Comparative analysis of externalizing and internalizing behavior referrals by secondary teachers

Gender disproportionality in special education has been an issue for many years. This disproportionality is most apparent among students with emotional or behavioral disorders, where males make up approximately 75% of the population. The purpose of this study was to examine referral decisions of secondary regular education and special education teachers based on externalizing and internalizing behaviors associated with emotional/behavioral disorders. Results from two schools, urban and suburban, were compared based on teacher gender and area of expertise (regular education vs. special education). The hypotheses were: Externalizing behaviors would elicit more referrals; Females would refer more; Regular education teachers would refer more for externalizing behaviors; and Special education teachers would refer more for internalizing behaviors. In the urban school, the only hypothesis supported was that regular education teachers would be more likely to refer for externalizing behaviors. In the suburban school, the only hypothesis not supported was that special education teachers would be more likely to refer for internalizing behaviors. The urban and suburban characters of the schools, along with the differences in teacher' perceptions, ages, and years of experience, likely affect referral decisions. Given the implications of referral decisions, more research ofthese variables should be conducted. KEYWORDS: emotional disturbance, externalizing behavior, gender disproportion, internalizing behavior, referral decisions, special education, teacher variables