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MISSION: To lead an educational partnership with the Community, maintaining an environment that challenges all students to reach their potential as lifelong learners and responsible members of society.

BESS Universal Screener

Behavior and Emotional Screening System (BESS)

The BESS is a screening tool published by Pearson for schools to determine student strengths and weaknesses in their child's behavioral and emotional well being.  This tool is short in duration and is written in such a way that the student report form can be used by students ages 8 through 18 (3rd through 12th grade).  The tool yields a risk score in three domain areas of:

  1. Internalizing
  2. Self Regulation
  3. Personal Adjustment
These three areas are combined into what is referred to as a Behavioral and Emotional Risk Index.  In both the sub domains and the Behavioral and Emotional Risk Index, the tool uses the responses to the questions asked of the students to yield a risk score of Normal Risk, Elevated Risk, or Extremely Elevated Risk.

To understand how the Bethel Park School District is using the BESS in its support of students' behavioral and emotional health, please see the presentation slides that were presented to Bethel Park parents/guardians in an informational video and are published for you here.

BESS Parent Presentation

BESS Parent Presentation Slides

BESS Parent Slides

BESS District Procedures

  • This is an OPT IN program as explained in the parent letter that can be found here.

  • After getting parent feedback about their child's participation in the BESS screener, a screening time will be set up either individually or small group.

  • Bethel Park will report to parents and guardians the results for the domains and request permission to proceed with a course of action that may include:

    • Self awareness activities

    • Skill building groups within an identified weakness area

    • Individual skill building and therapy sessions

    • Possible referral to the school district student assistance program, or SAP team for further assessment

Information on the BESS Domain Areas and Strategies for Home

  1. Internalization: Expression of distress is directed inward.  Emotions are overcontrolled causing internal distress.

What Internalization may look like:

  • Depression, anxiety, somatic complaints, worry, social withdraw, irritability

  • Sense of inadequacy

  • Seeming withdrawn, not wanting to talk with others

  • Sleeping too much or too little

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Potential substance abuse and/or talk of self harm

  • Some potential internalization comments may include: 

    • “I want to do better, but I can’t.” 

    • “I am lonely.” 

    • “I worry but I don’t know why.” 

    • ”I get blamed for things I can’t help.”

Helpful Hints for Home:

  • Relationship building with parents, social workers, counselors, and/or therapists

  • Initiating conversations with open-ended questions and active listening

  • Encourage transparency with children without expressing judgment

  • Encouraging children to express their thoughts and feelings through writing in journals or drawing

  • Limit social media exposure

  • Connect children to peer groups and activities where they can experience connection and success

  • Encourage exercise and healthy eating and sleeping habits

  • Reach out to mental health professionals for additional support if needed.



  1. Self regulation: The ability to control one’s behavior, emotions, and thoughts in the pursuit of long term goals including one’s ability to manage disruptive emotions and impulses. More specifically, emotional self-regulation refers to the ability to manage disruptive emotions and impulses—in other words, to think before acting. The inability or lack of self regulation could be a persistent occurrence and present in the following ways:

What lack of Self Regulation may look like:

  • Verbal aggression

  • Physical aggression

  • Noncompliance

  • Delinquent acts

  • Impulsivity/Hyperactivity

  • Tantrums

  • Anxiety/worries

  • Difficulty regulating emotions

Helpful Hints for Home:

  • Engage in conversations with open-ended questions

  • Listen with positive body language and positive encouragement

  • Introduce and practice mindfulness strategies to support thinking before acting

    • Positive self talk

    • Affirmations

    • Meditation

    • Guided Imagery

    • Role Play

    • Journaling

    • Breathing Techniques

  • Implement a structured routine

  • Set attainable goals for behavior 

  • Encourage exercise or engage in non-structured play

  • Build relationships with counselor, therapist, parents

  • Potential referral to school based program, such as SAP, or outside agency for assessment



  1. Personal Adjustment: How a person is able to cope with life and any changes that occur.  This could be caused by grief and loss, family changes (divorce/separation, new sibling, adoption, blended families, moving, loss of job, family illness, death of a loved one or pet, puberty/hormones, milestones, holidays), or other life transitions such as a change of school or change in friends.

What a lack of Personal Adjustment may look like:

  • Difficulty with social skills

  • Friendship issues

  • Poor coping skills

  • School refusal

  • Academic difficulties

  • Social isolation

  • Interpersonal problems

  • Difficulty dealing with family changes

  • Difficulty managing emotions

  • Anger Issues

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

Helpful Hints for Home:

  • Provide opportunities for social interaction

  • Encourage social skills in the moment of everyday life (ie: saying hi when someone says it to you or maintaining eye contact)

  • Validate feelings

  • Talk to your kids about everyday things (try to have conversations in the car when they don't have to make eye contact- they may be more willing to talk)

  • Establish family routines and rituals (eating dinner together, family movie nights, etc)

  • Offer choices to help students feel included in decision making

  • Open and honest communication about significant life events. 

  • Discuss how others are feeling in everyday situations.

  • Reward positive choices

  • “Pick your battles”

  • Provide opportunities to develop positive relationships with peers, teachers, counselors...

  • Remember that things that may seem insignificant to you, may have major impacts on the student.

Video Resource Regarding Personal Adjustment