The Year in Review (Part II): Schools’ Pursuit of Effective School Discipline, Classroom Management, and Student Self-Management Strategies

Prevention, Disproportionality, Trauma, and Seclusions & Restraints

Dear Colleagues,


   With the whole New Years thing going on, and our transition into a new decade, I was in the mood to start this Blog with a quote.  So I googled and read through some “inspirational” New Years quotes, and actually picked out a few possibilities.  But then my writing got interrupted and, before resuming, I found myself multi-tasking and watching a few minutes of the Steve Jobs movie on HBO. 

   While I’ve never watched the entire movie, I happened to be at the point where Steve Jobs is invited back to his own company, and re-installed as Interim CEO.

   Serendipitously, that’s when the following quote was delivered:

“When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is, and your life is just to live your life, and try not to bash into the walls too much.
That’s a very limited life.
Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact—everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you.
Shake off this erroneous notion that life is there, and you’re just going to live in it. . . versus make your mark upon it.
Once you learn that, you will never be the same again.”

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   While this quote speaks to me on multiple levels, I want it to speak to you as you read this Blog.

   This is because none of us should be limited in our professional lives to the boundaries, parameters, and constraints of present frameworks, programs, or traditions.

   To this end, this Blog (Part II) integrates and summarizes the Blogs that I wrote during 2019 that focused on helping:

  • Schools to improve their school climates and school-wide “disciplinary” approaches;
  • Teachers and Support Staff to improve their classroom instruction and management to increase students’ academic engagement and group interactions; and
  • Students to learn, apply, and independently use their interpersonal, social problem-solving, conflict prevention and resolution, and emotional control and coping self-management skills.

   To paraphrase the quote above, here is the underlying message of this Blog:

“When you enter education you tend to get told that the world is the way it is, and your professional life will be best served by living within this world, while trying not to bash into the walls too much.

That’s a very limited life. [Which explains why so many talented educators leave the profession so quickly and so permanently.]

Professional life as an educator can be much broader once you discover one simple fact—everything around your professional life was made up by people who were no smarter than you . . . [but who may have had more status or power, more seed money or backers, better marketing or more political “friends”].

Shake off this erroneous notion that your professional life is fixed and determined, and that you’re just going to live in it. . .

Make your own mark upon it.”

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   My friends, there are lots of great educational researchers and thought-leaders with good hearts and dedicated spirits in our world today.

   And yet, there are other influential educators who say they are motivated to help our students, but (a) are motivated more for themselves than our students, or (b) believe that they are helping our students, but—based on the objective evaluation data—they are not.

   I am talking primarily at the national and state levels here. 

   Indeed, as you will read below, our country has been stuck in a 20+ year psycho-educational “world” in the areas of school discipline, classroom management, and student self-management where certain prevailing frameworks (PBIS, SEL, Restorative Practices, Trauma-Informed Programs, Mindfulness, and Hattie-driven Interventions) have claimed validity and impact through the illusion of research and the illegitimacy of politics.

   The results—for our students—have included continued inequity, disproportionality, underachievement, and socio-economic stagnation, and these outcomes have passed from one generation to the next—especially for students of color and students with disabilities.

   But significantly, a newer “world” of politically-backed social, emotional, and behavioral “movements” has also recently emerged.  And many schools have embraced these bandwagon movements—investing precious time, money, and personnel—based more on their social media and marketing presence, than their research-to-practice validity.

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   In Part I of this two-part Year-in-Review series, we discussed our 2019 Blogs organized in the following clusters:

  • Equity in Education and Educational Funding
  • Improving Students’ Academic Achievement
  • Untested and Ineffective Practices: The U.S. Department of Education


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   In this Part II, we will integrate and summarize our 2019 Blogs in the following areas:

  • Concerns with the Trauma Sensitive/Informed School Movement
  • Improving School Discipline, Classroom Management, and Student Self-Management
  • The School Seclusion and Restraint Epidemic

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Concerns with the Trauma Sensitive/Informed School Movement

   The following Blogs addressed issues and realities related to the trauma sensitive or trauma informed “movement” in the media and as transposed to our schools today.  As usual, I reviewed a number of new national reports that addressed this issue, and then added my analysis, perspectives, and recommendations on the topic at-hand.

   If you CLICK on the date of the Blogs below, you will link directly to the Blog that is posted on my website (

August 17, 2019

Aren’t Schools with Positive, Safe Climates Already “Trauma Sensitive”? Unmasking the ACEs, and Helping Students Manage their Emotions in School

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October 12, 2019

The Traps and Trouble with “Trauma Sensitive” Schools: Most Approaches Are Not Scientifically-Based, Field-Tested, Validated, or Multi-Tiered. A National Education Talk Radio Interview (Free Link Included) Puts it All into Perspective

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Synopsis of these Blogs

   Over the past five years or more, issues related to the presence and impact of student trauma in our schools . . . and the push toward “trauma-sensitive” or “trauma-informed” schools and strategies . . . have dominated the educational media and landscape.

   At the same time, I have tried to stay above (and, in fact, to moderate) the “media fray” and the market-driven “trauma promotions” by maintaining a more comprehensive, integrated, ecological, science-to-practice, and assessment-to-intervention perspective.

   Indeed, in the two 2019 Blogs devoted to this subject, we stated our beliefs that:

  • Some educators have become over-sensitized to this issue—for example, incorrectly attributing some students’ emotional or behavioral issues to “trauma” when they are due to other factors;
  • Some schools do not understand and are misusing the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) scale and research; and
  • Some districts—with all good intents—have adopted “trauma sensitive” programs and protocols that are either not needed or not advisable.

   Indeed, relative to this latter point, some districts are adopting “trauma sensitive or informed” programs, protocols, and practices that are NOT scientifically-based, NOT field-tested, NOT validated using objective and methodologically-sound approaches, NOT applicable to their students and needs, and NOT implemented along a multi-tiered continuum.

   And while we understand the “public pressure” and the “good intentions” of needing to respond to the school-apparent effects of students’ trauma, the results of implementing the wrong or unsuccessful programs or interventions are that:

  • Staff and student time, resources, efforts, and expectations are wasted;
  • Some students are not provided the correct services or supports that they need right now—which delays the social, emotional, or behavioral change process (and may actually make their “problems” worse or more resistant to change in the future); and
  • Students and staff mistakenly conclude that the “problem is worse than we thought,” or they believe that more intensive, community-base “solutions” are needed when their (incorrect or mis-applied strategies) do not work.

   To support these statements, the August 17th Blog described in detail answers to the following questions:

Issue #1: Do Practitioners Understand the Original ACEs Research, Its Strengths, and Its Limitations to School-Based Practice?

   Here, we described the original ACEs Study, and then analyzed and discussed the field-based limitations and psychometric flaws in the ACEs Questionnaire.  We emphasized that, if it is used at all, the ACEs Questionnaire needs to be used as a screening tool, and that any of its results need to be validated using more sensitize psychological assessments.

