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Emotional Behavioral Disability

Definition in State Rule: Emotional Behavioral Disability

Emotional behavioral disability, means social, emotional or behavioral functioning that so departs from generally accepted, age appropriate ethnic or cultural norms that it adversely affects a child's academic progress, social relationships, personal adjustment, classroom adjustment, self-care or vocational skills. PI 11.36 (7)(a), Wis. Admin. Code.

Incidence and Disproportionality


For the 2020-2021 school year, 11,490 students (1.4%) of total public school enrollment (829,935 students) were identified as having an emotional behavioral disability. The 11,490 students with emotional behavioral disability made up 9.7% of all students with IEPs (117,969). In Wisconsin, IEP teams are not required to identify secondary or tertiary impairment areas and thus the number of students identified with secondary or tertiary emotional behavioral disability is not reflected in this data. To view additional data including district level information, go to the WI DPI public WISEdash portal.


In Wisconsin, like many other states, we see district data demonstrating race-based patterns of identification for emotional behavioral disability. Specifically, districts have identified American Indian, black, and multi-racial students more than their peers as having an emotional behavioral disability. As an equity issue, we strongly encourage all districts to disaggregate their special education data to ensure evaluation practices and procedures are culturally responsive and address bias when conducting and analyzing assessments used to make eligibility decisions. Go to the DPI Culturally Responsive Problem Solving web page for more information.

Emotional Behavioral Disability Criteria

Emotional Behavioral Disability Criteria

§300.304 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) outlines two purpose of special education evaluations (i) Whether the child is a child with a disability; and (ii) The content of the child’s IEP, including information related to enabling the child to be involved in and progress in the general education curriculum (or for a preschool child, to participate in appropriate activities). The disability category criteria worksheets only assist IEP teams with (i) and are not sufficient in completing an evaluation and developing a student’s IEP. To ensure compliance with implementing a full, individual, and comprehensive evaluation, go to the WI DPI Comprehensive Special Education Evaluation web page.

Worksheets and Guidelines

Other Special Education Resources

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