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Behavior Today Newsletter 41.1

behavior today 2023


Robin Ennis

It is a pleasure to introduce our new President of DEBH!

Robin Ennis shares her first message as DEBH President below. We are excited to have Robin as the new president. I know she will continue the legacy of the amazing line of presidents that came before her! Below is a picture of Robin and her beautiful family!

Robin Ennis


From the President’s Desk

Robin Ennis

It is an honor to begin my term as DEBH President. Since 2014, I have had the privilege of serving on the Executive Committee (EC) as PDC Co-Chair and on the presidential line and am excited to step into this new role for the 2023-2024 academic year. Currently, I am an associate professor of special education at the University of Birmingham where I focus on addressing the academic, behavior, and social emotional needs of students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). Before my current role, I was a faculty member at Clemson University and a high school special education teacher. I had the privilege of completing my master’s and doctoral studies with Kathleen Lane and Kristine Jolivette respectively, both former CCBD presidents and badasses. I have five wonderful children (Archer, Andrew, Alden, Miles, and Meadow) and a very supportive husband (Jay), so I get to put all my behavioral strategies and training to work on a daily basis. I enjoy meditation, yoga, live music, and being outside.

Stepping into this new role, I cannot help but reflect on my time as a DEBH/CCBD member. My first CCBD memory was attending the TECBD conference in the Fall of 2006 as a master’s student. I was amazed that I got to talk with Jim Kauffman, Mary Margaret Kerr, John Umbreit, and countless others who generously shared their insights and answered the questions of an eager 23-year-old. Since that time, DEBH has become my academic home, and I’m forever thankful for the friends and colleagues this organization has given me. Again and again, I have been overwhelmed by the warmth and openness of the members in our field. We can be a bit mischievous, but we are always kind. So regardless of when you joined the DEBH fold, please know you are always welcome, and all DEBH members are here to support you–just as you support the most dynamic and inspiring group of students we get to serve.

As educators supporting the needs of students with EBD, we face many challenges. Students with EBD have routinely been marginalized and their teachers have often faced high rates of burnout. More recently, students with EBD were hard hit with the loss of routine and socialization during the pandemic. Our field, and the teaching field in general, is facing unprecedented rates of turnover and fewer young adults are entering the field. Additionally, efforts to implement multi-tiered systems of support and social and emotional learning have been scrutinized or incorrectly labeled as efforts to indoctrinate students. Many educational issues have become politically polarizing, thus further inhibiting the work of educators. However, by focusing on our strategic goals, DEBH is uniquely poised to not only respond to these challenges but overcome them. 

I am so thankful for all the great work done by our past President, Tim Landrum. He has led us through reviewing our mission statement and strategic goals. I look forward to continuing this work as we endeavor to move DEBH forward. I’m also thankful for the continued collaboration with our President Elect, Lonna Moline, Vice President, Chad Rose, and all the other members of our amazing DEBH Executive Committee. Over the past year, your executive committee has identified three strategic focus areas to move the division forward: 

  1. Disseminate and promote resources that increase the awareness of effective data-informed practices.
  2. Engage in advocacy.
  3. Enhance diversity, social justice, intersectionality, and contextual understanding.

In the coming year, I look forward to collaborating with the Executive Committee and our membership as we develop targeted activities in each of these areas.

Below you will find a list of new and returning Executive Committee Members for 2023-2024. If you are interested in getting more involved in DEBH, please reach out to me or one of our committee members.

2023-2024 Positions
Executive Committee
President Robin Parks Ennis
President-Elect Lonna Moline
Vice President Chad Rose
Immediate Past President Tim Landrum
Treasurer David Royer
Secretary (intrum) Meghan Worth
Division Rep. A Michele L Moohr
Division Rep. B Aimee Hackney
International Member-at-Large (MAL) Naima Bhana
Student MAL Laura Cope
Standing Committee Chairpersons
Co-Chairperson, Advocacy and Government Relation (AGR) Chair Sarup Mathur
Co-Chairperson, Advocacy and Government Relation (AGR) Chair Lee Kern
AGR Member (standing Committee Member) Tim Landrum
AGR Member (standing Committee Member) Brian Barber
AGR Member    
Chairperson, Nominations and Elections (NEC) Committee Tim Landrum
NEC Member Rebecca Sherod
NEC Member Mary Rose Sallese
NEC Member Heather Griller-Clark
Co-Chairpersons, Professional Development Committee (PDC) Gwendolyn K. Deger
PDC Co-Chair Eric Common
PDC Member 1 Erin Farrell
PDC Member 2 Staci Zolkoski
PDC Member 3 Michelle Cumming
PDC Member 4 Liz Hicks
Publications Committee (PC) Chair Kelly Carrero
PC Co-Chair Ben Riden
PC Member 1 Staci Zolkoski
PC Member 2 Sara Cook
PC Member 3 Tiffany Hollis
PC Member 4 Sara Sanders
PC Member 5 Jennifer Mann
Chairperson, Regional Services & Membership Committee Julia Linscott
Other Executive Committee Appointments
Historian/ Archivist Justin Garwood
Editors, Behavioral Disorders Dan Maggin  
Editors, Beyond Behavior Joe Ryan
Paul Mooney
Editor, CCBD Newsletter, Behavior Today Staci Zolkoski
Regional Coordinators See DEBH website  
Subdivision Presidents and Contact Persons  See DEBH website  
Chairperson, Knowledge and Skills Advisory Committee OPEN  
Foundation President Lonna Moline
Foundation Vice President Alice Cahill
Foundation Treasurer Staci Zolkoski
Foundation Secretary Sue Kemp
Webmaster Jonte Taylor