   We concluded:

Given the absence of the critical contextual and functional assessment information underlying a student’s responses on the ACEs Survey. . .
When a student scores above the ACEs “cut-off” (representing a concern), we do not really know the cumulative depth, breadth, intensity, or impact of that individual’s traumatic history.  Indeed, we may just simply know how many events an individual may have experienced.
Beyond this, relative to students, staff, and schools, another critical issue is that there is no well-established and validated science-to-practice connection to group or individual ACEs results and effective approaches to trauma awareness, programming, or interventions in schools. 

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Issue #2.  Are Schools Implementing Specialized “Trauma Sensitive” Programs When They Should be Implementing More Comprehensive (Pervasive and Preventative) Positive School Climate Practices?

   Here, we emphasized the importance that schools first:

Focus on establishing and sustaining prosocial and safe school climates, and positive and supportive classrooms interactions. 

As part of this school discipline, classroom management, and student self-management process, identify how trauma—and other critical factors—are affecting students’ social, emotional, and behavioral readiness for and interactions in school, and integrate prevention and early-response services, supports, and strategies to address high-hit circumstances or needs.

For students with significant social, emotional, behavioral, or mental health needs (whether trauma-based or not), schools need a multi-disciplinary team of diverse experts who can analyze the root causes of the problems, and link the assessment results to effective, research-based multi-tiered services, supports, strategies, and interventions.

   In other words, we believe that educators should first establish comprehensive, evidence-based, multi-tiered school discipline (or positive behavioral support/social-emotional learning) systems that integrate trauma as but one factor affecting students’ behavior, interactions, and academic readiness and engagement.

   Indeed, we provided a number of critical reasons why schools should not implement a dedicated Trauma-Sensitive Program as their core (or even secondary) systems relative to school safety and discipline, classroom climate and management, and student self-management and academic engagement.

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Issue #3.  Do Schools (Have the Time to) Evaluate the Integrity and Utility of their Trauma Sensitive Programs Prior to Implementation, and How Many Schools Choose their Programs Due to Cost and Not Outcomes?

   Here, we discussed the reality that the ACEs study has spawned a “cottage industry” of “experts and consultants” who have generated their own (what they call) “research-based trauma programs.” 

   Unfortunately, many of these programs have never been fully and objectively field-tested (if at all). . . in multiple settings, under multiple conditions, and with students who have experienced different types and intensities of trauma. 

   Said a different way:  While many of these programs cite research that explains why they have included certain components or activities, they have not—themselves—been researched.

   In fact, even from a research perspective, many of these programs are not psychologically and neuropsychologically grounded.  That is, they do not use the “deep science” of trauma—including the clinical, multi-tiered psychoeducational elements needed for student and staff success. 

   Moreover, many of these programs are “stand alone” programs.  They do not integrate their approaches into the school’s existing discipline, behavior management, and student self-management systems, and they often are seen by staff as a disconnected thread of information that represents “another thing to do” . . . in an already impossibly busy day, week, and month.

   Finally, too many of these programs recommend global and generic components and activities that are not strategically-chosen or sustainable.  The programs present a fixed package. . . rather than presenting sound strategies on how to identify and then analyze the root causes of students’ trauma— so that the assessment results can be strategically linked to needed services, supports, and interventions.

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Issue #4.  Do Schools Understand the Science-to-Practice Components that Facilitate Students’ Emotional Self-Management—The Key Preventative “Skill” Needed by All Students?

   Finally, the August 17 Blog addressed one of the ultimate goals of a comprehensive, multi-tiered school discipline (Positive Behavioral Support/Social-Emotional Learning, PBSS/SEL) system:  To teach and motivate students to learn, master, and independently apply social, emotional, and behavioral self-management skills. 

   We further defined “Emotional Self-management Skills” as those skills that all students need to learn, master, demonstrate, and apply in the areas of:  emotional awareness, emotional control, and emotional coping.

   Here, we described these three components and their characteristics from a psychological and neuropsychological science-to-practice perspective—a perspective that often is missing in many “trauma-sensitive” programs.  We then addressed these components from a multi-tiered perspective, identifying a number of specific Tier II and Tier III interventions for students with significant trauma-related needs.

   Finally, we noted the importance that schools not become “trauma-rigid”—interpreting all students’ emotional reactions as trauma related. 

   To demonstrate this point, we identified a large number of other triggers of students’ emotions that do not involve traumatic situations:

  • Academic Frustration
  • Test/Homework/Work Completion Anxiety
  • Peer (including Girlfriend/Boyfriend) Conflicts/Rejection
  • Teasing and Bullying—Direct, Indirect, Social, and Social Media
  • Gender Status or Discrimination
  • Racial or Multi-Cultural Status or Discrimination
  • Sexual Identification or Orientation Discrimination
  • Socio-economic Status or Discrimination
  • Circumstances Related to Poverty/Parental Income
  • Family Moves/Housing Mobility/Homelessness
  • Competition/Losing
  • Physical or Other Limitations or Disabilities

   Our Take-Aways were:

  • There are multiple circumstances or events that trigger students’ emotionality in school.  Many of them are not specifically (or by definition) traumatic events and, thus, schools that are using trauma-sensitive programs may easily miss them.
  • Schools need to assess and identify the emotional triggers that are most prevalent across their student bodies, and the emotional triggers (if different) that are most often present for the students presenting with the most frequent, significant, or severe social, emotional, and behavioral challenges.

For the former group, these triggers need to be integrated into the social skills curriculum at the prevention and early response levels.

For the latter group, these triggers need to frame the strategic or intensive interventions or therapies that related services personnel need to be prepared to deliver.

  • Finally, schools and districts need to be prepared to deliver the full multi-tiered continuum of services, supports, strategies, and interventions.  This includes the necessary training, resources, and personnel both in general, and as needed on a year-to-year basis.

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   The October 12th Blog updated the August discussion, and provided a link to a national radio broadcast interview that I did on this subject with Larry Jacobs, the host of Education Talk Radio—on October 4, 2019.

[CLICK HERE for this 28-minute Education Talk Radio Interview]

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   Once again, please feel free to re-read the original Blogs to get a more detailed analysis of the Reports and summary discussed above.

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Improving School Discipline, Classroom Management, and Student Self-Management

   The following Blogs addressed contemporary and ongoing issues related to school discipline, classroom management, and students’ social, emotional, and behavioral status and self-management.  As usual, I reviewed a number of new national reports that addressed this issue, and then added my analysis, perspectives, and recommendations on the topic at-hand.

