New discipline rules for our schools: Remove penalties, blame teachers


Why are some Fayette County schools using the PBIS program for mental health?

What is PBIS? Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports means, “an evidenced based data-driven framework to reduce disciplinary incidents, increase a school’s sense of safety, and support improved academic outcomes through a multitiered approach, using disciplinary data and principles of behavior analysis to develop school-wide, targeted, and individualized interventions and supports” (SB 410, 2015).

What is missing in PBIS? Punitive measures and negative consequences for misbehavior are not permitted within the PBIS system.

What does this mean for your child’s teacher? Your child’s teacher can give rewards, but not take them away. If your child’s teacher reports misbehavior, the teacher may be questioned, “What incentives are you providing to the disruptive student? What happened to trigger this behavior? What could you have done to prevent it? How can you rearrange things so the child behaves next time?”

What does this mean for your child? If your child is in high school and they misbehave, you will be contacted. Next, your child will be sent to see the school counselor so the misbehavior can be recorded in the statewide longitudinal database before they can be suspended or expelled. If the misbehavior continues, there will be higher levels of individual intervention and support for your student, including counseling and/or psychological services.

Teachers may be hesitant to send disruptive students to the office, so although documented disruptions may decrease, the actual classroom environment will most likely deteriorate without negative consequences as a viable option. Schools with the lowest school climate ratings will have fewer options when it comes to student discipline.

How does this compare to traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs about discipline and human nature? With PBIS there is no “right” or “wrong.” There is only “desirable” or “undesirable” behavior.

PBIS is based on the belief that students are basically good, and it is the classroom environment that causes them to exhibit “challenging” behavior.

That is why the behavioral specialists look to the teacher, the parent, other students or the general classroom environment when there is a problem.

If we have positive reinforcement, along with great parents, teachers, and other students, then surely the students will exhibit desirable behavior. While all those factors are important, they are not the only factors. According to the Judeo-Christian tradition, everyone gets to choose. Each student has free will to behave or not. The student is the determining factor.

Where did PBIS come from? In 2012, state law (SB 410) was changed to require data collection on school climate through surveys. In 2015, state law (SB 164) authorized Georgia’s State Board of Education to establish rules and regulations for PBIS. Local boards would be encouraged to implement PBIS, particularly in schools with the lowest school climate ratings (1 or 2 stars on a 5 star scale).

Extra CCRPI points are awarded to schools that participate. The CCRPI point system determines school ratings.

The data collected is part of the electronic statewide longitudinal data system. This system will be used for the state report cards that will be submitted to the U.S. Congress electronically, according to federal legislation passed in 2015 (HR 5 and S. 1177).

Who else is doing PBIS? All 50 states are implementing PBIS in some form. Texas passed legislation requiring it for juvenile corrections (HB 3689). California passed legislation so public school pupils “… have access to universal, targeted, and individualized psychological, behavioral, and counseling services and support that will increase their chances for academic improvement.”

According to California’s SB 1396, “The SW-PBIS (School wide-Positive Behavior Intervention and Support) approach requires the implementation of preventative and proactive approaches to discipline and positive discipline methods. In doing so, SW-PBIS changes belief systems and behavior of school staffs, pupils, and the community, resulting in positive, productive citizens, and safer schools.” This also includes the requirement that schools “Screen universally and monitor pupil performance and progress continuously.”

When did PBIS start? When Congress amended the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) in 1997 and 2004, PBIS was encouraged and included by name. This program has been implemented in many special education programs. Specialists remove punitive measures because of the belief that negative reinforcement will increase negative behaviors. Special education teachers are advised not to over-react to student misbehavior, so that the behavior does not escalate into something worse. Students trying to get attention by acting out are not given the attention they are seeking. Only desired behavior is reinforced. Routines and classroom space are set up so that student misbehavior is not “triggered.”

In my early years of teaching, we developed behavior management plans. We had classroom rules with both positive and negative consequences, rewards and punishments. PBIS eliminates negative consequences. How will the students be prepared for the real world, where you reap what you sow, good and bad, positive and negative?

Some may say PBIS is a fad; that in 5 years, it will be gone. If so, then why is it in our legislation? How did it get there? Someone must have had a great marketing campaign for it since every single state is doing it.

In the meantime, how many students will be insulated from the negative consequences of their bad behavior? What will happen when these students enter the real world where people aren’t standing around waiting to reward you every time you do something right and a judge is ready to punish you when you do something wrong?

Dr. Mary Kay Bacallao
Fayetteville, Ga.