My Most Memorable Student: Voices from the Field

Jim Teagarden & Robert Zabel, Kansas State University

janus project

The Janus Oral History Project collects and shares stories from leaders in education of children with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). The project is named after the Roman god, Janus, whose two faces look simultaneously to the past and future.

One of the Janus Project activities is recording and sharing educators’ descriptions of memorable students. They are asked: Who is your most memorable student? What did you learn from this student? How has the student impacted your career or life? What follows is Dr. Chad Rose’s story of 180 days well spent with one of his students.

* * * * *

You Have 180 Days

This was a very easy question for me to answer. There’s one student I always refer to. At the time, I was in my second year of teaching in the 4th most diverse secondary school in the country. I was a secondary special education teacher working primarily with students with emotional/behavioral disorders. I also happened to be a football coach.

There was a young freshman who came out for football. Before school started his mother came to my office, sat down, and said, “My son has a disability.” She said, “I want my son to have a certificate of completion because he’s not going to graduate high school.” She wanted her son to be gainfully employed.

At the time we had a non-diploma program where kids could get a certificate of completion. I replied, “With all due respect, I haven’t yet had an opportunity to work with your son in the classroom. I don’t know what he can do. I haven’t even read his I.E.P.”

I asked his mother to give me one year, just one year to work with him. I said, if it doesn’t work out the way I think it will, then we can talk further. She agreed. Thankfully, her son not only succeeded that year, later graduated from high school, but he went on from there, earning an associate degree from one of the technical schools, and then enrolled in a college.

I view this student like a son. He was with me every day from 6:30 in the morning through 7:00 at night working out after football practice. I know this student influenced my career as much as I influenced him. We still talk all the time on Facebook. He has a young son now, and he is successful. I think back to that meeting with his mother who had been told he couldn’t pass classes, which was her perception because he’d gone through 8 years of school and hadn’t been successful. I tell my students they have 180 days to make a difference in the life of a child. For me those 180 days with this student were well spent.

* * * * *

Chad Rose’s story is a part of the Midwest Symposium for Leadership in Behavior Disorders video series, “My Most Memorable Student.” It is available at: More than 40 other stories of memorable students can be viewed at:


Using Informal Suspensions – Don’t Do it!

Mitchell L. Yell

Using out-of-school suspensions (OSS) with students with disabilities protected by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has long been a problem. Despite the issues that have arisen with the overuse and inappropriate use of discipline in general and OSS specifically, it had only been addressed by courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, until 1997. Even though the IDEA, originally named the Education of All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA) when it became law in 1975, did not directly address discipline, courts frequently were called on to settle disputes that arose when students with disabilities were disciplined in certain ways.

As a result of these many court cases, a large body of case law regarding discipline emerged. Essentially this body of case law held that because students with disabilities had the right to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) and they had due process rights under the law when school officials used discipline in ways that threatened these FAPE and due process rights, those disciplinary procedures were likely illegal. For example, the earliest cases, which were brought shortly after the passage of the EAHCA, held that students with disabilities could not be expelled or suspended long-term because such actions constituted an illegal change of placement. Additionally, other courts held that students with disabilities could not be expelled or suspended long-term for misconduct that was caused by their disability and even in cases in which students were suspended properly, their education services could not cease.