   If you CLICK on the date of the Blogs below, you will link directly to the Blog that is posted on my website (

January 26, 2019

New Rand Corporation Study Finds Restorative Practices Produce Mixed and Underwhelming Results: But Some Publications are “Spinning” the Outcomes and Twisting these Results

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June 3, 2019

Analyzing Your School Discipline Data and Your SEL (PBIS or School Discipline) Program: Students’ Discipline Problems are Increasing Nationally Despite Widespread SEL/PBIS Use (Part I)

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June 15, 2019

Analyzing Your School Discipline Data Now . . . to Prepare for the New School Year: Conducting “Special Situation Analyses” for Common School Areas and Peer-Related Anti-Social Behavior (Part II)

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June 29, 2019

Analyzing Your School Discipline Data Now . . . to Prepare for the New School Year (Part III): Conducting “Special Situation Analyses” for Your Hallways, Bathrooms, Buses, Playgrounds, and Cafeteria

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July 27, 2019

An Open Letter to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Regarding Its Report, Beyond Suspensions: Examining School Discipline Policies. Begin with the End in Mind: It’s about Root Causes and Intervention—Not About Policies or Positions

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August 31, 2019

As Cyberbullying Increases, Positive School Climate Decreases: Student Involvement Must Be Part of the Solution. . . How to Do It

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Synopsis of these Blogs

   For decades, school discipline, classroom management, and student self-management has been a dominant national concern for educators each year—a concern similarly expressed by students, parents, community leaders, educators, and others. 

   And while positive school and classroom climate and students’ social, emotional, and behavioral self-management strongly correlate with academic engagement and achievement (and fewer school or classroom discipline problems), many educators still haven’t embraced the fact that:

  • Prevention is the key;
  • Self-management is made up of a series of scaffolded, articulated learned skills; and
  • Schools are not effectively teaching these skills—just like those in literacy, math, and science—in pedagogically effective ways from preschool through high school.

   In addition, many educators don’t understand that—when students are systematically learning and mastering interpersonal, social problem-solving, conflict prevention and resolution, and emotional control and coping skills—the negative social, emotional, and behavioral triggers related to (a) who they are and how they see themselves; (b) where they live, who they live with, and how they grew up; (c) who their friends and how effective their support systems are/were; and (d) how they have performed academically and socially in school become disarmed.

   Finally, given the national reports reviewed and analyzed in this cluster of 2019 Blogs, educators still are struggling with many of the same school discipline problems as in previous years, they continue to re-apply the same “band-aides” that have not worked or sustained in the past, and they continue to select approaches for their schools based more on testimonials and social media marketing, than by objective science-to-practice facts.

   This is evident as we (a) summarize the July 27th Blog on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report, Beyond Suspensions; (b) discuss how the PBIS, SEL, and Restorative Practice frameworks are not improving school discipline and student behavior outcomes (June 3rd and January 26th Blogs); (c) demonstrate how a data-based problem-solving approach helps schools to analyze the root causes of their student, classroom, and common school area problems. . . linking the results to high-probability-of-success interventions (June 15 and June 29 Blogs); and (d) emphasize the importance of student involvement in virtually all interventions—especially those related to peer-to-peer interactions like cyberbullying and social media victimization or harassment (August 31 Blog).

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The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Report, Beyond Suspensions (July 27)

   On July 23, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights published a 224-page Report,

Beyond Suspensions: Examining School Discipline Policies and Connections to the School-to-Prison Pipeline For Students of Color and with Disabilities,

which detailed extensive analyses of past and present national survey and incident data, research, and commentary— especially from two panels of experts who testified before the Commission on December 8, 2017.

   During the week that it was released, I summarized the Report’s stated findings, focusing most of my discussion on (a) the importance of reading the two dissenting Commission members’ statements at the very end of the Report (starting on Page 177); (b) how some Report recommendations simply endorsed the flawed PBIS and Restorative Practice approaches long-advocated by the U.S. Department of Education; and (c) what schools and districts need to pragmatically understand and do to provide the best services, supports, strategies, and interventions to students exhibiting significant behavioral challenges.

   The Commission’s Executive Summary contextualized the problem as follows:

Nationwide, more than 2.7 million K–12 public school students received one or more out-of-school suspensions in the 2015–2016 academic year. The use of suspensions increased steadily from the late 1980s and early 1990s through the 2011–12 school year and then dropped precipitously, by approximately 20 percent between the 2011–12 and 2013–14 academic years. Some of the increase through 2011 was the result of teachers and administrators punishing minor behavioral infractions (e.g., profanity, dress code violations) that in the past would have landed a student in detention, but later had led to harsher punishments such as suspensions, expulsions, or even arrests. Researchers have found that school-level factors, such as a principal’s perspective on discipline, significantly impact disparities in out-of-school suspension rates for students of color and students of color with disabilities. Data also suggest that school discipline policies may not be impacting all students equally. Moreover, data have consistently shown that the overrepresentation of students of color in school discipline rates is not due to higher rates of misbehavior by these students, but instead is driven by structural and systemic factors that this report will address.

Exclusionary discipline practices place students at risk for experiencing a wide range of correlated educational, economic, and social problems, including school avoidance, increased likelihood of dropping out, and involvement with the juvenile justice system. Additionally, in recent years, some federal officials and school reform advocates have started examining how the education system may be systematically failing certain groups of students (e.g., students of color, students with disabilities, LGBT students) who are:

   Disproportionately over- or incorrectly categorized in special education, are disciplined more harshly, including referral to law enforcement for minimal misbehavior, achieve at lower levels, and eventually drop or are pushed out of school, often into juvenile justice facilities and prisons—a pattern now commonly referred to as the School-to-Prison Pipeline.

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   While one of the dissenting Commissioners disagreed with the statement above that “the over-representation of school discipline rates is not due to higher rates of misbehavior by these students,” our analysis concluded that the main body of the Report:

  • Provided limited student-specific psychoeducational analyses regarding why students demonstrate inappropriate behavior and how they can more consistently demonstrate appropriate behavior; or
  • How to link these analyses to specific multi-tiered services, supports, strategies, and/or interventions that will change inappropriate student behavior into appropriate behavior.

   Beyond this, the July 27th Blog discussed a number of critical “Take-Aways” from the Report.

   Practical District and School Take-Aways I, II, and III:  The first three Take-Aways, in combination, cautioned educators to be careful to not accept “popular press” summaries of any major state or federal policy document, or the “sound bites” emanating from those who were not dedicated to describing the nuances of the complex issues embedded in the Commission Report.

   Our attention in these Take-Aways were essential as the Commission Report recommended both Restorative Practices and PBIS as viable interventions to address the exclusionary discipline and disproportionality problems described above. 

   These recommendations were published even though (a) two of its Commissioners published Minority Statements at the end of the Report with data and citations that invalidated these recommendations; and (b) expert testimony was quoted in the Report that similarly refuted these recommendations.

   The Report also misrepresented federal law by saying that PBIS is required by IDEA 2004.

   Relative to Restorative Practices, the Commission Report discussed a situation in the Washington, D.C. Public Schools where the Washington Post reported that some published “successes” regarding the D.C. schools’ restorative justice practices were grossly overstated. 

   Quoting from Pages 141-142 of the Commission Report, the Washington Post investigation found that:

at least seven of the city’s 18 high schools had removed disruptive students from schools, but not recorded it as a suspension. In several cases, students who had been barred from entering the school were marked as present, others were marked as attending an “in-school activity,” or absent without an excuse. Dunbar High School had the most underreported suspensions compared to any other high school in January 2017, according to Washington Post investigators. In data obtained by reporters, only 7 percent of the days that students were kept out of school for misbehavior were actually correctly reported as suspensions.

