Volume 21, Issue 1 (1992)
Searching for Meaning in the Behavior of Antisocial Pupils, Public Educators, and Lawmakers
C. Michael Nelson
Skiba and Grizzle’s (1991) analysis of the social maladjustment exclusionary clause in the PL 94-142 definition of serious emotional disturbance (SED) and Slenkovich’s response in this issue aptly portray the fundamental differences between opposing factions in this debate. On the one side, Skiba and Grizzle contend that the motives for the exclusionary clause were either ill founded, unclear, or both. Further, they offer evidence that attempts to sort children into SED and socially maladjusted (SM) categories are inherently flawed. On the other side, Slenkovich argues for a literal interpretation of the law, insisting that such DSM III diagnoses as conduct disorder, antisocial disorder, and oppositional-defiant disorder are social maladjustment, and that pupils displaying behavior patterns leading to such diagnoses are not protected under PL 94-142 and its amendments. This issue translates into a very real dilemma for the school psychologist, who, as Skiba and Grizzle point out, in many states is charged with operationalizing the exclusionary clause to identify pupils qualifying for special education services. The purposes of this article are to comment on the analyses of Skiba and Grizzle and Slenkovich, and to add some perceptions from my own analysis of this issue (Nelson & Rutherford, 1990; Nelson, Rutherford, Center, & Walker, 1991).
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