Posted by Amber White on

           Unfortunately, many Mississippi children face massive barriers in their pursuit for their high school diploma.  According to, almost 30 percent of these children are born into poverty.  Of these students, some experience a lack of acceptable health and mental health care, dwell in substandard residences, and even go hungry at times.  Ideally, students would be able to separate their schooling from their home problems, but this is just not the case in most instances.  And with these challenges usually follows behavioral issues which in turn distracts teachers from teaching their lessons because they become so focused on discipline.  These instructors tend to be deprived of the resources needed to effectively deal with the behavioral problems, so they regularly resort to exclusionary discipline methods such as suspensions and expulsions. This sets a bad trend for these students. In fact, some students actually find these suspensions to be a reward since they are barred from school which is a constant struggle anyway!

            So how can this be combated?  One possible solution is an evidence-based practice known as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports or PBIS.  This plan would assist teachers in helping provide a safe and productive learning space all while ensuring that suspension from school was a last resort.  The PBIS solution is proactive, comprehensive, and data driven.  It is proactive because students are shown skills that will equip them for success such as clear expectations of behavior and acknowledgement and rewards for correct behavior.  It’s comprehensive due to the fact it is active throughout the entire school (even in cafeterias, buses, and hallways) and data driven in that it depends on data tracked by office referrals to help improve and adjust the program.   PBIS is presently practiced in over 4,000 schools across the United States and has discovered positive effects in elementary, middle, and high schools, and has demonstrated to be effective in schools with greater percentages of at-risk students.  One state department that has an initiative for the PBIS method is The Alabama Department of Education.  This department believes, “the PBIS program has proven that it can shrink unilateral removals, long term suspensions, and office discipline referrals”.  For a model school example of how the PBIS solution is utilized in Mississippi classrooms, visit the Northwest Rankin Elementary School  website for more information.

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