   If this was not damning enough, starting on Page 192 of the Commission Report, lawyer Peter N. Kirsanow, one of the two Commissioners who filed Dissenting Statements, made the following remarks:

“Restorative practices, as they are typically called in a school or community setting, include many specific program types and do not have one specific definition in the literature; they are broadly seen as a nonpunitive approach to handling conflict (Fronius et al., 2016).” When we talk about “restorative justice,” as we see here, we are not talking about a clearly defined set of practices. We are talking about fuzzy muffles. Telling children to reflect upon the harm they have caused to others may be effective for children who are predisposed to empathize with others or to care about disappointing their teachers. But not all children care about the effects of their actions on others, or indeed, may be pleased that the harm they caused had its intended effect.

   Kirsanow went on to describe the concerns publicized in the methodologically-sound Rand Corporation study of Restorative Practices in the Pittsburgh Public Schools (see the Blog summary below).  He also cited similar concerns regarding the use of Restorative Practices in (a) the Baltimore City School District (Page 203 of the Commission Report); and (b) Minneapolis (Page 205).

   Kirsanow concluded his dissenting statement by saying:

The best that can be said for “restorative practices” and reducing suspensions is that in some school districts, students who would otherwise have been suspended are in school for more days. This is a paltry return for the price of increased classroom violence and disrupting the education of students who are there to learn.

   Similar concerns were expressed by the two Dissenting Commissioners—backed up by testimony presented during the Commission’s investigation—regarding PBIS.  These concerns will be delineated later in this Blog summary.

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   Practical District and School Take-Away IV:  The fourth Take-Away was a recommendation that districts and schools collect and analyze their discipline data—for students with disabilities—by disaggregating the data across the thirteen different disability areas specified in IDEA 2004

   A significant benefit in doing this is that, given the wide variety of service, support, strategy, and intervention needs for students in these thirteen different disability areas, these analyses may elucidate critical process and outcome trends.

   Supporting this point, Law Professor and Commissioner Gail Heriot, in her Dissenting Statement (beginning on Page 177 of the Commission Report), made the following points regarding the disproportionate discipline experienced by different students with disabilities:

Here’s the problem: We are not talking (relative to disproportionality and student misbehavior) about students who are blind, wheelchair-bound, or deaf.
As Max Eden testified at our briefing, those students generally have lower than average discipline rates (though for reasons I cannot fathom, this significant clarification didn’t make it into the Commission’s findings). Instead, it is students with behavioral disorders who have higher than average discipline rates.
If that surprises anyone, it shouldn’t. It is essentially by definition that students with behavioral disorders engage in misbehavior at school more often than other students. The diagnostic criteria established under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (“DSM 5”) for them often includes findings that the individual has engaged in some sort of misbehavior.
For example, one of the criteria used to diagnose Oppositional Defiant Disorder is “often actively defies or refuses to comply with requests from authority figures or with rules.” Similarly, the diagnostic criteria for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) note that a person with the disorder “often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g. butts into conversations, games, or activities); may start using other people’s things without asking or receiving permission; for adolescents or adults, may intrude into or take over what others are doing.” “Recurrent behavioral outbursts representing a failure to control aggressive impulses” is likewise a criterion for diagnosing Intermittent Explosive Disorder, and the essential feature of Conduct Disorder is “A repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate social norms or rules are violated.”
What the Commission has found is that students who misbehave a lot get disciplined a lot. That should not be news.

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   Practical District and School Take-Away V:  Finally, in the last Take-Away, we encouraged districts and schools to look at their current functional assessment and intervention practices—asking themselves whether they are assessing students with social, emotional, and behavioral issues to determine the “root causes” of their problems, or simply to label and place them?

   Here, we identified three critical assessment principles, as well as some of the primary reasons why students demonstrate social, emotional, or behavioral problems in classrooms or schools. We concluded by identifying a list of strategic or intensive interventions needed for students with behavioral challenges—noting that most districts and schools do not have mental health professionals trained in helping teachers and others to implement these interventions.

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The PBIS, SEL, and Restorative Practice Frameworks Are Not Working  (June 3 and January 26)

   While they came before the July 27th Blog described immediately above, these two Blogs were cited extensively in that Blog.

   The January 26th Blog analyzed the 132-page Report published by the Rand Corporation on December 27, 2018 titled:

Can Restorative Practices Improve School Climate and Curb Suspensions?  An Evaluation of the Impact of Restorative Practices in a Mid-Sized Urban School District.

   The Report describes the results of the Rand Corporation’s study to determine the efficacy of the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) use of its SaferSanerSchools Whole-School Change restorative practices program in the Pittsburgh Public Schools.  A partner with the Collaborative for Academic, Social, Emotional Learning (CASEL), the IIRP (according to its website) is “the world’s first graduate school wholly devoted to restorative practices.”

   This study came about after the Pittsburgh (PA) Public Schools received a National Institute of Justice grant, selected the IIRP as its restorative practices program, and then separately selected the Rand Corporation to conduct the program evaluation. 

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   The Rand Corporation used a highly sophisticated randomized controlled study to evaluate the two-year implementation of the IIRP’s Restorative Practices Program.  Indeed, the Program was implemented in 22 randomly-selected Pittsburgh schools, with 22 other randomly-selected Pittsburgh schools serving as non-participating Control schools.

   The “surface-level” results of the study (see more detail below) indicated that, while the District’s suspension rates had been declining prior to the implementation of the study, the suspension rates in the Restorative Practices schools declined even more than the rates in the Control schools. 

   In addition, in the Restorative Practices schools (a) alternative school placements decreased; (b) students were less likely to be suspended multiple times; (c) disparities in suspension rates between African-American (vs. Caucasian), and low-income (vs. higher-income) students, respectively, decreased; and (d) suspension rates for female students declined.

   However, the deeper comparative statistical analyses revealed that:

  • While suspension rates in the Restorative Practices schools declined by 36% during the two-year study, suspension rates in the Control schools also declined 18% during the same time period.
  • The overall suspension results were driven by lower rates in the Restorative Practices elementary schools. 
  • Fewer suspensions were not found in the Restorative Practices Middle schools (Grades 6 to 8).
  • Fewer suspensions were not found for male students or students with disabilities.
  • There were no reductions in student arrests, or for incidents of violence or weapons violations.
  • In the Restorative Practices Middle schools, academic outcomes actually worsened when compared with the Control schools.
  • Survey results from staff in the Restorative Practices schools indicated that they did not think the IIRP program was affecting student behavior.  They did, however, report that their relationships with students had improved because of program involvement.

   In the final analysis, the study as a whole raised a number of questions regarding the efficacy of the restorative practice program investigated, as well as the ability of most schools to sustain the complex two-year training and implementation process with fidelity, consistency, and continuity.

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   The June 3rd Blog encouraged schools to evaluate the behavioral outcomes generated by their Social-Emotional Learning, Positive Behavioral Support, or school safety and discipline systems for the school year that had just ended.

   To encourage this, we established a context by reviewing a number of recent national reports that surveyed educators about students’ behavioral problems in their schools, as well as other reports suggesting that bullying (including cyberbullying) was increasing in our schools nationwide. 

