PBISaz – 22 Years and Counting…
2009A Government Accountability Office study found hundreds of cases of alleged abuse and death related to the use of seclusion and restraint on school children during the past two decades. Seclusion and restraint are physical interventions used by teachers and other school staff that are supposed to prevent students from hurting themselves or others.
The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates also documented nearly 180 reports of abuse in school in Unsafe in the Schoolhouse.
The National Disability Rights Network issued a report called School is Not Supposed to Hurt which investigated the abusive use of restraint and seclusion in our nation’s schools. The report revealed that many children – even very young children – were being isolated, battered and bound, often without their parents’ permission and without notice. The report demonstrated that current laws did not provide sufficient protection and oversight, despite the widely recognized risks of restraint and seclusion. In fact, federal and state laws were either non-existent or inconsistent.
The U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor held a hearing to examine abusive and deadly uses of seclusion and restraint in U.S. schools. The hearing investigated the reports and testimonies of several deaths directly related to use of seclusion and restraints in schools across the U.S., most involved students with disabilities.
Arizona Senate Bill 1197 was passed, resulting in a Task Force on Best Practices in Special Education and Behavior Management to provide recommendations on:
- managing behavior and discipline,
- prohibited disciplinary actions,
- mandatory or recommended training for teachers, and
- parental notice requirements.
The Arizona Task Force on Best Practices in Special Education and Behavior Management published its recommendations to all local education agencies (LEAs) in the state with the requirement to review and vote on the recommendations by 6/30/2010.
The report defined a number of practices that LEAs should implement, and includes the need for training/competence at three levels:
Three-tiered approach to Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) at the school-wide level. The first tier (Tier 1) is the preventative approach that teaches and encourages expected behavior of ALL students and improves overall climate. This effects all staff and all students, and reduces the number of students who display repeated and severe behavior problems. This preventive approach can have dramatic results in reducing overall office discipline referrals and suspensions, but requires a systematic and intentional way to involve all staff, develop new policies, train and support the staff, collect and review relevant data, and continually troubleshoot challenges. A second tier of intervention is for those students who need a little more instruction, attention and intervention than the rest of the school. Tier 2 uses social skills training, self management, check-in check-out, and other more involved interventions. The competencies required to implement Tiers 1 and 2 can be taught to school personnel through a series of inservice trainings and technical assistance that includes opportunities for repeated practice and problem-solving.
Individualized function-based approach to PBIS for those students who display severe and chronic behavior problems represents Tier 3. This process requires the expertise and often consultation from professionals to help teams understand the unique reasons that a given student behaves badly (Functional Behavioral Assessment – FBA), and the development of individualized plans for intervention (positive Behavior Intervention Plans – BIPs). This effects only those students (and their staff) with chronic and severe behavior problems. Most students with disabilities and behavior problems would fall into this group. These are students who have Individual Education Plans (IEPs). There are growing numbers of professionals with the kind of expertise in Tier 3, but the number of students in need is far greater than the number of professionals to meet the need. The competencies required to implement Tier 3 are typically taught to school personnel through a series of graduate courses. Each of Arizona’s state universities offer such courses.
Crisis prevention and de-escalation training is necessary for those staff who carry out crisis intervention. There are currently many commercially available training programs on different ways to de-escalate and safely manage violent behavior. Most of these offer certification of training that must be renewed periodically. Many PEAs already use these resources. It may be beneficial however, if the state either approved certain programs or provided guidance on what to look for in such training and certification programs. The competencies required for safe crisis prevention and de-escalation are often taught in small groups over several days with the primary emphasis being prevention, and secondary emphasis being physical techniques to release from a grip or a bite, hold someone, transport to another area, etc.
In addition to the training recommendations, the report also defined the need for incident report documentation and parental notification, followed by debriefing each incident as an opportunity to learn/prevent future occurrences. The degree to which each LEA tracks their incidents of seclusion or restraint, and uses that data for continuous quality improvement is not yet known.
2010The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to protect school children from abusive restraint, seclusion and aversive interventions. This bill (Keeping All Students Safe Act) represented a monumental change in protections that would allow all children to learn in a safe environment. Its passage created a wave of momentum that shifted toward the U.S. Senate.
All Arizona LEAs should have reviewed the Task Force recommendations by June 30, 2010 and held public discussions whether to adopt them as policy with or without revisions.
The national Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports published the Implementation Blueprint and Self-Assessment, a guide to assist local and state education agencies in their efforts to improve school climate and positive behavior support for all students. This is a comprehensive summary of lessons learned from other states over time, as they built their own capacity to help schools undertake the work necessary to implement PBIS with fidelity. This document will serve as a planning tool for this project.
2011One year after the passage of the Keeping All Students Safe Act in the House of Representatives, the Advocacy Organization (TASH) published The Cost of Waiting to document the high emotional, physical and safety-related costs of waiting to protect school children. The report included background information into the use of restraint and seclusion in schools and an analysis of media coverage on restraint and seclusion since the passage of the Keeping All Students Safe Act in the House of Representatives.
A Senate version of Keeping All Students Safe Act was introduced.
