School policies are largely driven by perceptions and expectations for how students should behave academically and socially, yet these practices often lack the cultural relevance and sustainability required to support racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse (RELD) students with or at risk for emotional and behavioral dis/orders (EBD). Similarly, many evidence-based practices for behavior do not consider internalizing behaviors (e.g., anxiety, toxic stress), exemplifying a critical need for equitable practices aimed at supporting the prosocial and emotional needs of RELD students with or at risk for EBD. Given the multifaceted social, emotional, and behavioral needs of RELD students with or at risk for EBD, social and emotional learning (SEL) practices are most effective when implemented through a culturally responsive-sustaining lens. Thus, this paper examines how the pervasive inequities within special education praxis can be mediated through culturally responsive-sustaining SEL practices. Using the tenets of dis/ability critical race theory (DisCrit), we first problematize the current approaches to SEL curricula and address how they contribute to the pathologization of RELD students with or at risk for EBD. We then provide evidence-based recommendations for school leaders and practitioners to embed culturally responsive-sustaining pedagogy within SEL instruction.



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