   The Reports looking a Student Behavior or Social-Emotional Learning included the following:

Report 1. A recent survey of 800 nationally-representative kindergarten through high school principals completed by the MCH Strategic Data company and published last month as K-12 Principals’ Assessment of Education

Report 2. A report, Breaking Bad Behavior, published by research company EAB that validates and extends the MCH Report above relative to elementary students’ behavioral challenges.

Report 3. A report, Teacher and Principal Perspectives on Social and Emotional Learning in America’s Schools, published earlier this year by the Rand Corporation.  It is based on a Spring, 2018 survey of the American Educator Panels that involved 15,719 nationally-representative teacher and school principal respondents.  These educators answered questions about the importance and value of SEL in schools, how they were promoting and measuring SEL, and how they thought SEL approaches could be improved.

   The School Safety and Bullying Reports included the following:

Report 1. Published by YouthTruth, Learning from Student Voice: Bullying Today analyzed survey responses from students during the 2015-16, 2016-17, and 2017-18 school years regarding their experiences with school climate and safety. 

Report 2. Published by Comparitech, this report discussed a survey on student bullying completed by over 1,000 parents.

   Based on these reports, our strong recommendation was that all districts and schools analyze their discipline, school climate, and classroom management data from this and past school years to determine (a) the current status of their students, staff, and schools; (b) what has been accomplished (or not) in these important areas; (c) each school’s “return on investment” relative to, for example, their SEL or PBIS program(s); and (d) what situations need to be addressed at the present time.

   Based on these reports as well as our own research and analysis, we discussed six significant flaws in the SEL framework advocated by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). 

   These flaws included:

  • CASEL’s approach to SEL in the schools is to provide a loose implementation framework, and to tell schools to “create your own initiative.”  This means that SEL programs across schools cannot be objectively compared or validated, and that many schools may be implementing ineffective approaches that are not producing demonstrable student-focused social, emotional, or behavioral outcomes.
  • CASEL’s five SEL outcomes (Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision-Making) were not scientifically derived, they have never been validated, and they are largely constructs that cannot be reliably or validly measured because they are not discretely observable.
  • Some of the meta-analytic research used by CASEL to validate SEL approaches were conducted internally by CASEL leaders and were not independently and objectively reviewed or published.  A review of this research indicates that this research has significant methodological flaws that call their conclusions into question.
  • The only CASEL-sponsored meta-analytic study that was published in an independent professional journal also had significant methodological shortcomings.
  • CASEL is now sponsoring activities focused on improving the evaluation of SEL outcomes.  This begs the question:  “If CASEL acknowledges that current SEL evaluation instruments and tools are lacking, how can it use existing studies that have utilized these instruments to validate its empirical foundation?”
  • CASEL’s SEL framework does not address students’ gender, age, cultural, racial, or socio-economic differences; and it does not address the multi-tiered service and support needs of students with disabilities and other behavioral/mental health issues.

   We are also on the record relative to the many flaws in the PBIS framework:

  • PBIS is a framework and not a sequential model.  Thus, schools can choose whatever PBIS activities to implement that they want—in whatever sequence, place, or student group that they want. 

[This means that cross-school comparisons of PBIS’s efficacy is virtually impossible, and one cannot generalize the (positive or negative) results from one PBIS school (or study) to another.]

  • Regardless of the thousands of schools “implementing” PBIS, the National Directors believed that approximately half of the schools might be implementing with “a reasonable level of integrity.” 

[The issue here is that the number of schools implementing PBIS is not what is important, it is the objective, demonstrable, and sustainable student-centered PBIS results that are important.]

  • PBIS has traditionally used decreases in Office Discipline Referrals (ODRs) and school suspensions or expulsions as the primary outcome “validating” its framework.  ODRs have been methodologically demonstrated to be horribly unreliable. 
  • Most PBIS schools focus predominantly on behavior in the Common Areas of the school (i.e., the hallways, bathrooms, cafeteria, etc.) and not in the classroom where students spend 85% of their time.
  • The PBIS Triangle has never been validated.  The Tier I (80%—All), Tier II (15%—Some), and Tier III (5%—Few) convention was made up by the National PBIS Directors for community-based epidemiological research that does not apply to education.
  • PBIS recommends that challenging students sequentially receive Tier I to Tier II to Tier III services, and that record reviews and functional assessments of individual student behavior be delayed until Tier III.

[There is no research to support this practice, and it has resulted in (a) individual student interventions and supports being delayed to some students; (b) an increase in student resistance to intervention (because initial interventions were inappropriate and unsuccessful as they were implemented without reviewing students’ background information and histories); and (c) the need for more intensive interventions—even within Tier III—because student problems have gotten worse or more complicated because of the delays and the previous inappropriate interventions.]

  • PBIS recommends universal social, emotional, and behavioral screening of all students in a school without describing the scientifically-appropriate multiple-gated procedures needed to do this accurately and effectively.

[This has resulted in schools using unscientifically founded emotional screening procedures that have actually increased the disproportionate (and false-positive) identification of some students.]

  • Most PBIS schools were found to be implementing PBIS framework activities only at the Tier I level. . . with many schools unable to sustain even this level of PBIS practices for more than three years.
  • The PBIS framework is largely implemented by a PBIS team that comes from each implementing school. This team receives large-group training (with other teams) in off-site settings that are off of school grounds. 

[Said differently, virtually no PBIS training occurs by trained national or state PBIS leaders at the school site.  Moreover, there is little or no on-site and direct PBIS consultation or technical assistance provided to implementing schools by experienced and expert PBIS Trainers or Facilitators. Thus, most PBIS schools are being led by school personnel who have received generic training, no direct supervision or coaching, and who may not have the prerequisite skills to be successful.]

  • In some states, a state-level PBIS team annually evaluates the PBIS implementation of its schools.  This evaluation and its “Gold,” “Silver,” and “Bronze” awards are largely based on the implementation of activities, and not students’ social, emotional, or behavioral outcomes.

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Using Data-Based Problem-Solving To Analyze Student, Classroom, and Common School Area Problems (June 15 and June 29)

   Based on the Reports in the June 3rd Blog discussed above, we addressed the importance of analyzing school discipline data with an eye toward existing bullying and cyberbullying problems in and outside of our schools in the next two Blogs.

   To begin this discussion, we summarized a research-rich article, Studies and Teachers Nationwide Say School Discipline Reform is Harming Students’ Academic Achievement and Safety, written by Max Eden, a senior fellow who specializes in education policy at the Manhattan Institute.

   This article reinforces many of the discipline-focused conclusions that I have written about recently and over the years.

   The “bottom line” is that policies rarely decrease school discipline problems or increase school safety or student engagement and their prosocial interactions.  Instead, student behavior and school discipline problems are functionally changed through integrated, multi-tiered evidence-based practices.

   This statement has been especially true in the policy-driven quest to decrease disproportionate discipline actions against students of color and with disabilities documented over the past decade.  And so, the June 15th Blog summarized this question by discussing six national actions that have slowed our progress in legitimately decreasing disproportionate disciplinary actions for students of color and with disabilities, but disciplinary actions with all students.