The Arizona state senator (John Huppenthal) who introduced the legislation to form the Task Force became the new Superintendent of Public Instruction.
The ADDPC published the report titled A Study of Statewide Local Education Agency Actions Regarding the Recommendations of the “Arizona Task Force on Best Practices in Special Education and Behavior Management” Pertaining to Adoption of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS). The report indicated that most LEA administrators were aware of both the Task Force recommendations and their own policies regarding seclusion and restraint, but that providing the training necessary to LEA personnel to implement PBIS correctly is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. “Educators participating in the groups are all in general agreement that the Arizona Department of Education and legislature do very little in supporting schools’ efforts to adopt the legislature’s recommendations.”
A new interim Director of Special Education at the Arizona Department of Education, Exceptional Student Services (ADE/ESS) was appointed. Joan McDonald had worked for ADE/ESS several years earlier and for the past 10 years served as the Director of Special Education in a School District. She is keenly aware of issues faced by LEAs and the State, and is supportive of PBIS.
2011The Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (ADDPC) published their findings pertaining to the Adoption of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS)
The report was titled A Study of Statewide Local Education Agency Actions Regarding the Recommendations of the “Arizona Task Force on Best Practices in Special Education and Behavior Management”.
The recommendations in the report call to:
- Begin with the PBIS momentum that Arizona had for 11 years and develop approaches to continue the PBISAz Program. See www.PBISAz.org for details of this program, which was discontinued as of June 30, 2010.
- Develop and maintain Leadership Teams to oversee PBIS implementation
- Seek Partnerships to help replicate a statewide organization such as that of North Carolina
- Consider partnerships with the ADDPC and other appropriate agencies, such as strategically located LEAs, to implement and evaluate the program.
- As program builds, develop a network of LEA coaches. Materials are currently available to train coaches from the PBISAz website (PBISAz, 2011).
- For legislation, build on models in Maryland and North Carolina.
2012The National Disability Rights Network updated its report called School is Not Supposed to Hurt and found that since the original report was first published:
- 39% of states still have no laws, policies, or guidelines concerning the use of restraint or seclusion,
- 87.5% of states and territories still allow prone restraints or restraints that restrict breathing, and
- only 45% of states and territories require or recommend that schools automatically notify parents or guardians of restraint or seclusion use (this number has not changed from the previous year).
The Office of Civil Rights published data for the first time, gathered from the 2009-10 school year and including about 85 percent of the nation’s school districts. The report includes information about mechanical or physical restraints and seclusion. They found that close to 40,000 students were physically restrained—or held by another person—that school year. Of those, 70 percent of the cases involved students with disabilities. Although black students make up 21 percent of students with disabilities, they represented 44 percent of the cases in which mechanical restraints—where students are controlled using some kind of a device—were involved. Some schools have used duct tape, handcuffs, helmets, anklets, and other devices, with the premise of keeping students from hurting themselves, teachers, or classmates.
Role of Arizona Department of Education (ADE)
In states that have effective PBIS leadership, the states’ departments of education play a critical role. ADE’s Exceptional Student Services (ADE/ESS) originally established funding to provide LEAs with training and technical assistance in PBIS beginning in 2000 and continuing until 2010. And for several years this training evolved and served many schools, always remaining, however, in the realm of special education. But PBIS (Tiers 1 and 2) are school-wide efforts that involve all students and all staff. Unfortunately with limited funding and support it remained only a special education initiative. Eventually the PBIS training was discontinued in 2010.
In 2011, the new ADE Superintendent was the Arizona state senator who championed SB 1197 in 2009 that called for the creation of the Task Force (described above). He was committed then and remains committed now, to reduce the dangerous and unnecessary use of seclusion and restraints. Furthermore, the current ADE/ESS Director, has been very supporting of PBIS and of this proposal.
Also the ADE School Safety and Prevention (ADE/SSP) office has over many years developed and implemented a database (AzSAFE) for LEAs to track and submit required information on school safety, violence, drugs and weapons on campus. ADE/SSP sought expertise from PBIS resources to ensure that AzSAFE could also be used for gathering information on office disciplinary referrals (the standard unit of measurement for PBIS across the country). So while LEAs were not required to report this data, they could use the AzSAFE tool to enter their office disciplinary referrals in order to generate reports and charts they can use for data-based decision making. Many LEAs are now using AzSAFE to help them track the outcomes of their school-wide PBIS efforts. Approximately half of Arizona’s LEAs are actively using AzSAFE online even though it is not required.
It is clear from the brief history above that the concern about students experiencing dangerous and unnecessary seclusion or restraint is a very real issue that has not gone away.
The PBIS-AC is an attempt to form partnerships with key stakeholders in Arizona, learn from the successes of other states, review existing resources currently available, and develop a coordinated and collaborative public/private partnership to build a sustainable statewide PBIS initiative.
The purpose of this initiative is NOT to require government regulation where it does not already exist, but instead to build the capacity in Arizona to support LEAs in their own efforts to train staff in PBIS, create positive school climates, make data-based decisions, and ultimately reduce the use of dangerous and unnecessary seclusions and restraints.