerant, resource, special class, residential placement, hospitals, community-based or home services. School districts may provide related services to students and professional development for teachers in coordination with community agencies, the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, discretionary projects funded by the Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services, and other agencies of state and local government including, but not limited to, the DOE, Division of Blind Services, and Division of Vocational Rehabilitation; the Department of Children and Families; and the Department of Health, Children's Medical Services, as appropriate.

Unique Philosophical, Curricular, or Instructional Considerations:
When making a distinction between students with internalized or externalized characteristics, the IEP Team will consider these presenting manifestations as they determine the needs of the students when recommending: (1) goals; (2) objectives/benchmarks; (3) specially designed instruction and related services; and (4) the location of such services. Services for students with emotional/behavioral disabilities (E/BD) provide an integrated curriculum of academic, affective, and behavioral interventions. These services are designed to support the improvement of academic and social functioning through academic (e.g., differentiated instruction, mastery learning), affective (e.g., individual or group counseling, parent education and support), and behavioral (e.g., behavior support, and consultation from mental health, medical, or other professionals) interventions. Student improvement is measured through continuous progress monitoring of responses to intervention. A critical component of effective E/BD services is parent involvement and ongoing communication about implementation and outcomes of interventions. When students with emotional/behavioral disabilities receive services for the full school week in a comprehensive public school or center school setting, the results of prior interventions and progress monitoring data support the need for: a lower adult-to-pupil ratio than offered in other ESE delivery models; a highly structured academic and affective curriculum; extensive support services that shall include individual and/or group counseling, and parent education and support; and, when appropriate, consultation from mental health, medical, or other professionals. The IEP team must determine that services cannot be provided in a less restrictive environment.


Program description All Palm Beach County School E/BD programs are designed to meet the academic, behavioral and therapeutic needs of students. Programs include services in the general education environment with consultation from an ESE teacher, support facilitation in general education, self contained classrooms, ESE cluster sites and a separate day school.

FBA/BIP Manual  (.pdf)

EBD Classroom Photos (.pdf)