   This June 15th Blog then described our Special Situation Analysis process, and applied it both to analyzing school discipline data and to developing systemic interventions for school bullying when it is present. 

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   In the June 29th Blog, we described how to apply the Special Situation Analysis process to school situations (a) where significant numbers of disciplinary problems are occurring in the Common School Areas—the hallways, bathrooms, buses, playgrounds, and cafeteria; and where (b) excessively high levels of peer-initiated Teasing, Taunting, Bullying, Harassment, Hazing, and Fighting/Physical Aggression are present. 

   Here, we discussed the components and completion of the Special Situation Analysis process in detail, then providing detailed examples for problematic cafeteria and school bus situations, respectfully.

   Throughout this discussion, we emphasized the need for a data-based problem-solving process to comprehensively (and effectively) address existing, persistent, and/or significant Common School Area or Peer-Related Antisocial Behavior problems. 

   The components of the process include:

   Student Characteristics, Issues, and Factors.  Consideration here involves specifically analyzing the “who, what, where, when, why, and how” of the students interacting in a Common School area (e.g., in the hallways, bathrooms, buses, playground or “hang-out” areas, the cafeteria), and those exhibiting problem behavior—such as bullying. 

   Teacher/Staff Characteristics, Issues, and Factors.  Consideration here involves specifically analyzing the “who, what, where, when, why, and how” of the administrators, staff, and other adults who are directly present or indirectly involved in the Common School Areas relative to bully prevention, action, and response activities.  This often also involves paraprofessionals or aides (who have supervisory responsibilities in one or more Common Areas along with administrators and instructional staff).

   Environmental Characteristics, Issues, and Factors—Physical Plant and Logistics.  Consideration here involves investigating the settings where bullying predominantly occurs, the dynamics of and conditions (both positive and negative) within those settings or environment(s), and how these conditions are contributing to or causing different facets of the problem. 

   Motivational Factors: Incentives and Consequences.  Consideration here involves analyzing the incentives, consequences, and interactions of individuals and groups (both peer and adult) in the different Common School Areas that are encouraging and sustaining appropriate student (and staff) behavior. 

   Resources.  At the school level, a consideration of resources often includes time, money, materials (e.g., books, videos, equipment), activities, people, space, and ideas or creativity.  Like incentives and consequences, assessment here involves analyzing individual, group, setting, and situational resources and how they are used.  But this assessment also identifies resources that exist, but are not being used; and other resources that are available—for example, from other schools, the district, or in the community—but that have not been considered or used. 

   Peer GroupCharacteristics, Issues, and Factors.  As noted earlier, some peers passively (or actively) support some students’ bullying actions—especially in the Common Areas of a school.  Passive support occurs, for example, when peers ignore the bullying of others, do not support others who are trying to stop a bullying situation, or do not help a student who is begin victimized. 

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   To demonstrate the need for this ecologically-grounded assessment process, we noted that the Common Areas in a school often have:

  • A larger number of multi-aged students (than in a classroom) who are in closer proximity to each other;
  • A larger student-to-staff ratio (resulting in less adult supervision, and, sometimes, supervision by paraprofessionals who are less-respected by some students);
  • A physical lay-out that is different than a classroom with space that is often larger (e.g., a cafeteria, the playground) and with physical boundaries that are less defined; and
  • A climate that includes more noise, higher (physical) energy levels, and more external stimulation.

   Relative to the ecological assessment of Peer-Related Antisocial interactions, we noted that student-to-student teasing or bullying (for example) often:

  • Occur in the Common Areas of a school (hence, the remaining characteristics below are interfaced with the Common Area characteristics above);
  • Include one or more student aggressors, some of whom are teased or bullied by other peers, and are “passing the aggression” along;
  • Include one or more student targets, some of whom lack critical social skills which either set them up as targets or undermine their ability to appropriately handle the situation—so it does not reoccur;
  • Include one or more by-standing students whose inaction (when that occurs) serves to inadvertently reinforce the aggressors’ teasing or bullying;
  • Include no adults near the incidents, or adults who observe the incidents and do not intervene (for various reasons); and, in summary,
  • Involve clear goals or intents on the part of the aggressors who, in the absence of timely and meaningful consequences, are empowered and reinforced by their anti-social acts.

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The Importance of Student Voice and Involvement (August 31)

   In this last Blog (in this specific “Year in Review” cluster), we focused intensely on the “anti-social” media and cyberbullying epidemic in this country by (a) defining cyberbullying and discussing its current prevalence levels; (b) describing eight interdependent elements that schools should include in their comprehensive cyberbullying prevention to intervention plans; and (c) highlighting the importance of student voice and involvement in analyzing and helping to solve the problem.

   Early in this discussion, we noted that, while involving elements of teasing, taunting, bullying, and harassment, cyberbullying is somewhat unique and potentially more traumatic or harmful than face-to-face bullying because:

  • Victims may not know who the bully is, how or why they have been selected, or what the bully’s intent or goal is;
  • Even when they do know the bully, victims may not know who else has seen or received the message or post—thus putting them in a potentially powerless and defensive position;
  • Victims may decide to (unwisely) respond with a return post—running the risk of being misinterpreted, exacerbating the problem, or being perceived as a bully-victim or a victim-casualty;
  • A post or exchange can inadvertently escalate to involve entire schools, communities, states, and countries if the story, picture, or post “goes viral;”
  • The bullying may be easier (for the bully) because (a) it is anonymous or invisible, (b) it is empowering as it cannot be immediately defended, or (c) it has no immediate consequences—as there are no bystanders to provide negative feedback or administrators to hold the bully accountable; and
  • The post may result in others “liking it,” or forwarding it to others—resulting in a continuation, reinforcement, or compounding of reactions (or assaults to) the victim. 

   We also suggested that districts and schools consider the importance of the following actions:

  • Having an explicit Cyberbullying section of their Student Handbook or Code of Conduct that extends existing discussions of Teasing, Bullying, and Harassment;
  • Discussing district and school Cyberbullying policies and procedures with students and parents, from at least the Grade 3 level on, at the beginning of every school year;
  • Providing at least quarterly sessions (or updates) on Cyberbullying education—integrating them into broader discussions on computer use and safety, virtual responsibility and etiquette, internet copyright and plagiarism, and social media limits and expectations; and
  • Extending the discussions above to parents and guardians (in joint sessions with their children whenever possible) so that they can understand their potential responsibilities for cyber-safety and prosocial interactions, and support the school’s policies, procedures, and preventative approaches across the student body.

   The student training and/or discussions should occur in small classroom groups, and they should focus on helping students (a) to share their social media experiences and concerns; (b) to analyze and understand the effects of cyberbullying; (c) to teach students ways to respond to direct and indirect acts of cyberbullying; and (d) to facilitate students’ commitment to each other relative to maintaining consistently positive and responsible virtual interactions.

   Finally, we recommended a series of student questions when involving them in a school-wide initiative to address an ongoing anti-social media/ cyberbullying problem.

