Breaking Schools’ Rules: Focus on Solutions Backed by Evidence

By Frank Knaack
Associate Director of Public Policy and Advocacy

The Breaking Schools’ Rules report clearly demonstrates the need for Texas lawmakers to review and reform school discipline practices. One sensible, effective and cost effective approach is positive behavioral interventions and supports (or PBIS for short). PBIS improves individual student behavior by coordinating behavioral supports and interventions throughout the school environment. It functions as a guide for all school administrators and staff by establishing a multi-tiered system for selecting and implementing evidence-based behavioral interventions.

Though historically PBIS was associated with special education interventions, research has shown that it is a powerful tool for bringing school-wide reform that benefits all students. In those schools where PBIS is effectively implemented, data has shown:

o Reductions in disciplinary problems and referrals
o Increased academic achievement
o Decreased anti-social behavior, such as bullying
o Increased attendance (which has the added benefit of more money for cash-strapped districts)

Schools benefit from PBIS by fostering safer and more academically successful campuses, while students benefit from PBIS by experiencing a less punitive school climate and a reduced likelihood of being referred to the juvenile justice system.

During the 82nd Texas legislative session, our proactive efforts at the Capitol in the area of school discipline were focused on furthering evidenced-based approaches to discipline in Texas’ public schools, such as PBIS. As the evidence demonstrates, if realized these efforts would have made our students, teachers, and administrators more safe and our schools more productive.

While our efforts at the Capitol came up short during the last session, we made great progress in educating legislators and their staff about the importance of moving toward PBIS in Texas schools. We are optimistic that these necessary reforms will succeed in the 83rd session, but to succeed we also know that we will need your help! Stay tuned.

One thought on “Breaking Schools’ Rules: Focus on Solutions Backed by Evidence”

  1. I am surprised that anyone at the ACLU would endorse PBIS. PBIS trains kids to unquestioningly obey authority figures out of desire to get material rewards (prizes of various kinds). It is exactly the opposite of teaching kids to think critically about the rules and institutions that govern their daily lives.

    This is how our school now looks, after two years of PBIS. Here is a more extended statement of why I object to PBIS — and many of my concerns about it are civil libertarian ones.

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