In 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Honig v. Doe, that Congress, in passing the EAHCA, had intended to strip schools of their unilateral authority to exclude students with disabilities from school for disciplinary reasons. The High Court also noted the law did not prohibit all forms of discipline. Time out, restriction of privileges, and other types of discipline that did not cause a change in placement could be used by school officials. Furthermore, school officials could suspend a student with disabilities for up to 10 school days and during this time the student’s parents and school-based IEP team members could examine the situation and develop remedies, which may include an alternative placement. Although the Supreme Court decision clarified many issues regarding the discipline of students with disabilities, disputes and more court cases continued.

Spurred by this litigation, Congress added discipline provisions to the IDEA in 1997. Most of these provisions codified the existing case law and clarified other areas. With respect to the question of using out-of-school suspensions, this is what is certain:

  • Expulsions are changes in placement and should not be used.
  • Suspensions over 10 consecutive days are a change in placement.
  • Suspensions of over 10 cumulative may be a change in placement and a student’s IEP team is the forum in which to make this determination.
  • When suspension may be a change in placement a manifestation determination, whether the misconduct is a manifestation of a student’s disability, must be made.
  • Suspensions over 10 cumulative days require that students continue to receive a FAPE.

There is another type of suspension that is sometimes used by school officials, sometimes in an effort to circumvent these rules, the so-called informal suspension.

Last year, the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) issued a report titled “Out from the Shadows: Informal removal of children with disabilities from public schools” in which they noted that students with disabilities are suspended from school using, what the NDRN referred to as, “informal removals.”

These informal removals may include putting students with disabilities on homebound placements, shortening their school days, strongly suggesting that parents pick their children up from school, removing students from their classes in the middle of the day, or requiring parents attend school with their child before the student can return to school. According to NDRN, informal removals are one of the most common issues reported to Protection and Advocacy organizations across the United States.

The problem with informal removals is they are “off the books” and do not count against the restrictions on out-of-school suspensions included in the IDEA because there is no way to track or monitor them. Additionally, such removals may circumvent students’ IEP team, which is the forum in which these decisions should be made. Because of this, informal suspensions may result in unilateral changes of placement, or removing a student for behavior that may be a manifestation of their disability, which are illegal under the IDEA.

According to an article in the New York Times, “How educators secretly remove students with disabilities from school,” these informal removals may violate federal law and they certainly are harming some of the country's most vulnerable children. In addition to possible violations of the IDEA and the resulting harm to students, administrators who use informal suspensions with students with disabilities may be violated students’ civil rights protections under Section 504 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Additionally, the Associated Press and the Hechinger Report (a nonprofit report on innovation and inequality in education) conducted interviews with 20 families in 10 states, parents said they were called repeatedly, sometimes less than an hour into the school day, to pick up their children. Some said they left work so frequently they lost their jobs. The U.S. Department has seen an increase in these reports and is considering strengthening the Section 504 regulations against informal suspensions. Additionally, calling informal suspensions that removed students from a full or partial day of school possibly discriminatory under Section 504 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Office for Civil Rights issued a guidance statement regarding the nondiscriminatory use of discipline under Section 504 (U.S. Department of Education, July 2022). The department's July guidance made it clear that students with disabilities who are informally removed have the same rights as those who are officially suspended. Moreover, two U.S. senators, Senators Durbin and Duckworth of Illinois, called on the U.S. Department of Education to strengthen the regulations against the use of this practice.

The bottom line is using informal suspensions is likely illegal and their use should be avoided. Furthermore, if administrators are caught attempting to circumvent the laws using these "off the books" suspensions, they may get themselves and their school districts in serious trouble.


Associated Press (Oct. 4, 2022). Kids with disabilities face off-the-books suspensions by Meredith Kolodner and Annie Ma.

Hechinger Report (Oct. 4, 2022). When your disability gets you sent home from school by Meredith Kolodner and Annie Ma.

New York Times (Feb. 9, 2023).  How educators secretly remove students with disabilities from school by Erica L. Green.

U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Right (July, 2022). Supporting students with disabilities and avoiding the discriminatory use of student discipline under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.


Dear Miss Kitty: Advice Column

Miss Kitty

Dear Miss Kitty: 

I have been reflecting this summer about what I can do better in working with my students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). I work in a self-contained instructional class for fourth graders. I will have a new group of students this year, and my great concern is what I should do when my students come in from the bus already angry and hard to settle down.

Some of them have challenges at home so they may get on the bus upset. All my students ride a bus that has grade levels 2 through 8, and I know some of my students are bullied by some of the older students, but they are afraid to say anything. The driver, who will be returning this year, does not seem to see much that happens.

I want to help my students deal with the frustration from the bus ride and give them some coping skills for handling the difficulties they face.