What do you want from this cyberbullying initiative and group discussion? List your short-term and long-term goals.

What are the strengths—values, skills, and assets—that you can bring to this cyberbullying initiative and group discussion?

What are your concerns relative to this cyberbullying initiative and group discussion?

Who else needs to be involved in this initiative and discussion? What do they have that you need?

What lessons can you apply from past cyberbullying initiatives or group discussions to improve the outcomes of this one?

Where, when, and how should the cyberbullying initiative take place?

What is your investment in the cyberbullying initiative and group discussion?

What incentives, assurances, or other needs to you have in order to fully participate in this cyberbullying initiative?

What are your “non-negotiables”—things that, if present, will result in your opting-out or not participating in the initiative?

What is the high, but realistic, goal(s) that you would like this initiative to reach?

Why do you think some of your peers engage in cyberbullying? What are they getting out of it, and how important is this behavior/interaction to them?

What do you will motivate the cyberbullies away from these behaviors/interactions?

What is your relationship with the students who are cyberbullying? How might your past relationship affect this initiative?

Are there cultural differences that we should prepare for?

Are there any peer leaders and/or peer groups who are influencing others relative to different incidents of cyberbullying?

Who should be leading the cyberbullying initiative (consider staff, students, parents, community leaders)? Who should be the spokespeople?

Are you ready (or what would make you ready) to engage in this initiative?

What other parties need to be part of the planning and group discussions for the cyberbullying initiative?

What outcomes will tell us that the initiative has been successful?

Is this initiative realistic, and will it result in meaningful benefits if successful?

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   Once again, please feel free to re-read the original Blogs to get a more detailed analysis of the Reports and summary discussed above.

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The School Seclusion and Restraint Epidemic

   The following Blogs addressed a national issue—the seclusion or restraint of students demonstrating significant behavioral upsets in our schools today—that was especially highlighted this past year.  As usual, I reviewed a number of new national reports that addressed this issue, and then added my analysis, perspectives, and recommendations on the topic at-hand.

   If you CLICK on the date of the Blogs below, you will link directly to the Blog that is posted on my website (

March 2, 2019

Congress Take Note: How to Really Address the School Seclusion and Restraint Epidemic. The U.S. Department of Education Keeps Pushing PBIS, but PBIS Ain’t Got Nothing to Give (Part I)

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March 16, 2019

States Take Note: How to Really Address the School Seclusion and Restraint Epidemic. What State Departments of Education Need to Learn If Using PBIS to “Solve” This Problem (Part II)

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July 13, 2019

Revisiting the School Seclusion and Restraint Epidemic: The Federal Government Says It's Worse than Thought. While the Numbers are Important, We Need to Focus on the Reasons and Solutions

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Synopsis of these Blogs

   The first two Blogs in this cluster formed a two-part Series.  In Part I of this Series (March 2), the following areas were discussed:

  • The definitions of seclusion and restraints
  • The historical and current incident levels of these actions in schools
  • The U.S. Department of Education’s formal attention to this issue since 2009
  • The U.S. Department of Education’s faulty advocacy of the PBIS framework as a solution to this problem

   Relative to the latter bullet above, we were particularly struck by the fact that—yet again—the U.S. Department of Education (USDoE) selected Dr. George Sugai, the Director of the National PBIS Technical Assistance Center, to present at a February 27, 2019 House of Representatives hearing on seclusions and restraints.

   The lack of surprise came as (a) the USDoE—and its Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has used the Directors of the National PBIS TA Center to testify virtually every time (since its first 1997 funding) a national issue in school discipline arises; and (b) Dr. Sugai predictably touted PBIS as the “solution to all school problems behavioral” despite the fact that PBIS has never been independently validated as an evidence-based program.

   But Part II of this Blog (March 16) went one step further, as it posted a Table with the most-recent (2013-2014) national data for seclusion and restraints for students with disabilities.  Analyzing the “Top Ten” states ranked either by their Total Number of Seclusion and Restraint Incidents, or their Number of Seclusion and Restraint Incidents per School, respectively, the Table showed that Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, and Oregon were prominently cited on the two lists.

   Critically, these Top Ten Seclusion and Restraint states house some of the most well-established and touted state PBIS networks in the country.  Indeed, the PBIS National TA Center has been jointly housed for many years at the University of Oregon and the University of Connecticut. And National PBIS leaders are often drawn from the state PBIS centers in Illinois, Maryland, and Michigan.

   While we noted that state-specific issues certainly always present, one would think that these well-established PBIS state programs would be so well-established in the schools in their respective states that these states would not be on the Top-Ten Seclusion and Restraint lists.

   In the end, we concluded the March 2nd Blog with a warning:

     Districts and schools to be cautious—if not wary—about the U.S. Department of Education’s (and, perhaps, your State Department of Education’s) advocacy of the PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports) Framework as a viable one to help you decrease seclusions and restraints with your most behaviorally-challenging students.

_ _ _ _ _

   In the March 16th Blog, we discussed (a) the seclusion and restraint data that states are supposed to be reporting to the USDOE (and its Office for Civil Rights) each year; (b) the fact that most states are not analyzing their data to determine why their district-level seclusion and restraints are occurring; and (c) the professional development gaps, present in most states, relative to the science-to-practice interventions that can prevent or decrease the need for these “last resort” student actions.

   Significantly, we made three points after analyzing the publicly-available data from a number of state departments of education (SDoEs):

  • SDoEs are not fully analyzing their state’s seclusion and restraint data such that they understand the functional nature of the problem, and how and why the numbers are changing over time.
  • SDoEs often focus predominantly on the incident numbers.  They typically do not collect data that would help functionally identify the root causes of the student behaviors that are prompting the need for seclusions and restraints.
  • Many SDoEs are doing a lot of PBIS framework-driven training.  This training rarely (if at all) is aligned with the information and root cause analyses noted as needed in the two bullets above.  Moreover, the training rarely (if at all) is coherent, comprehensive, or scientifically-based.  The training misses many of the social, emotional, and behavioral interventions that, once again, can help prevent the need for crisis-oriented seclusions and restraints.

   Critically, if SDoEs were analyzing these data, they would find that students with autism, developmental delays, emotional disturbances, and other health impairments are the ones being frequently secluded or restrained.

   They would also find that—in many states—these disability areas are most-responsible for the increases in seclusions and restraints, because the number of students classified in these areas have often increased over the past number of years.

   Finally, if they did an audit of the interventions (not) being used to address the need to seclude or restrain certain students, the SDoEs would find many of the (a) Emotional Control and Coping Interventions/Therapies, (b) Student Motivation Interventions, and (c) Social Skill (and other) Instructional interventions that we specifically listed in this Blog message “missing in action.”

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   In the July 13th Blog, we revealed how our concerns with the seclusion and restraint data collected by SDoEs across the country were confirmed.

   Here, we described and quoted from a June 18, 2019 letter to the respective leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives Subcommittees on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Committee on Appropriations by Jacqueline M. Nowicki, the Director of the Education, Workforce, and Income Security Office in the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).

