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Special Ed Connection® Encourage charters to implement PBIS to reduce disciplinary removals

A charter school student with ADHD and an ED consistently disrupts class and provokes fights with other students. Conventional discipline methods may involve sending him to the principal’s office or ISS. However,
consider the impact even a short-term removal can have on the student’s access to instruction.

Simply put, removing a student from school reduces his opportunity to learn, said Lauren Morando Rhim,
executive director and cofounder of the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools. The
NCSECS, along with several other organizations in the charter school and special education communities,
recently released a statement on discipline that urged charter schools to use PBIS to reduce the need for
suspensions, expulsions, and other disciplinary removals for students with disabilities.

Importantly, OSERS reminded schools in a recent Dear Colleague letter that under the IDEA, IEP teams are
required to consider the use of PBIS for students whose disabilities interfere with their or others’ learning.

Encourage staff members at the charter schools your district authorizes to rethink discipline methods that
disproportionately exclude students with disabilities from the classroom. Instead, help them build growth
through positive methods, said Andrea Bond, director of scholar support at Collegiate Academies, a charter
school in New Orleans.

Highlight these features:

Schoolwide strategies: PBIS is a tiered intervention framework that begins at the schoolwide level, incorporating students with and without disabilities, Bond said. Start with a universal screening, ideally during school orientation, to assess students’ mental health, socio-emotional development, and needs. How is the student’s attention and motivation? Are there signs of depression? What do you know about his background and home life?

Next, implement universal practices throughout your school. For example, each incoming ninth-grader at
Collegiate Academies is grouped with 10 to 15 other students and assigned an advisor, Bond said. This advisor stays with the student throughout high school and serves as his “family at school,” supporting him with anything from academic assistance and counseling to helping him wake up on time for school, she said.

In addition to supporting students, ensure you provide staff PBIS training, Bond said. For example, advise
teachers how to teach students who have been affected by trauma. Work together with special education and
general education teachers to devise consistent classroom methods for students with disabilities.

Parent engagement: Parent involvement should go beyond attending their child’s IEP meetings, Bond said.
Invite parents to school activities and programs so they can see the school’s approach to PBIS and discipline
firsthand.

Student-specific strategies: Along with schoolwide efforts, tailor programs to students with disabilities who
may require more support. For example, several students with disabilities at Collegiate Academies participate
in a highly supportive program at the school that provides a therapeutic environment in a special education
setting, Bond said. For some students, this program is their LRE.

Other students participate in a program with slightly less support that incorporates students with and without disabilities. Each student has an individual BIP that is implemented in their regular classes. For example, if a student is struggling to attend school, a teacher may offer frequent breaks or rewards for checking in. Other strategies could involve positive phone calls home for good behavior, extra time to spend with a teacher, or a lunch trip, for example, Bond said.

To track students’ behavioral progress, gather specific data, Bond said. How often does a student display a
particular behavior? What methods or rewards improve that behavior?

Discipline: PBIS focuses on nurturing and supporting students to prevent minor behavioral issues from
becoming bigger behavioral problems. However, when a student does display challenging behavior, provide a
safe space for him to take responsibility for his actions, Bond said.

For example, consider a student who pulls another student’s hair because he thought she was giving him a
mean look, Bond said. First, give the student a “reflection” period to talk through his actions with a counselor, she said. Why did he pull the student’s hair? How can he repair this relationship?

Next, conduct “mediation” with both students, Bond said. Guide them in a conversation and help the student
apologize and restore his relationship with his peer. By taking a positive approach to discipline, you provide a restorative environment for the student without taking away valuable education time, Bond said.

Copyright 2016© LRP Publications

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