This letter is in response to the Sept. 3 article "Schools Finding Suspension Ineffective for Changing Student Behavior."
As a mental health therapist and a local facilitator for the Pennsylvania Positive Behavior Support Network, I have had the opportunity to experience positive behavior intervention and supports (PBIS) firsthand and the impressive outcomes when PBIS is implemented with fidelity. PBIS is a process that positively impacts school culture by creating a common language and vision. It is proactive, preventive and pro-social in its approach. PBIS endorses teaching, practicing, modeling and re-teaching consistent schoolwide rules in all school settings. Consequences are delivered consistently.
When implemented effectively, students are more engaged in the learning process, absenteeism and tardiness rates decrease, limited resources are used more efficiently and children with behavioral health needs have access to necessary supports. Behavioral health resources such as that provided by my agency, Wesley Spectrum, offer the support students and families may need while providing services within the school environment. Teachers benefit from consultation with the school-based therapist by learning new ways to meet the student's needs. The school-based therapist positively impacts school culture by serving as a conduit between the school and family, strengthening the relationship and creating an inclusive team approach with student, family and school.
We "assume" that students know how to behave. If the NFL sees a need to run a public service announcement telling youth "to play 60" minutes each day, that assumption may be wrong. With PBIS, students, families and community learn and know what is expected, a win-win for all.
KAREN K. TANTALO
Wesley Spectrum Services
School-Based Behavioral Health Program