   This letter was titled:  K-12 Education: Education Should Take Immediate Action to Address Inaccuracies in Federal Restraint and Seclusion Data, and it described the results of an investigation that was prompted when a number of states were incredulously found to have no (or blank) incidents of seclusions or restraints in key districts.

   The Letter concluded:

  • As we reported in February 2019, Education data suggest that the restraint and seclusion of K-12 public school students is rare nationwide, though it disproportionately affects students with disabilities and boys in general.  In broad terms, Education defines restraint as restricting a student’s ability to freely move his or her torso, arms, legs, or head, and defines seclusion as involuntarily confining a student alone in a room or area from which the student is physically prevented from leaving.
  • We have work under way on districts’ reporting practices for restraint and seclusion data in response to a provision in the explanatory statement from the House Committee on Appropriations accompanying the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018. As part of our data reliability testing for that work, we analyzed the number of districts that left fields pertaining to restraint and seclusion blank, or that reported all zeros for those fields, to determine the prevalence of blanks or zeros in the CRDC at the national, state, and district levels.

Our data reliability testing raised questions about the completeness and accuracy of the CRDC restraint and seclusion data (my emphasis added).

  • We are therefore issuing this separate report on the issues we have identified to date regarding potentially incomplete data. Because Education is currently collecting and validating restraint and seclusion data for the 2017-18 school year, it is important it take immediate steps to address underreporting before it publishes these data.

Conclusion: Our analyses raise questions about whether the confirmed instances of misreported zeros to the CRDC are indicative of a more pervasive pattern of underreporting of restraint and seclusion in U.S. public schools.

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   Consistent with this quote, the July 13th Blog provided a number of charts showing the most-recent national seclusion and restraint data by race, student disability, and enrollment.  It is also discussed the importance of disaggregating these data by specific disability category.  And, it again emphasized that SDoEs, districts, and schools need to go beyond even this disaggregation by determining the root causes underlying the behavior of each individual student who is restrained or secluded.

   We noted:

   Even if a state’s near-majority of seclusion and restraint incidents involved students with autism and/or emotional disturbances, it is critical to not assume that there are similar root causes for the behaviors “triggering” the need for such drastic actions.

   Indeed, every student with a disability is different, and if we are going to choose and implement the best services, supports, strategies, and interventions with these individual students, we need to know the specific root causes for their challenges.

   Thus, in the spirit of an individualized education program, there is a need for an individualized functional assessment to determine what that “program” needs to be.

   From a state perspective, all of these individual assessments need to be collated to determine the patterns of behavior that result in districts and schools using seclusions and restraints for students with autism and emotional disturbances.

   Conversely, the states also should identify the patterns of multi-tiered services, supports, strategies, and interventions that are preventing the need for seclusions and restraints—that is, that are successfully preventing or helping staff to respond to these students’ social, emotional, or behavioral upsets.

   With these results, State Departments of Education (SDoEs) and Districts can determine whether they have the “right” services, supports, strategies, and interventions available, and whether there are training needs or gaps that need to be addressed.

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. . . (S)ome of the primary reasons why students demonstrate social, emotional, or behavioral problems in the classroom include:

  • There are (known or undiagnosed) biological, physiological, biochemical, neurological, or other physically- or medically-related conditions or factors that are unknown, undiagnosed, untreated, or unaccounted for.
  • They do not have positive relationships with teachers and/or peers in the school, and/or the school or classroom climate is so negative (or negative for them) that it is toxic.
  • They are either academically frustrated (thus, they emotionally act out) or academically unsuccessful (thus, they are behaviorally motivated to escape further failure and frustration).
  • Their teachers do not have effective classroom management skills, and/or the teachers at their grade or instructional levels do not have consistent classroom management approaches.
  • They have not learned how to demonstrate and apply effective interpersonal, social problem-solving, conflict prevention and resolution, and/or emotional coping skills to specific (school-based or home-based) situations in their lives.
  • They do not have the skills or motivation to work with peers—for example, in the cooperative or project-based learning groups that are more prevalent in today’s classrooms.
  • Meaningful incentives (to motivate appropriate behavior) or consequences (to discourage future inappropriate behavior) are not (consistently) present.
  • They are not held accountable for appropriate behavior by, for example, requiring them (a) to apologize for and correct the results of their inappropriate behavior; and (b) role play, practice, or demonstrate the appropriate behavior that they should have done originally.
  • Their behavior is due to past inconsistency-- across people, settings, situations, or other circumstances. For example, when teachers’ classroom management is inconsistent, some students will manipulate different situations to see how much they can "get away with." Or, when peers reinforce inappropriate student behavior while the adults are reinforcing appropriate behavior, students will often behave inappropriately because they value their peers more than the adults in the school.
  • They are experiencing extenuating, traumatic, or crisis-related circumstances outside of school, and they need emotional support (sometimes including mental health) to cope with these situations and be more successful at school.

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   Once again, please feel free to re-read the original Blogs to get a more detailed analysis of the Reports and summary discussed above.

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   We started this Blog with a Steve Jobs quote that emphasized—from my perspective—that none of us should be limited in our professional lives to the boundaries, parameters, and constraints of present frameworks, programs, or traditions.

   Let’s end, in the spirit of New Years, with a quote about setting (professional) resolutions.

   In this regard, Catherine Pulsifer noted:

We set resolutions because we want something to change in our life. But if we are not specific and have no detailed plans about how we are going to change it, then we can expect things to remain as they currently are. And then, we will end the year without the resolution accomplished.
So rather than set them. . . if we should recognize what we have accomplished in the past year and build on them, where is there the potential to do more, to be more?

   In writing the two parts of this “Year in Review,” my goal was to summarize the issues, analyses, and recommendations made through my 2019 Blogs to help all schools and districts to improve the academic and social, emotional, and behavioral outcomes of all students.

   To accomplish this, we need to focus on the scientific practices that should guide our success. . . rather than embracing the testimonials of others who tout frameworks or approaches that have not been objectively proven, nor sustained across time, settings, and circumstances.

   We also need to focus on implementation science . . . the planning, implementation, and formative and summative evaluation practices that ensure that initiatives are well-conceived, well-resourced, implemented with fidelity, and evaluated in ways that demonstrate student-sensitive outcomes.

   Finally, to accomplish our goals, we need to celebrate our own and others’ resolution

   That is, their commitment to excellence, and their excellence when taking action.  This is needed not just when things are going well, but when challenges and road-blocks arise.

   In the end, as in the quote above, we need to start from our current positions . . . building off of our last successes.

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   I hope that this, and the previous, “Year in Review” Blog will help you to envision your “next steps toward sustained success”. . . having thought about your past successes and “lessons learned.” 

   I hope that these Blogs will help you create your plan for the future, so that that future will result—for yourself, your students, and your colleagues—in the successes that you expect.

   As we enter the New Year: Remember that if any of you—with your school or district team—would like to talk with me by phone, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc. about any of practices shared in these last two Blogs, all you need to do is contact me and get on my schedule.  The first conference call is totally free.

   Moreover, as we also enter a New Decade, please accept my best wishes for productive and prodigious New Year.

   Be successful and well !!!