Transportation Concerned Trevor

Dear Transportation Concerned Trevor:

Thank you for planning ahead for next year and for wanting to prevent problems from occurring. You will want to share your concerns with your principal, not to get the bus driver in any trouble, but rather to talk about ways you can support the driver. You may want to inquire about what kind of training the driver has had. You should also ask the principal if you can meet with the bus driver to set up positive expectations for bus behavior, a seating chart for your students, and a reinforcement system for the students. For instance, if the children in your classroom have a good bus ride as defined as following the bus expectations, would the bus driver give the student some kind of slips of paper you have made for each bus ride both going home and coming to school the next morning.  Then you can set up a recognition system when they bring in white slips for positive bus behavior. Let the principal know you want to help the bus driver.

I would also build in an emotional reset process so that if a student comes off the bus upset, a transition plan before coming to the classroom upset, will be developed for the student. The student may go to the social worker or counselor to talk about what he or she is upset about. If the student has had an altercation with another student on the bus, consider establishing a conflict resolution system where you or the social worker or counselor uses a mediation process where they each are allowed to give their side of the story and brainstorm possible solutions to the problem and come up with an answer on which both parties can agree.

I would also suggest a cathartic dumping process I have also used. When a student has a problem with something that happened on the bus, they need the opportunity to unload the problem. If the student has good written expression skills, I have the student write down their side of the story and tell them I will put their account in their file. If the child has a written expression problem, I might have them express their feelings in a drawing. If students are upset about something, they need to “dump it out of their system” so they can concentrate on the day ahead.

To prepare students for events that might happen on the bus they find frustrating, I would be teaching them mindfulness activities like five-finger breathing or other strategies they might use when getting upset either on the bus or in the classroom. If the bus driver will allow, the student can listen to music using their headphones. You will also want to teach behavior rehearsal techniques practicing things that could happen on the bus and how the student might handle the situation appropriately.

Regardless of whether the student has a good bus ride or a bad one, start the day in the classroom with strength-based activities, activities that provide hope and capitalize on what the students do well.

Have a great rest of the summer and I am wishing you the best as you get prepare for a new school year.

miss kitty


Using Evidence-Based Classroom Management Strategies to Help Prevent Peer Bullying

Michele L. Moohr

Historically, peer-to-peer aggression has been viewed not only as normal but as a harmless rite of passage through childhood and adolescence. Bullying, however, is more than isolated instances of aggressive behavior. At its core, bullying is a multi-faceted and complex social-relational problem characterized by the intent of an individual (or group) to repeatedly cause harm to a socially, emotionally, or physically weaker individual. Despite increased awareness and implementation of schoolwide universal prevention programs, student bullying remains a serious problem (US Dept of Education, 2021). Recent reports from the National Center for Education Statistics (2019) and PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center statistics estimate that approximately 22% of students ages 12-18 and 50% of tweens (ages 9-12) were victims of bullying during the 2019 school year. Moreover, students with disabilities are 32% more likely to experience victimization than their peers without disabilities (Gage et al, 2021). Given the relationship between peer bullying and poor-post school outcomes for these students, the majority of whom are already at risk, it is vital that prevention is at the forefront of our efforts. Teachers can:

  • Promote feelings of safety by establishing a consistent, organized, and respectful learning environment that is welcoming and conveys acceptance.
  • Build positive relationships with students. Having a trusted adult increases the chances that students will report instances of peer victimization. A positive, strengths-based, and supportive classroom culture can support peer acceptance (e.g., “if the teacher likes you, then I like you.”)
  • Establish, define, and explicitly teach classroom rules and routines. Clarity and consistency in these areas promote an equitable classroom culture, discourage social hierarchies, and build trust between students and their teachers. Teach prosocial behaviors using examples and non-examples in the same way you’d teach academic skills. Limit problematic behaviors by focusing on what you want students to do rather than continually addressing ongoing instances of problems behavior.
  • Arrange the classroom environment to support positive peer interactions. Deliberately group students to showcase individual strengths so all students are viewed in terms of their positive contributions to the group.

Teachers are often expected to identify, intervene, and monitor student bullying. This is enormously challenging! Some forms of bullying (e.g., peer rejection, isolation, social exclusion) are not immediately obvious and, therefore, difficult to observe. Preventing antisocial patterns of behavior by implementing evidence-based classroom management practices is a good place to start.


Gage, N. A., Katsiyannis, A., Rose, C., & Adams, S. E. (2021). Disproportionate bullying victimization and perpetration by disability status, race, and gender: A national analysis. Advances in Neurodevelopmental Disorders5, 256-268.

McLeskey, J., Barringer, M-D., Billingsley, B., Brownell, M., Jackson, D., Kennedy, M., Lewis, T., Maheady, L., Rodriguez, J., Scheeler, M. C., Winn, J., & Ziegler, D. (2017). High-leverage practices in special education. Council for Exceptional Children & CEEDAR Center.

National Center for Education Statistics. (2022). Bullying at School and Electronic Bullying. Condition of Education. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved [date], from


No Bad Kids: Extending the Circumstances View of Problem Behavior to the K-12 Classroom

Ashton Fisher, Vanderbilt University

Early in my teaching career I gained a reputation as a teacher who “loved the troublemakers.” Teacher colleagues would ask me why I “loved the bad kids,” to which I would respond “there are no bad kids,” which was usually met with eye rolls and scoffs. It wasn’t until I started graduate school that I was introduced to the Circumstances View of problem behavior, first demonstrated by Father Edward J. Flanagan in the early 1900s.

Father Flanagan was a young priest in Omaha, Nebraska that invited five orphaned boys to live with him. At the time, this was considered risky because the boys were seen as filthy, dangerous, and bad. However, Father Flanagan proclaimed, “There is no such thing as a bad boy, only bad environment, bad modeling, and bad teaching” (Oursler & Oursler, 1949). This position, labeled as the Circumstances View of Problem Behavior (Friman, 2021), reflects the idea that behavior is a function of its circumstances. With this view, challenging behavior is seen through a lens of curiosity, rather than blame. Instead of blaming individuals for challenging behavior, we view the behavior to be a function of its circumstances. Therefore, we see problem behavior through a lens of compassion and understanding, allowing us to find solutions for behavior change.

The Circumstances View may seem straightforward and easy to apply, but it requires one to abandoned long-standing interpretations of challenging behavior. Additionally, a compassionate lens is often hindered by the emotional reactions evoked by problem behavior, particularly in a classroom where teachers are working with twenty to thirty (or more!) students at once. Patrick Friman (2021) discusses the Circumstances View of Problem Behavior from a behavior analytic perspective. However, this approach can and should be applied in other professions, especially teaching. Consider the following principles to support utilizing the Circumstances View of Problem Behavior in your classroom.

One: You Don’t Have to Know the Circumstances to Extend Compassion

It can be difficult, or even impossible, to accurately identify the circumstances connected to challenging behavior. This doesn’t mean considering plausible circumstances is a waste of time. In fact, you can still have the conviction that circumstances causing the behavior exist, even if you don’t know them. By assuming one’s circumstances are causing challenging behavior, we give benefit of the doubt and approach the behavior with curiosity. When dealing with challenging behavior, a teacher might ask themself “What could this student be trying to tell me?” or “What has happened to cause this student to act that way?”

Two: You Can’t Control Student Behavior, but You Can Control How You Respond

Although we will never completely eliminate challenging behavior in the classroom, we can control how we respond to it. With the Circumstances View, we perceive behavior in the context it occurs, allowing us to transform the quality of the responses we give. With this understanding in mind, one can practice self-regulation and compassion before responding to misbehavior. Taking a deep breath and pausing before interacting with a student demonstrating challenging behavior can go a long way. In fact, taking a moment to consider your response will allow you to consider the circumstances causing the behavior.

Three: Perfection isn’t Expected

We don’t expect perfection from our students, so you shouldn’t expect perfection from yourself. Incorporating the Circumstances View within your response to challenging behavior takes time and practice. Just as students learn and improve their skills, teachers do too. Give yourself grace as you work towards responding in a compassionate, curious manner. As mentioned earlier, dealing with challenging behavior often evokes emotional reactions. If emotions run high and you find yourself feeling frustrated placing blame, reflect and consider what could change next time challenging behavior occurs (because there surely will be a next time!).

When working with students who are exhibiting challenging behavior, it is easy to fall into a trap of anger, frustration, and blame. However, the Circumstances View of problem behavior allows one to be more compassionate, understanding, and solution oriented. Patrick Friman (2021) states the Circumstances View is “the most powerful perspective ever invented by mankind for understanding, knowing, and approaching human behavior when that behavior is a problem” (p. 15). Applying the Circumstances View does not mean challenging behavior is ignored and excused but that the teacher is compassionate, understanding, and solution-oriented when responding. As you reflect on your own teaching practice and responses to challenging behavior, consider utilizing the Circumstances View to extend compassion, curiosity, and thoughtfulness to your students.


Friman, P. C. (2021). There is no such thing as a bad boy: The circumstances view of problem behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 54(2), 636-653.

Oursler, F., & Oursler, W. (1949). Father Flanagan of Boys Town. Double Day.

Posted:  28 June, 2023

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